After 72 regular season games and nine postseason games, the Milwaukee Bucks have reached their first true “must-win” game. Lose, and their season is finished. Win, and they’ll have a chance at a winner-take-all Game Seven back in Brooklyn. Let’s see what this team has.
Where We’re At
It doesn’t get much more demoralizing than the Bucks meltdown in the second half of Game Five. Heading into halftime with a 16-point advantage, they couldn’t find a way to contain Kevin Durant and their offense sputtered into a bit too much isolation ball after having such success with motion in the first half. For the first time this series, they shot above 40% from the 3-point arc, but just weren’t able to capitalize behind some questionable offensive decisions down the stretch and the fireball that was Kevin Durant.
I know most folks felt pretty doom-and-gloom after Game Five, and I completely understand why. With James Harden a shell of himself, Milwaukee still couldn’t find a way to get over the hump and secure a game that would’ve given them command of the series. They tightened up against a team with a player whose made to deliver down the stretch. Still, they showed in the first half that they have the tools to pound points onto this Brooklyn defense, it just felt like they fell out of their rhythm while allowing the Brooklyn Durant’s to get into theirs. We also saw Jrue Holiday finally find a semblance of offensive firepower before sitting down with foul trouble, even if his shot failed him down the stretch.
I won’t blame fans for feeling like it’s all over, but it’s not over until it’s over folks. I don’t expect Jeff Green to go nuclear again, Durant probably can’t shoot that well again (please knock on wood dear reader) and I’m doubtful Harden will be any more pliable with that hamstring. The Bucks need to dig deeper than we’ve seen them do all season and deliver 48 minutes of solid basketball. Look for Milwaukee to pound it inside a bit more, hope that opens up more outside shooting and believe that the physical play that disrupted Durant in Games Three and Four can get back under his skin. Let’s see what this team’s got.
James Harden will be available, while Kyrie Irving was ruled out.
Player to Watch
All eyes are on Giannis Antetokounmpo for this one. The former 2-time MVP has got his work cut out for him, and while he ostensibly had one of his most efficient offensive games of the series on Tuesday (34 points on 22 shots), the lasting images are going to be his turnaround jumper on Harden and bobbling the ball in the final minute. He’s got to cut down on the turnovers too. He has a chance to make amends and carry his team to a Game Seven. We’ll see whether he’s up to the task.
Game Six: 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)