An okay slate of games tonight in the NBA could have basketball bettors wanting more, but one of the seven games on the docket is must-see TV. That would be the battle in Beerland between the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Deer is Feared and also Favored in this one with the Bucks by a point over the Nets in a matchup that probably won’t have too much bearing on the standings.
While the game doesn’t mean much with Brooklyn a game and a half behind Philadelphia and Milwaukee 2.5 back of the Nets, these head-to-head litmus tests before the playoffs should bring out the best in both teams. The total on the game is a big one at 239.5, so strap in for some fun at BetOnline Sportbook tonight.
These two teams just played a thriller on Sunday with Milwaukee taking down the 117-114 win. Brooklyn had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who thrilled the small-capacity crowd with a 49-point effort. At least the Nets can take solace in knowing it took 49 from Giannis and a 26 and 11 game from Khris Middleton to beat them by just three points.
On the other hand, the Nets had to be disappointed with the supplemental scoring help that Kevin Durant failed to receive. Durant had 42 on a 16-of-33 performance from the floor as he tried to go head-to-head with Giannis. Unfortunately, Durant needed help and only got 20 points on a poor shooting night from Kyrie Irving. Landry Shamet provided a big lift off the bench with 17, but the four starters outside of the Durant managed to go just 16-of-41 from the floor.
The Nets have dropped two in a row, but Durant did not play in the loss against Portland. Irving had 28 on 12-of-26 shooting in that one. When bigger things are on the horizon, teams tend to focus more on that than what is directly in front of them and it seems as though the Nets have hit a bit of a regular season lull.
Brooklyn is second in the NBA in points per game, but 22nd in points allowed per game. As far as playoff teams go, Brooklyn is the worst in that department. Outscoring teams isn’t a bad strategy in today’s NBA, where defense may be more optional than ever, but it is something that they would probably like to fix before the postseason begins.
The Nets are only seventh in NetRtg on the season per Basketball-Reference, while the Bucks are fourth and the best in the Eastern Conference in that department.
A big reason why the Bucks have found their offensive success is because they ranked second in 3P% in the league and first in the Eastern Conference at 39.2% entering action on Monday. Only the Clippers grade out better, but the Jazz are right there as well. The Bucks are 11th in percentage of three-pointers taken, but they make them count when they do fire away.
What makes Brooklyn so successful is the two-point shot. They are tops in the NBA in 2P%, but the Bucks are the third-best defense in the league when it comes to defending inside the arc. That proved to be the difference in Sunday’s game, as the Nets were 25-of-54 on two-point shots, well below their season average of 56.5%.
This is the rubber match between the two teams and both games have been close. Brooklyn won by two at home earlier this season and Milwaukee won by three on Sunday. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to see that the games have been close. We could see these two teams match up in the playoffs and get similar outcomes over that best-of-seven series.
Brooklyn ranks just below the midpoint in the NBA in 3P% defense. Milwaukee was right on its season average with 37 attempts in Sunday’s game. The Nets take an average of 36.4 per game and took 42. It does seem like Milwaukee baited Brooklyn into a few more long-distance, lower-percentage jumpers than usual.
Kyrie did not play the first game between the two, but Durant did, and so did James Harden, who remains sidelined with his injury. Harden hasn’t played since April 5. The Bucks do catch a break that he’s out again here.
Nets vs. Bucks Free Pick
This one is on TNT, so we should get another TV-worthy performance from these two teams. Irving has not been at his best of late and the Nets don’t get a ton of secondary scoring. Unless he’s better in this game, it should be Milwaukee’s to lose. Rather than look at a side, though, the total of 241 looks a little bit high here. There wasn’t a lot of sharing of the basketball on Sunday, as guys tried to create their own shots and fill up the highlight reels.
I’d expect the same selfish basketball today, which points me towards the under.
Pick: Under 239.5