After a nail-biting win two days ago (albeit sans James Harden), the Milwaukee Bucks look to claim the season series over the Brooklyn Nets as the teams face each other for the last time in the regular season, but perhaps not for the last time before the NBA Finals. Milwaukee sits 2.5 games back of Brooklyn for the 2-seed and 3.5 back of Philly for 1 with 8 games remaining.
Where We’re At
While they trailed by 14 in the second quarter, the Bucks narrowly prevailed thanks in large part to a sensational 49 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who appeared to have no ill effects of his ankle sprain last week. Khris Middleton also pitched in 26 and 11, while Jrue Holiday had 18. Outside of Bryn Forbes, no other Buck finished in double figures, so Milwaukee will hope to get much more from their supporting cast. Bobby Portis sat with a stomach bug on Sunday, but must be feeling better since he’s listed as probable tonight. Jeff Teague is out with an abdominal strain and two-way man Axel Toupane won’t dress due to a right oblique strain.
Kevin Durant nearly matched Giannis in a very entertaining superstar clash, dropping 42 on 33 shots, including 7/13 from downtown. Though he missed a game-tying three at the buzzer, his jumper scarcely missed and it was honestly pleasing to watch, despite how he hurt Milwaukee. Aside from him, the Nets really had nothing. Kyrie Irving was typically ineffective against the Bucks (20 on 8/21 shooting) and though role player Landry Shamet hit 4 of his 7 threes, notable sharpshooter Joe Harris was held to 1/5 out there and had a mere 5 points. More importantly, Brooklyn had zero ability to stop Giannis on defense. DeAndre Jordan was flat-out bad at protecting the rim from Giannis’ attacks, and when DJ dared The Freak to shoot, Giannis made him pay. It was one of the best shooting nights of Giannis’ career: 4/8 from deep and 7/16 outside the restricted area. Harden remains out with his hamstring strain alongside long-term injured Nets Spencer Dinwiddie (torn ACL) and Chris Chiozza (fractured right hand).
Player To Watch
While he rebounded well on Sunday, Donte DiVincenzo continued his recent stretch of poor play by laying a goose egg on offense, not recording a point while shooting 0/5. Brook Lopez had a mere 4 points on 7 shots too—an atypical effort considering his play lately—but this was another game in DiVincenzo’s weeks-long slump. He’s been in single digits in 10 of his last 13 contests and is shooting 24.3% behind the arc in that span. I know he’s the fifth starter and his defense was fine, but to beat a full-strength Nets team (probably the Sixers as well) the Bucks will need a lot more than 4 points from their other two starters, no matter how well the big three play.
Game 65: Against Brooklyn, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)