The Milwaukee Bucks clash with the Brooklyn Nets in Game 4 of their best-of-seven second round series on Sunday. Milwaukee didn’t let Brooklyn get into rhythm in the first quarter of Game 3, slowing the game down offensively, getting to the line and most importantly making their key shots. This is where James Harden (plus-13.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) was missed. Harden, who played just 43 seconds in the series opener and missed Games 2 and 3 because of a strained right hamstring, controls the tempo of games single-handedly.
The Bucks played hard-nosed defense and slowed the game down in the half-court. This is the only way to compete with the Nets because you can’t play to their tempo. It paid off and Khris Middleton and Giannis combined for 68 of the team’s 86 points.
Middleton had 35 points and 15 rebounds and Antetokounmpo added 33 points and 14 rebounds, despite going just 1-for-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. No other Bucks player scored in double figures and the bench contributed with just six points. This wasn’t ideal or pretty but the Bucks got the ‘W’ which is all that matters in the end and now they’re back in the series.
A lot has been said about the Brooklyn defense but you have to understand that their offense is their defense. The Nets manipulate the flow and pace of a game with their offensive tempo and the Bucks have to keep up. Whoever plays the Nets ends up not playing defense, as their system is set up so they run the opposing team out the gym. Brooklyn turns games into a shootout with the hopes that they will score more efficiently than their opponent. The downfall is that the other team’s scorers can get hot.
A great offense like the Nets’ not only can deflate a great defense like the Bucks’, but it also shakes up their offense. The opponents go back with nerves and fear and shock from what just happened defensively. They know if they miss here, it will happen again. Basketball is about who makes more shots and, in the playoffs that element is literal. Once again it will come down to whether the Bucks can slow the game down or trade baskets with the Nets! Game 4 will take place on Sunday at 7:30 PM ET at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Team to Win (Regular Time)
• Brooklyn Nets: 1.84
• Milwaukee Bucks: 2.05
• Brooklyn Nets: -1.5 (1.90)
• Milwaukee Bucks: +1.5 (1.91)
• Over 228.5 (1.88)
• Under 228.5 (1.93)
Key Points to Consider
Jrue Holiday (plus-0.8 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) was a good addition to the Bucks because he can also go get a basket when needed but Khris Middleton has to be the closer. That said, even with the win the Bucks didn’t impress me!
Joe Harris struggled on Thursday with just three points on 1 of 11 shooting and 1 of 7 from 3-point range in 37 minutes and the Nets still lost by just three points. Harris will play much better in Game 4 and Kyrie Irving is also due for positive regression from beyond the arc after making just two of his eight attempts in Game 3. The Nets also need more from their bench, as Landry Shamet, Mike James and Nicolas Claxton combined for just seven points. It’s actually remarkable that they almost won Game 3 with no help from their reserves. This has to change on Sunday and I just don’t expect Harris and Shamet to go a combined 2-for-10 from 3-point range again.
For the Nets, Kevin Durant is projected to finish with 28.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists, making 10.1 field goals in 19.5 attempts.
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to score 28.4 points with 11.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists, making 10.4 field goals in 19.5 attempts.
Two-star (out of four) AccuScore hot trend pick on the total in this one. Average score in simulations is Milwaukee Bucks 118.5 to Brooklyn Nets 116.5.