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Milwaukee vs. Brooklyn Game 1: Bucks Outclassed, Outmuscled in Defeat

Some inexcusable gaffes...

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

The Milwaukee Bucks played well in the first quarter of game one against the Brooklyn Nets, but that is where the positivity started and ended in their 115-107 Game One loss.

Three Observations

Simply put, the Bucks NEED more from both Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton on both ends. I was shocked at how many times Jrue was caught napping defensively, especially when the Nets were moving the ball around the perimeter. He missed assignments multiple times that either led to an open three-pointer or an easy deuce. Furthermore, Holiday never got into a rhythm offensively...forcing the issue by either trying to squeeze in a pass where there were no openings or taking a heavily contested step-back. Don’t get more wrong, there were some shots that he typically makes, but it was a discouraging performance to say the least since he was coming off a strong Bucks playoff debut against the Heat. In all, he tallied 17/9/6 which might look fine on paper, but he needed 19 shots to score 17 points. As for Khris Middleton, he was nowhere to be found in Game One. 13 points on 6-of-23 shooting is inexcusable. Period. Middleton will get a lot of flak for his performance...or lack thereof and it is 100% warranted. It’s one thing if you’re moving around with the offense but the open shots aren’t falling, but that was not the case last night. Middleton opted to take multiple head-scratching shots early in the shot clock which killed what little positive momentum the Bucks had in the loss. Additionally, like Holiday, there were more than a few times where he was lost defensively. It looked like he was sleepwalking against the Nets. There is nothing wrong with holding him to a high standard as he has proven that he can elevate his game in the playoffs, but simply put, if he is going to struggle from the field, the Bucks might as well start packing their bags for Cancun.

Can Giannis Antetokounmpo get some help, please? Don’t get me wrong, it was not the prettiest of performances, but he was able to do his thing (as expected) against Brooklyn. He had 19 points at halftime and the majority of his damage came when the Bucks opted to use him as a roll man which created a ton of problems for the Nets’ “defense.” However, the Bucks opted to shy away from that and had the ball in Gainnis’ hands much more in the second half, which did not lead to much success. Granted, he did have multiple wasted possessions where he chucked up an unnecessary early shot clock three, but it is hard to be disappointed with how he played yesterday. I am a FIRM believer that early shot clock threes attempted by Antetokounmpo should count as turnovers. Anyways, whenever he drops 34/11/4, the Bucks typically win...except none of his teammates could make a shot if their lives depended on it. Additionally, him attempting only three free throws in a game where he was practically living in the paint is just ridiculous. Nicolas Claxton attempted the same amount of free throws. Just laughable, really. Like I stated earlier, it was by no means a perfect performance by the young superstar, but it is hard to do much more when your teammates fail you on both ends of the floor and you are not getting a friendly whistle (as to be expected in the playoffs). I expect much better results in Game Two on Monday night.

Brook Lopez was fantastic and did what the Bucks needed him to do. Aside from Giannis, he was the only other Buck to show up. He scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting while failing to make a three-pointer. I loved how the Bucks were able to exploit mismatches in the early going which got Lopez a bevy of great looks close to the basket. It was questionable as to why the Bucks went away from that, but I don’t have the answer to that question, unfortunately. Another positive from his performance was how he took advantage of the huge size mismatch by grabbing five offensive boards. While he was only credited with five, it feels like he should’ve had more with how he was deflecting missed shots back to his teammates. Defensively, I also thought he did a solid job at contesting rim runs by both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Now, Brook wasn’t necessarily put in the best situations at times on that end of the floor as he found himself on an island trying to either drop or step up in the midrange against KD. It is an EXTREMELY bold strategy to just let him walk into those midrange j’’s his bread and butter.

Bonus Bits

  • P.J. Tucker did his best at defending Durant and actually got the best of him defensively a few times. However, you can only do so much against an athlete like him. Tucker played 28 minutes of hard-nosed basketball, but I wonder if they’re maybe asking a little too much of him out there. This is where the absence of Donte DiVincenzo really hurts Milwaukee.
  • Jeff Teague getting 14 minutes was hilariously painful...I mean, why????
  • Bryn Forbes struggled mightily from the floor, shooting 2-of-8, including a few really ugly misses.
  • Pat Connaughton was a non-factor out there in 20 minutes of play.
  • The Bucks shot 6-of-30 from deep which hurt me to type out.
  • Blake Griffin acting tough is hilarious, considering he essentially exaggerated his injury situation in Detroit to join a super team.
  • James Harden’s status is still up in the air after he left Game One to get an MRI on his hamstring. However, if he is going to be out for the series, the Bucks need to bounce on that opportunity. Something they failed miserably at last night.
  • Kevin Durant is not human and you cannot convince me otherwise.