The Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Brooklyn Nets, to avoid an 0-3 hole, should bring jubilation. Although I find a little joy in a victory, I’m not pleased with HOW the Bucks secured it.
The Bucks played ok defense, but it wasn’t top-tier. Brooklyn succumbed to the same fate Milwaukee did in the first two games: missed shots. Bucks can’t rely on the Nets shooting 36.2 percent, playing defense the way they did. They will make you pay.
It felt as if Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, were the only players for Milwaukee that bothered to show up. Yes, some players had moments: Brook Lopez chipped in 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, P.J. Tucker played Kevin Durant physically, and Jrue Holiday made the game-winning layup with 2.1 seconds remaining. Those three had a combined 12 points on 5-for-25 shooting, including 2-for-12 from three. Not great.
Giannis and Middleton combined for 68 of the Bucks’ 86 points. That’s over 79 percent of the teams points, this duo was responsible for. (An NBA playoff record.) This is not a sustainable way to play.
Let me be clear: this was really the Khris Middleton show. It was too much iso-ball from he and Giannis, but his shot selection was far better than Giannis’. Middleton came up with a couple of clutch baskets late in the fourth, and three huge free throws. A complete 180 from where he was in games 1 and 2.
Giannis had an aggressive first quarter. He made a concerted effort to get in the paint and dominate. But then, and even in the first quarter, he started to pull from three. A two-time NBA MVP damn near shot his team out of a game and damn near cost them the season. A 1-for-8 display from distance, should enact the red light, but we know head coach Mike Budenholzer won’t do that.
This certainly wasn’t the best effort from the Bucks, but they survived. In the playoffs, that’s what you must do. Top to bottom Milwaukee MUST be better, because it’s one thing to win a game in this fashion, winning 3 more the same way isn’t likely.
Milwaukee has a shot to tie the series at 2 games apiece, Sunday afternoon.