The NBA Playoffs have taken a turn for the worse because of injuries. Major injuries are impacting the series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, but only one side is severely impacted. As a result, the Bucks are a clear favorite to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 over the weekend in Brooklyn.
The Kevin Durant Game will go down in history and it is the reason why Milwaukee is on the brink of elimination, even though both James Harden and Kyrie Irving are either severely limited or altogether out. We’ll see if the Bucks can hold KD down as a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 220 at Bookmaker Sportsbook.
James Harden gutted it out through more than 45 minutes in Game 5, but was a major liability on both ends of the floor. He basically served as a decoy to try and keep some kind of pressure off of Kevin Durant. Harden was 1-of-10 shooting, 0-of-8 from three, and awful on the defensive end as well.
Maybe it worked, though, as Durant had 49 points on an incredible night with 16-of-23 from the floor, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was a LeBron James-esque stat line from LBJ’s prime and was enough to drag his team to the victory. Durant played all 48 minutes in the game, but he did actually get some help from some unlikely sources.
Blake Griffin had 17 points in 29 effective minutes and Jeff Green had a huge game with 27 points in over 34 minutes off the bench. Green was 8-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-8 from three. Take Harden out of the equation and the Nets were 16-of-35 from three in the game. Obviously we can’t just remove the empty possessions from Harden, but it is a sign of how other players stepped up.
What do we get now in Game 6? The Bucks know that Harden is an empty uniform in his current state or at least that he seems to be one. Durant needs to be double and maybe even triple-teamed. Green won’t do that again going 7-of-8 from deep. The Nets won 114-108.
Because the thing about Game 5 is that the Nets were not that great defensively. The Bucks shot 49.4% from the floor and 40.6% from three. It was a strong game for Giannis Antetokounmpo and every starter not named PJ Tucker. Milwaukee got at least 15 points from four of the five starters, including 34 from Giannis and 25 from Khris Middleton.
Middleton did struggle from the floor, though, going just 8-of-22 and 3-of-10 from three. The Bucks could have used more from him and really could have used more from him across this entire series in general.
Milwaukee only had 18 assists against 12 turnovers. Turnovers have been a problem in the series for them. Brooklyn has picked up extra possessions and has made them count. The Bucks only have an eFG% in the series of .494. This has been a pretty lackluster series for offense all the way around. Giannis is only shooting 24% from three and the Bucks are under 30% as a team. That’s why they haven’t been able to take advantage of Brooklyn’s injury issues. Middleton is only shooting 38% from the floor overall. Jrue Holiday is not having a very good offensive series either and the bench contributions have been basically non-existent.
Something really needs to change for Milwaukee in this series. They’re going to have to find ways to get secondary scoring, take better care of the basketball, and also stop Durant on defense. That seems like a big ask with the line at 5.5.
Nets vs. Bucks Free Pick
There could be a residual hangover for Kevin Durant after playing all 48 minutes in such a big game, but the Nets could also get more than a big, fat zero from Harden in Game 6 to help the cause in any way that he can. Even though Brooklyn should experience some measure of regression, particularly from three, the Bucks simply do not look like a team capable of covering a sizable number with their current form.
Pick: Brooklyn Nets +5.5