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Milwaukee vs. Brooklyn: Bucks Choke in Epic Fashion

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I am lost for words...

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In what might go down as a franchise-altering loss, the Milwaukee Bucks choked in epic fashion in Game 5 by losing 114-108 to the Brooklyn Nets, in a game where they led by as many as 17 points in the first half.

What We Learned

The Bucks are a mentally weak team. I am not sure this qualifies as “what we learned” since we have seen it throughout the course of this season, but it stuck out like a sore thumb last night.

They began to let things go awry in the 3rd quarter by letting Brooklyn get whatever they wanted offensively but were able to somewhat maintain their lead by coming down and converting on the other end. In the fourth quarter? Different story. Kevin Durant decided the game was over and made seemingly every shot. He got a ton of clean looks coming off a high screen and roll and the Bucks adjusted, but it was too late (nor did it really matter). The Bucks moved the ball around well in the first half and part of the third quarter, but they exclusively played iso-ball in the fourth which led to their demise. The execution was AWFUL and whenever they had the chance to reclaim the lead, they turned it over or chucked up a horrendous shot.

Three Observations

Giannis Antetokounmpo was fantastic in the first half. He deservedly got flack for his final quarter meltdown, but he dominated in the second period which is why the Bucks found themselves up by nearly 20. Giannis had tons of success attacking the teeth of Brooklyn’s defense and constantly looking to exploit the mismatch in transition. His performance was capped off by a personal 7-0 run in the quarter in which he made a three and converted on two beautiful shots around the rim. Now, his fourth quarter-performance was just atrocious and inexcusable. While he did finish with 34/12/4, it didn’t matter because he did not play well when the Bucks needed him too. After Jrue Holiday tied the game at 104 with a finger roll, the Bucks got a stop after “forcing” a miss from KD...what did Giannis do? HE came down, backed down James Harden, and took the DUMBEST turnaround fadeaway early in the shot clock. That shot had ZERO chance of going in no matter who was defending. His situational awareness in those spots is not one of a superstar. His missed free throws in clutch time came as no surprise and him losing the ball off a feed from Khris Middleton with a chance to tie was the cherry on top of a wildly frustrating period. While Giannis was a huge reason for the early lead, he is just as big of a reason as to why they ended up losing a golden opportunity to go up 3-2 in the series.

Kevin Durant showed why he’s the best player in the NBA last night. He played every single minute and dropped 49/17/10 on 16-of-23 shooting. Many people asked if KD could carry a team by himself, and well, they got their answer last night. Even when the Buck defended well, it didn’t matter, he still hit the tough shots. Durant also did a great job at setting up his teammates throughout Game 5. I thought he was better at moving without the ball and set multiple back screens that led to his teammates getting easy looks in the paint. This will go down as one of his best games EVER...and of course, it comes at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Even if James Harden wasn’t out there, he still would’ve done this. In fact, he might have gone for 60 if Harden didn’t hog the ball by aimlessly dribbling through his legs. I have absolutely zero doubts in my mind that he could have an even bigger performance on Thursday night in Milwaukee, and it would only be fitting for the Bucks to go out in that sort of fashion.

Milwaukee’s defense was awful. The Bucks got off to a big lead thanks to Brooklyn missing almost every open jumper they had, but you just had a feeling it was going to come back to bite them. We saw, again, bad habits kill the Bucks. Over-helping leading to a WIDE-OPEN Jeff Green who of his eight three-point attempts, none of them were contested. Leaving Blake Griffin open on the perimeter is one thing, but Green has proven that he can knock down big shots throughout his career. Additionally, not adjusting to the Nets running a high screen for Kevin Durant was certainly...a choice. While there will be criticism for Giannis not defending him, let’s be honest, he does not stand a chance of defending him out on the perimeter. P.J. Tucker and Khris Middleton are Milwaukee’s best options in that regard. While Joe Harris shot 1-of-7 from deep, many of those misses were on uncontested shots, too. Just a forgettable performance defensively when it mattered the most.

Bonus Bits

  • Jrue Holiday scored 19 points and added eight assists while defending James Harden the majority of the game. No complaints from me here, but in the fourth quarter, Holiday did take a few questionable jumpers. The onus is not all on him though, as the entire Bucks roster fell prey to it.
  • Khris Middleton added 25 points but made just 3-of-10 shots from deep. Alongside Giannis, he played a big part in helping the Bucks build a double-digit lead. I am not sure what much else you can ask from him, especially when he’s defending KD and doing a solid job.
  • P.J. Tucker was scoreless and spent a long time on the bench in the fourth with foul trouble, but in a series-altering game, I would’ve liked to see him out there earlier.
  • Brook Lopez added 15 points and you cannot ask him to help defensively on Durant when he is coming off a screen. It’s a bucket every time. Lopez has done an outstanding job at protecting the rim the entire series, though.
  • Pat Connaughton added 10 points and also played an integral role in helping Milwaukee extend their second-quarter lead.
  • PAIN