The Milwaukee Bucks will try to avoid an 0-2 hole against the Brooklyn Nets on TNT this Monday evening. The Nets blew Game 1 open in the third quarter on the way to a 115-107 victory despite losing James Harden (hamstring) after just 43 seconds of action. Harden is out for Game 2 and likely beyond, but the Nets still feature two of the best shooters on the planet in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Monday, June 07, 2021 – 07:30 PM EDT at Barclays Center
The Harden injury has made an impact on the spread as the Nets are only 1.5-point favorites at several sports betting websites. Since 1984, when the No. 2 seed wins Game 1 against the No. 3 seed in the semifinals, the No. 2 seed is only 12-12 in Game 2. Will the Bucks even this series?
Game 1: Nets Keep Their Poise
Milwaukee went 2-1 against the Nets in the regular season in close games that were decided by a combined 11 points. Each game basically came down to whether Durant hit a clutch three-point shot in the final minutes. In Saturday’s Game 1, the Nets had to be excited to get their Big Three together for the first time in a matchup with the Bucks this season. However, that lasted just 43 seconds after James Harden exited due to his hamstring injury.
The Bucks led 32-30 after the first quarter, but that would soon fade as the Nets found their shooting stroke from unexpected sources, namely players not in the Big Three. Those players scored 61 points and hit 11 threes after averaging 38.2 points and 5.0 threes per game in the first round against Boston.
Durant (29 points, 10 rebounds) and Irving (25 points, eight assists) produced numbers as expected, but it was really the role players who stepped up when the team needed it the most in Harden’s absence. Meanwhile, the Bucks had a horrific shooting night and never seriously challenged in the fourth quarter despite Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing his brilliance against the Nets with 34 points and 11 rebounds.
Bucks: Horrible Shooting
Maybe it was the week off after sweeping the Miami Heat, but the Bucks again started a Game 1 with horrible shooting outside the paint. This time it cost them a win as the Bucks finished 6-of-30 (20%) from three-point territory, the team’s second-fewest makes in a game this season.
The good news is the last time the Bucks made five threes in a game, it was Game 1 against Miami. In Game 2, Milwaukee came out on fire, hitting 10 threes in the first quarter and 22 for the game in an easy win. The Bucks finished the season fourth in 3P% (38.9%), or almost as good as No. 2 Brooklyn (39.2%), but they could not get the job done on Saturday.
Bryn Forbes was a shooting star for the Bucks against the Heat as he outscored Jimmy Butler in the series, but he was held scoreless for most of Game 1 before scoring five points in garbage time. With the Bucks losing starting guard Donte DiVincenzo (foot) for the postseason, a role player like Forbes has to play much better than that. Jrue Holiday was also just 7-of-19 from the field, a disappointing game for him as well.
Milwaukee also missed eight free throws in the team’s third-worst game of the season in terms of FT% (57.9%).
While the Bucks should shoot better in Game 2, not all the three-point shooting regression is on their side here. Durant (1-of-4) and Irving (3-of-11) were only 4-of-15 from three in Game 1 and can obviously do much more damage than that. Remember that when heading to sportsbooks. They also got just about whatever shots they wanted from two-point range.
The good news is that Blake Griffin is unlikely to hit four threes again, which brings us to our last matchup note.
Middleton vs. Griffin
The three superstars left in this matchup are going to get their numbers either way. The role players will be up and down. But it is impossible for Milwaukee to win this series with Khris Middleton getting grossly outplayed by Blake Griffin, who had his best game yet for the Nets.
Middleton was Milwaukee’s hero in Game 1 against Miami, carrying the team late in overtime after a shoddy shooting performance from much of the roster. But in this Game 1, Middleton was 6-of-23 (26.1%) from the field and missed all five of his threes. He only scored 13 points in one of the worst playoff games of his career.
In three regular season meetings this year, Middleton always shot at least 50% and scored 23-to-26 points to give Giannis a competent No. 2 sidekick. But he was awful on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Griffin shocked everyone by looking like the vintage Los Angeles version of himself. He grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds, made four threes, and even dove for a few loose balls. Griffin’s 18 points and 14 boards almost match what he did in the whole five-game series against Boston (24 points and 17 rebounds).
Players like Griffin and Mike James are going to have to step up in Harden’s absence, but the Bucks, the highest-scoring team in the NBA Today, are too talented to see their roster get outplayed by Brooklyn’s non-Big Three roster.
The Bucks are 0-5 SU and ATS as an underdog this season. It is obviously not a position they are used to being in, but it is still warranted here with the Nets having homecourt and Durant and Irving. Still, I am going to trust Giannis to continue his huge numbers against this suspect Brooklyn defense and to get more help on outside shots from his teammates. When you look at the NBA scores today, I think you will see the Bucks even this series going back to Milwaukee.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.