On last week’s episode of TO:SS, I said the Milwaukee Bucks had BETTER get Game 3 and Game 4, if they had any chance of winning this semifinals matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. An 0-3 deficit is insurmountable. A 3-1 hole is nearly unrecoverable. The Bucks did just that, with a 107-96 victory, Sunday afternoon.
Milwaukee seemed to be a changed team after that gritty (but flawed) Game 3 victory. There were three key elements that stood out to me.
The decision making was far better. (Yes, that’s for lack of a better term.) Game 3 saw Giannis go 1-for-8 from three, inexplicably taking them in pivotal moments of the game. Needless to say, that ain’t what you want. Game 4 saw Giannis go 1-for-5 from distance. Still ain’t what you want, but he didn’t launch them in critical moments, making everyone’s minds melt.
Adjustments were a big factor. I pleaded on Twitter for Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, to play Giannis more in the post, like the dominant big he is. Giannis saw more time in the post Sunday afternoon, than he did in Game 3. This allowed Jrue Holiday to initiate the offense, unclog the floor, and create BETTER shots for everyone. I’ll take 16-of-47 from three, over the 6-for-31 display from Game 3, any day. I’ll also take a more free-flowing offense as opposed to an ISO heavy one as well.
The role players, wait for it, played their roles. The two that stood out the most: P.J. Tucker and Pat Connaughton. Tucker continued his physical defensive play against Nets forward Kevin Durant. Tucker clamped Durant to the tune of 9 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Tucker’s defense frustrated Durant, which loomed even larger after Kyrie Irving left the game with an ankle injury. Another bonus: Tucker’s 13 points were the most he’s scored as a Buck. Much needed production from a role player.
Connaughton played the passing lanes with great success. Resulting in steals, tipped passes, and throwing a wrench into the offensive plans of the Nets. His energy on the boards and on defense is greatly appreciated and needed, after the loss of Donte DiVincenzo.
Milwaukee now heads back to Brooklyn for a (you guessed it) pivotal Game 5. Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 series, advance 82 percent of the time. Bucks know they must grab one on the road. Better to do that in Game 5 than a Game 7. Tuesday night may very well be the game that decided the series. Bucks better bring the dog to the BK.