We’ve got a good NBA doubleheader on Monday as the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets play Game 2 in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs and the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns square off in Game 1 of their series.
Let’s take a look at the early game between the Bucks and Nets, which seems to have taken on a different feel after James Harden left Game 1 with a hamstring injury. The line has been adjusted down with Harden’s absence, as the Nets are now -1.5 with a total of 234 at BetOnline Sportsbook.
The line for Game 1 was Nets -3.5 and 239.5, so we’ve seen both a side adjustment and a total adjustment. Brooklyn was as high as -4.5 prior to Game 1, but the line did settle 3.5 at tip-off.
The Bucks were not sharp in Game 1. After a four-game sweep of the Miami Heat in the first round, Milwaukee went from May 29 to June 5 without playing a game and it showed. Milwaukee came out fast and led by two at the end of the first quarter, but got outscored the rest of the way, including 52-46 in the second half. Milwaukee was outscored by 12 after the halftime intermission as Brooklyn adjusted and regrouped and the Bucks did not.
At least it was a really promising start to the series for Giannis Antetokounmpo. After a couple of lackluster games in Miami with just 37 points on 14-of-30 from the floor, Giannis dropped 34 points on 16-of-24 shooting against the Nets in the first game. He was held off of the stat sheet on the offensive glass, but did pull down 11 rebounds.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, Brook Lopez was the only member of the supporting cast to have a good game. He had 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in 27:32 on the floor. That was a lot stronger than Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who had 30 points, but on 13-of-42 shooting. The Bucks were only 6-of-30 from three-point range and those two were 2-of-12 themselves.
It’s a lot like what we saw in Game 1 against Miami from the Bucks. That, too, was an awful performance from three-point range. The difference is that Milwaukee found a way to win that game anyway. They did not in this series.
James Harden played all of 43 seconds for the Nets in Game 1. Everybody had to pick up the slack and a lot of guys did. The other four in the starting lineup combined for 91 points and everybody chipped in offensively with at least 18 points. Kevin Durant led the way with 29 and Kyrie Irving had 25.
The Nets were 15-of-40 from three, so they outscored Milwaukee 45-18 from beyond the arc. That was a major key to the series coming in, as Milwaukee had the second-worst 3P% defense in the NBA during the regular season. The Nets didn’t take full advantage, as the Harden injury hurt in that department, but they still badly outscored Milwaukee in that area. That was even with a 4-of-15 performance combined from Kyrie and KD.
Brooklyn only had six offensive rebounds to 15 for the Bucks, but the big disparity with three-pointers was more than enough to make up for it. The Nets got some good contributions from the bench, as the all-hands-on-deck approach happened to work out. Mike James was especially good with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Nets did have to use their four starts a lot. Every starter played at least 34 minutes. The Bucks spread the playing time out a bit with the layoff. We’ll see if that has any impact in Game 2 or any impact in the series as we move forward.
Bucks vs. Nets Free Pick
The Bucks were just 20% from three in Game 1. They were 5-of-31 for 16.1% in Game 1 against the Heat. They adjusted and played better in Game 2, though Miami was a much less formidable opponent than the Nets. Still, Milwaukee had a really rough game, as the supporting cast around Giannis played poorly. Brooklyn now goes from adjusting on the fly to having a plan of attack for the Harden injury and sometimes it’s better to just go off-the-cuff and make everybody do a little bit more.
I think the Bucks can and will bounce back in Game 2.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks +1.5