The Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets will play at least four times and maybe as many as seven times in what will be an outstanding second-round series in the NBA Playoffs. This is the matchup we all expected to see with the #3 seed Milwaukee and the #2 Brooklyn fighting it out for the chance to face either Atlanta or Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 1 will be a big one for setting the tone and the Nets are favored by four points with a total of 239 at Bovada Sportsbook.
The Bucks swept the Miami Heat out of the playoffs in four games and it feels like 4-0 wasn’t even indicative of the result. Milwaukee won a nailbiter in Game 1 by a 109-107 score, but that was the only close game. It almost felt like the Bucks needed a wake-up call against a Heat team that had to play some important games to avoid the play-in tournament down the stretch.
Well, the Bucks scored 132, 113, and 120 and won every game by at least 17 points, so they heard the alarm and got right out of bed. Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t even have a very good series by his standards, yet the Bucks advanced with ease. That is the scariest part of this whole equation for Nets fans and backers.
Giannis was 1-of-16 from three in the series and only shot 45% from the floor overall. He also left 12 points out there at the free throw line. It felt like a lot of stars struggled at the stripe in the first round and Giannis was one of them. But, he got a lot of help from the supporting cast.
Five Bucks scored at least 60 points in the four-game sweep, including Khris Middleton, who shot 41% from three and 49.2% from the floor overall. Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday also had some big minutes, along with Bryn Forbes, who enjoyed putting salt in the wounds of the Heat over his 80 minutes played in the series.
The Bucks shot 46.8% from the floor and under 33% from three, but disposed of Miami without breaking a sweat, at least after Game 1. The Nets are going to get a big test from a deep and balanced team.
The Nets didn’t exactly have a Gentleman’s Sweep in the first round, as Boston won Game 3 to get some measure of hope, but back-to-back double-digit wins sealed the deal for the Nets to move on the second round. Brooklyn was far and away the better offensive team in the series, posting a .582 eFG% compared to just .508 for Boston.
The Big Three did its thing in the series. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving combined for 426 points over the five games. Boston only scored 561 points total. The Nets shot 49.6% from the floor and nearly 43% from three. Perhaps most importantly, they were 125-of-137 at the free throw line. We saw a lot of teams struggle to score those one-pointers in the first round, but not Brooklyn, as the Nets were better than 91% from the line.
Shutting down Durant, Harden, and Irving will be a tall ask for Milwaukee. The Bucks narrowly cracked the top 10 in DRtg during the regular season. Of course, Brooklyn was 23rd, so this is basically just going to be a series about seeing which team can score more points. Defense will be largely optional throughout this season based on the high pace and also the offensive firepower on both sides.
Opponents made 38.4% of their three-pointers against Milwaukee, which was the second-worst mark in the league. Boston was the ninth-worst team in that department and the Nets filled it up from deep. That will be a key thing to watch in this series, as Milwaukee does not defend the three well and struggles the most against the corner three. Brooklyn had a top-10 offense in Corner 3P%.
Bucks vs. Nets Free Pick
The Nets and Bucks have tons of scoring threats. These are two pretty balanced offensive teams. If a star struggles, somebody else can pick up the slack. Brooklyn likes taking threes and makes a lot of threes. The game plan doesn’t really have to deviate much from what worked against the Celtics. Milwaukee, meanwhile, seems to be just a step lower than Brooklyn in virtually every stat category.
Pick: Brooklyn Nets -4