After a rousing, raucous win over the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-101, the Milwaukee Bucks hope to keep that hype train chugging along by putting away the Brooklyn Nets. Despite a recent spell of losses after a surprisingly mediocre start, Brooklyn remains a frisky opponent who likes to shoot fast and worry about defense later. They even knocked off the Clippers on Tuesday night in double overtime 127-122. Eric and Frank discuss potential rejiggered expectations for the team and break down the matchup with the Nets on today’s Locked on Bucks:
Milwaukee’s domination of the Cavaliers started and ended with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s night-long brilliance. With highlight reels aplenty, he ended the night impacting both ends of the floor with a 34 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Jabari Parker looked out of sorts early on, but broke out with 13 points in the third quarter.
Milwaukee forced 20 turnovers from the Cavaliers, leading to a full complement of finishes on the other end from Giannis, Parker and Michael Beasley. The bench mob of Brogdon, Greg Monroe and Beasley wound up with 41 points altogether. Brogdon hit a few triples, Monroe hustled his way into advantageous positions in the post and Beasley - who’s now tied with Giannis for third on the team in net rating btw - continued his relatively efficient scoring ways. Mirza Teletovic didn’t even see the court due to Beasley’s contributions.
Their dominance in the paint (68-34) meant they didn’t have to jack a considerable number of threes, ending with only 19 attempts on the night. Cleveland also looked relatively disinterested at points, something that won’t be the case against a Brooklyn team that continues to play hard under coach Kenny Atkinson.
The Bucks have a penchant for getting up to play big-time competition, and routinely lowering their play against bottom-feeders. Giannis has also mentioned his exuberance at facing a superstar like Lebron, and his play in those games has backed that up. No one would argue Giannis doesn’t give maximum effort every night, but as he evolves into the team’s Alpha, it’s important for him to set the tone that if Milwaukee can beat Cleveland, they have to follow it up with victories against lowly teams like Brooklyn.
They narrowly defeated them earlier this season 110-108, and after tonight’s game they’ll square off again on Saturday. If Milwaukee wants to sniff the playoffs, these are the types of games they need to put away.
Brooklyn’s fallen on harder times since facing the Bucks in late October, going 4-10 since that time and only won one of their last eight. Their philosophy hasn’t changed though, as Coach Atkinson has the team playing at the league’s fastest pace and whirling threes at the basket whenever possible, ranking third in the league in 3-point attempts (34.2).
Their double overtime win over the Clippers was a shot of optimism for a team that’s still without its starting point guard, Jeremy Lin. Former Bucks summer league player Sean Kilpatrick went off, putting up 38 points on [shooting numbers] and an impressive 14 rebounds. Brook Lopez rattled off 27 points and eight boards alongside a 15 point night from former Cavalier (both Cleveland and Virginia) Joe Harris.
Both Milwaukee (39.3/5th) and Brooklyn (42.6/3rd) rank in the top five of bench points per game, so that could be a key inflection point in deciding the victor of tonight’s tilt.
Brooklyn’s ranked 11th in strength of schedule so far, and while the playoffs remain a pipe dream, they’re assuredly looking at their next four games - two against Milwaukee, then Denver and Washington - as a path to get their season back on track before they face San Antonio and Houston back-to-back.
Hovering around .500 without Jeremy Lin was an impossible task, but retaining a level of respectability is a reality if they’re able to take tonight and Saturday’s matchup with the Bucks.