With 2.1 seconds left in Thursday’s Game 3 between the Bucks and the Nets, Brooklyn had a chance to send the contest into overtime. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Kevin Durant’s 3-point desperation bounced off the back edge and fell safely to the ground, allowing fans inside the Fiserv Forum to let out a collective exhale.
After the Bucks secured the win, which reduced the Nets’ lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to 2-1, ESPN’s Mike Breen said they were back in the series. But as far as the Hall of Fame announcer goes, it seems a bit premature.
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Because, really, the Bucks shouldn’t have won by a final score of 86-83, and Game 3 shouldn’t have been all about final possession.
Mike Budenholzer’s side got off to a flying start, taking a 30-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were aggressive from the start with 15 points each in the first game. (They accounted for 68 of Milwaukee’s 86 points, tthe highest percentage of points by a duo in NBA playoff history.) That was exactly the type of response the Bucks needed from their stars after the Nets embarrassed them in Games 1 and 2.
But then the bad habits of the previous losses returned. Milwaukee fell into isolation against Brooklyn’s heavy schedule rather than move, pass and filter. Antetokounmpo, who finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds, shot way too many 3-pointers. The Nets were clearly happy to let “The Greek Freak” do their best (worst?) Stephen Curry’s impersonation.
“I think the first trimester [Antetokounmpo] was in attack mode. I think the spacing we were better “, Budenholzer said during its post-match media availability. “We got 30 points, and from there it was a bit of a fight. So Giannis has to keep finding his places, can move on to second actions, to third actions. He’s just going to keep playing and taking good decisions and playing for his team. ”
The Bucks also enjoyed an unusually poor night of shooting for the Nets, especially since Milwaukee was often content to stick to its downfall plan and give Brooklyn a clean look at the basket.
That’s the problem with drop against Kevin Durant. It relies on defense that is cruising around the screen and even then it’s a 50/50 shot. KD was able to go to his place and go back in time. pic.twitter.com/8ntLGbIo6t
– Steve Jones Jr. (@ stevejones20) June 11, 2021
Kevin Durant totaled 30 points, but he shot 11 of 28 from the field. Kyrie Irving had 22 points and 9 of 22. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Joe Harris, who led the league with a 3-point percentage during the regular season, shooting 1 of 11 on baskets and 1 on. 7 at 3 points. If only a few of those shots fell, the Bucks would face an insurmountable 3-0 hole.
“It was really simple. It was just kicking,” Durant said. “I think we have a nice appearance. We got to the paint. We did the extra pass. And we just [didn’t] make shots. Sometimes that’s the name of the game. “
Milwaukee however deserves the credit for having closed strong. Middleton (35 points, 15 rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (nine points, five assists, four rebounds) delivered clutch buckets down the home stretch. It should be noted that these key points stem from actual action in the half court or transitioning against a defense that has not been defined.
As Antetokounmpo told reporters after Game 3, “A win is a win,” and the Bucks don’t get extra credit for their style. But Milwaukee can’t be expected to really compete with Brooklyn relying on inconsistent execution and aberrant shooting performance from their opponent. The Bucks have one win under their belt – the real challenge begins now.
“At the end of the day, when you play a basketball game and you win the game, you enjoy [it]. But I think we can play better, “Antetokounmpo said.” We can play better. We can play faster. We can play more together. “