The Brooklyn Nets can eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night after Kevin Durant’s historic performance in Game 5 led to a 114-108 comeback win. Durant played every second of the game and had the first playoff game in NBA history with at least 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, June 17, 2021 – 08:30 PM EDT at Fiserv Forum
The Bucks are a 5.5-point favorite at many top sportsbooks. This unpredictable series has been so volatile from game to game, but the only thing certain is that the Bucks must win if their season is to continue. We also know Game 3 was the only matchup decided by fewer than six points in this series. In NBA playoff history, the team leading 3-2 in a series where the home team is 5-0 is 33-24 (.579) in Game 6.
Game 5 Recap: Durant’s Signature Game
All eyes were on Kevin Durant in Game 5 as Kyrie Irving was out for Brooklyn, but James Harden (hamstring) made a surprise return to the starting lineup. Harden played almost 46 minutes, but his rust was painfully obvious, and he was ineffective, shooting 1-of-10 from the field on his way to five points.
Durant had to be brilliant, and he was, delivering the finest playoff game of his career. Durant only has one playoff game in his career with more or as many points, rebounds, and assists as he had in Game 5. He repeatedly hit clutch shots to help the Nets storm back from a 17-point deficit halfway through the third quarter. Durant scored 20 of his team’s 33 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Durant was not entirely alone as Jeff Green had an incredible game to help Brooklyn win as well. Green scored 27 points and hit his first seven three-point shots. That was huge as Harden and the usually reliable Joe Harris combined to go 1-of-15 from three. Green’s 27 points were a playoff career high in his 76th playoff game. It was only the second time in 1,052 career games (including playoffs) that Green hit at least seven threes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had another similar stat line for the Bucks with 34 points and 12 rebounds. That has been the story for him in four of the five games, but he continues to settle for jump shots, had a crucial late turnover, and did not take on enough defensive responsibility against Durant when the Bucks had few players to worry about making a shot against them.
Milwaukee blew a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead back home. Now we will see if it proves to be fatal or if the Bucks can extend this to a seventh game in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the Nets are now 8-1 this season when Durant plays and Irving does not.
Reasons Milwaukee Should Feel Good
If the Bucks can put this traumatic loss immediately behind them, then they have reasons to feel good about winning Game 6 at home. For one, Irving will still be out for the Nets and his shooting ability was clearly missed in the last six-plus quarters.
Fatigue with only one rest day in between games is worth bringing up. However, it is asinine to suggest as Reggie Miller did that the Nets should rest Durant and Harden and put all their chips in on a Game 7, because we know anything can happen in one game. This series has proven that with two huge injuries to Brooklyn, a shocking defensive struggle in Game 3, and Durant’s virtuoso performance in Tuesday’s comeback. The Nets obviously must play to win this one, but there is some concern that a 32-year-old Durant playing every second will have him less effective for this matchup.
Harden almost had to play as much as he did to keep his hamstring from getting cold and tightening up. It is hard to imagine he will play as poorly as he did in Game 5, but he should not be viewed as a big asset for the Nets in this game.
The Bucks had their best shooting game of the series in Game 5, hitting 49.4% from the field and 40.6% from three. It was even the team’s best effort from the free throw line (13-of-17). We know the Bucks played better at home in this series, but the team has yet to crack 110 points in any of the five games. That is concerning for the No.1 scoring team who scored at least 110 points in 81.3% of its games this season coming into this series.
Giannis has said he would like to take on defending Durant more in this matchup, which could be good news for the Bucks if it does not take away from his performance on offense. They still need him to score 30-plus points in this matchup. Keep in mind that Durant only shot 37.7% in the two games in Milwaukee. Khris Middleton shoots better at home and it is unlikely he will be outscored again by Jeff Green, who had a real outlier of a night.
In the last three games, Milwaukee has held leads of 21, 19, and 17 points. The Bucks won one game by double digits, almost lost their biggest lead, and blew Tuesday’s lead.
This series has had a bit of everything so far. Maybe Game 6 is the one where Harden pulls out a vintage 30-point triple-double. Nothing should surprise you at this point. However, I like the way the Bucks play better at home and think the Nets spent a lot of energy in making that Game 5 comeback. There are still not enough players playing well around Durant for Brooklyn without Irving available. Hard as it is to say, I am going to trust Giannis and company to cover and send this one to a Game 7 for my NBA picks.
*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.