Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Five stats that loom large over Milwaukee Bucks-Brooklyn Nets showdown

Are y'all ready for this?

Following a dominant first-round showing from both teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets will battle in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

It's a series that has all the makings of a classic - two title contenders loaded with star power that have very different styles of play. The Nets have gone all-in on offence this season, building a team around three of the most gifted offensive players in the league in Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant. The Bucks have a Big Three of their own in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, but they're a team that has built their identity around their defence.

There's a reason why many believe whoever makes it out of this series will win it all.

With that in mind, here are five stats that loom large over the second-round showdown between the Bucks and Nets.

39.7: Antetokounmpo's scoring average against Brooklyn

It's fair to say that Antetokounmpo had his way with the Nets this season.

In the first matchup between the two teams, Antetokounmpo went for 34 points (13-26 FG), 12 rebounds and seven assists in a two-point loss. In the second, he exploded for 49 points (21-36 FG) in a three-point win. And in the third, he posted 36 points (11-30 FG) and 12 rebounds in a six-point win.

The only team Antetokounmpo had a higher scoring average against this season was the Phoenix Suns, who he averaged 40.0 points against over two games.

Antetokounmpo did the bulk of his damage against DeAndre Jordan in his matchups with the Nets. While Jordan is a massive human being at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds - a prerequisite to have any shot at keeping the two-time MVP out of the paint - Antetokounmpo looked pretty comfortable attacking him off the dribble.

The numbers suggest that Blake Griffin had a lot more success against him.

According to the NBA's matchup data, Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on 20-for-44 (45.5 percent) shooting from the field in the 16:19 minutes Jordan defended him. In the 16:26 minutes Griffin defended him, Antetokounmpo scored 35 points on 13-for-35 (37.1 percent) shooting.

The matchup data is far from perfect, but it did seem like Antetokounmpo had a slightly harder time powering his way through Griffin.

One thing that was clear whether Jordan or Griffin was guarding Antetokounmpo: Brooklyn will give him almost anything he wants outside of the paint.

Antetokounmpo was able to make the Nets pay for backing off of him for the most part, going 7-for-19 (36.8 percent) from midrange and 10-for-26 (38.5 percent) from 3-point range in Milwaukee's three games against Brooklyn.

Assuming the Nets defend him the same way, will Antetokounmpo be able to do the same in this series?

34.7: Durant's scoring average against Milwaukee

Durant did his thing as well.

After scoring 30 points (10-21 FG) in the first meeting, Durant went for 42 points (16-33 FG) in the second and 32 points (11-22 FG) in the third.

Middleton took on the primary assignment of guarding Durant in those games. According to the NBA's matchup data, Durant scored 29 points on 11-for-24 (45.8 percent) shooting from the field when defended by Middleton.

P.J. Tucker defended Durant the next-most on the Bucks. The results? Durant scored 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting.

Tucker brings a different level of physicality to the matchup, but ... yeah.

Antetokounmpo didn't spend nearly as much time guarding Durant as Middleton and Tucker did in the regular season, but that could change in this series.

While there's little-to-nothing anyone can do to stop Durant at this point, Antetokounmpo at least has the size and length to give him some trouble.

This superhuman block tells you everything you need to know:

After receiving criticism for not guarding Jimmy Butler last postseason, Antetokounmpo took on the challenge this postseason and shut the five-time All-Star down. Durant is an entirely different player, but that's an encouraging sign for the Bucks heading into this series.

64.5: Brooklyn's defensive rebounding percentage in the first round

It was the worst rate in the NBA.

Of course, that's based on a small sample size of five games and the Nets played a dominant offensive rebounding team in the Boston Celtics, but they weren't exactly a great defensive rebounding team in the regular season. In pulling down 72.6 percent of their opponent's misses, the Nets ranked 23rd in defensive rebounding rate.

Plus, the Bucks had some success on the offensive glass against the Nets this season.

The Bucks averaged 11.3 offensive rebounds over their three games with the Nets, which played a role in them getting 18.0 second chance points per game. For reference, the New Orleans Pelicans averaged the most offensive rebounds in the league this season with 11.7 per game while the Memphis Grizzlies averaged the most second chance points with 15.0 per game.

The Bucks will miss Donte DiVincenzo, who is one of the league's feistier offensive rebounders at the guard position, but it's an area they'll look to punish the Nets, especially when they go big.

54.4: Kyrie Irving's shooting percentage from midrange

According to NBA.com, 78 players attempted at least 100 shots from midrange this season. Of those 78 players, want to guess how many converted them at a higher percentage than Irving?

Zero.

Irving connected on 54.4 percent of his midrange attempts. In second place was Bryn Forbes (51.9 percent), followed by Chris Paul (51.6 percent) and Nikola Jokic (51.5 percent).

Where things get interesting is the Bucks are a team that will live with their opponents taking midrange jumpers. They gave up 14.1 shots per game from that distance during the regular season. The only team that gave up more was the Washington Wizards (14.6).

The bad news for the Bucks? Irving isn't the only player on the Nets who can light teams up from midrange. Durant was pretty lethal himself this season, shooting 50.6 percent.

The Bucks are much better equipped to play different styles this season - more on that in a second - but their go-to with Brook Lopez on the court is a drop coverage. Lopez was a monster in the first round against the Miami Heat, but this Nets team will test him every second he's on the court.

0: How many minutes Irving, Harden and Durant played against the Bucks

In other words, the Bucks haven't seen the full-formed version of the Nets yet this season.

Brooklyn's lone victory over Milwaukee in the regular season came without Irving. Both of its losses, meanwhile, came without Harden.

There are a lot of teams that didn't play against the Nets at full strength this season because their Big Three appeared in only eight games together, logging a grand total of 202 minutes. Small sample size aside, the results were pretty terrifying. The Nets gave up an average of 112.5 points per 100 possessions with the three of them on the court, but they scored at a rate of 119.6 points per 100 possessions, which would've given them the best offensive rating in the league by a mile.

They were even more dominant in their first-round win over the Boston Celtics, scoring at a rate of 136.9 points per 100 possessions.

There might not be a team in the NBA that can slow the Nets down when Irving, Harden and Durant are on the court together, but of the remaining teams in the playoffs, the Bucks might have the best chance. They were the best defensive team in the NBA in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, and while they slipped to ninth this season, the additions of Holiday and Tucker make them much more versatile on that end of the court, allowing them to go big or small depending on the matchup.

It's going to be a fascinating chess match.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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