The Milwaukee Bucks have lost nine straight road games. The Brooklyn Nets have lost four straight home games. So neither team has a ton going for it right now. But somebody has to win when these two square off at Barclays Center tonight, and Milwaukee is 2-0 versus the Nets so far this season, including a wild triple-overtime win in Jason Kidd's first trip back to Brooklyn. With a few teams breathing down their necks in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the Bucks have all the motivation they need to get the win. Now it's just a matter of finally putting together that complete game that seems to have eluded them for weeks.
Milwaukee has been something of a mess since the All-Star break, but things haven't been going a whole lot better in Kings County. The Nets are 6-8 since the break, and an even more disheartening 3-11 at home since the start of 2015. They've dealt with injuries to many of their top players all year, but the roster is now relatively healthy and still can't seem to beat any decent teams (to their credit, they did take down the Warriors back in early March).
But then again, this is the Eastern Conference, so of course the Nets are only 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot. Brooklyn went 2-2 on a recent road trip with wins against Minnesota and Philadelphia but dropped an important matchup with Miami, a team the Nets might have to leapfrog if they want a shot at the postseason.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, bigger issues loom. If the Nets can't get to the playoffs with this aging, former-star-laden squad, what's left to do? Upheaval that makes the Jason Kidd saga look tame could be coming, and soon.
It's almost comical how uniform Brooklyn's statistical profile is. They rank a little below average in every key offensive and defensive metric except for defensive free-throw rate, where they're 10th overall. The Nets have a lot of big names on the roster, but they've combined to produce somethings less than the sum of its parts. Still, there are bright spots: Brook Lopez has cracked the 20-point mark in PER, while Mason Plumlee (Miles' brother) has earned an expanded role after his strong rookie season and continues to put up solid numbers.
Still thin on the wings for Milwaukee, as O.J. Mayo and Jared Dudley remain out. Nearly everybody on the roster seems to a "sore" something or other, but no other absences are expected as of now.
Brooklyn recently lost second-year wing Sergey Karasev to a torn ACL while third-year forward Mizra Teletovic was ruled out for the season back in January after a lung disease diagnosis. The remainder of Brooklyn's core lineup is mostly healthy, though.
Key Matchup: Jason Kidd versus Lionel Hollins
On paper the Nets look like they should be the better team. They've got more household names and a massive payroll. Yet while Milwaukee's upstart squad has shocked the league this year (a little bit less so lately), the Nets continue to slide into disarray. Where would Brooklyn be if Kidd was still standing in front of their bench? That's a very tough question to answer, but with Kidd leading an unprecedented turnaround in Milwaukee, the Bucks can at least take some comfort in knowing the mess that brought him to town has paid off so far.
The players decide the game on the court, but the question of Bucks vs. Nets this season is a clear instance of one coach getting so much more out of what was perceived to be so much less. Maybe that illustrates a failure of team and talent evaluation on our part more than anything else. Either way, the coaching changes for each team have sent them in very different directions, and that might be a more important distinction for these organizations than any one position on the floor.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|March 20, 2015|
|Barclays Center | Brooklyn, NY|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Deron Williams|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Markel Brown|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Joe Johnson|
|Ersan Ilyasova||PF||Thaddeus Young|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Brook Lopez|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|102.7 (25th)||ORtg||103.3 (23rd)|
|102.1 (2nd)||DRtg||107.1 (22nd)|