The Brooklyn Nets aren't messing around.
Despite not having James Harden, who is currently dealing with hamstring tightness, the Nets had no problem handling the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening games of their second-round series.
In Game 1, the Nets cruised to a 115-107 win behind the play of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who combined for 54 points. In Game 2, the Nets blew the Bucks out by 39 points with Durant once again playing a starring role.
Giannis Antetokounmpo said he "didn't get too high" coming off of Milwaukee's sweep over the Miami Heat and that he's "not low" now that they're down 2-0 to the Nets.
What's the biggest key to the Bucks getting a victory in a must-win Game 3?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): The 3s have to drop at some point, right?
The Bucks were one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA this season. Not only did they make the fifth-most 3s per game (14.4), they converted 38.9 percent of their 3-point attempts, ranking them fifth in the league.
Through two games against the Nets, the Bucks are averaging 7.0 made 3s per game at a ... 24.6 percent clip.
If you want to take it a step further:
In the regular season the Bucks averaged 56 ppg on jumpers (5th best in NBA).- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) June 8, 2021
Their eFG% on jumpers was 54.8 (4th best in NBA)
In this series, They are averaging 32 ppg on jumpers with an eFG% of 38.2 🥶
The Nets are averaging 73.5 ppg on jumpers with an eFG% of 62.9 🔥 pic.twitter.com/yY6jaKh19v
It hasn't simply been a case of the Bucks missing shots they usually make - they have been a little too 3-point happy at times, especially in Game 2 - but they're a much better shooting team than they've shown so far in this series.
They can only hope they'll find their shooting touch in Game 3.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): In my opinion, there have been far too many iso possessions for Giannis. It makes him easier to guard when he has to try and drive against a wall of defenders - and that's just my eye test telling me that. When you look at the numbers, it's clear that a Giannis iso isn't exactly the best option the Bucks should be rolling with. So far in this postseason, 21.4 percent of the Greek Freak's possessions have been isolations and he ranks in the 36th percentile in efficiency.
On the flip side, as the roller in pick-and-roll scenarios, Giannis is generating 1.33 points per possessions, going a perfect 6-for-6 from the field on nine total possessions. Yeah, just nine. The sample size is so small that NBA Stats can't even rank his efficiency. Last season, as the roll man in the playoffs, Giannis generated 1.38 points per possession and ranked in the 77th percentile. We need to see more of Giannis as a roll man and give him more of a chance to get easier looks at the basket.
The Nets will likely adjust and take away Giannis rolling to the rim freely if Milwaukee starts having success with it, but when you have two adept pick-and-roll ball handlers in Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, the Bucks might be able to get easier looks for their stars by simplifying the game.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): The responsibility for the first two ugly losses obviously falls on the shoulders of the entire team and coaching staff, but the one player in particular that has to step up to right the ship is Khris Middleton.
Middleton has been the No. 2 guy for years now and he's excelled in that role. He torched the Heat in the first round to the tune of 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting an efficient 49.2 percent from the field, 40.7 percent from 3 and 89.5 percent from the free throw line.
Through the first two games of this series, his averages and shooting splits are way off across the board.
He's only averaging 15.0 points and 2.5 assists. His playmaking skills have almost completely abandoned him, but that's also a product of Milwaukee not moving the ball well as a team. As for his shooting, a 30.2 percent clip from the field, 23.1 percent from 3 and 50.0 percent from the free throw line are almost unrecognizable from the player we've come to know.
If the Bucks are going to turn this around, it starts with the Robin to Giannis' Batman.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Tying in with each of the above three points, Milwaukee's got to get the ball moving more.
We're not too far removed from the Bucks taking two games from the Nets in three days in early May, and the biggest lineup difference from now and then is that Donte DiVincenzo isn't available to suit up for Milwaukee. As impactful as DiVincenzo was this season, his absence isn't the big difference from those two wins and now.
It's the passing.
During the regular season, the Bucks averaged 254.8 passes per game, a figure that has plummeted to 208.0 passes per game through the first two games of this series. They even averaged 242.0 passes over their two victories over the Nets this season.
Give some credit to Brooklyn, but as Carlan said above, Milwaukee has played far too much iso ball through two games.
More ball movement should, in turn, result in better shots for the team. Ultimately, it could both fix the 3-point problem and get Middleton going much more than he has been to open the series.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.