Game 3 is now or never for the Milwaukee Bucks after two disappointing performances against the Nets in Brooklyn. Disappointing is putting it lightly as Game 2 saw the Bucks score a season-low 86 points and lose by a season-worst 39 points. The Nets have not been bothered by losing James Harden so far, but the Bucks must play with desperation and urgency on Thursday night.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, June 10, 2021 – 07:30 PM EDT at Fiserv Forum
Despite Game 2’s blowout, the Bucks are still a 3.5-point favorite at many top sportsbooks. The Bucks, with Giannis Antetokounmpo active, have had a three-game losing streak just three times in the last three seasons. However, two of those instances were in the playoffs. This is another legacy-defining moment for coach Mike Budenholzer in the Giannis era. The Bucks’ season is effectively over with another poor showing here.
Game 2: Ball Movement and Domination
The Nets won every quarter in Game 2, but none were more decisive than the tone-setting first quarter. Brooklyn shot 60.9% from the field and built a 36-19 lead in a wire-to-wire win. Milwaukee continued to brick its shots from distance, finishing 8-of-27 (29.6%) from three. Giannis scored only 18 points and missed five free throws. Khris Middleton was a mess again as he shot seven-of-20 from the field with five turnovers. Jrue Holiday was a minus-27 in the box score, his worst mark of the season.
Milwaukee, the NBA’s highest-scoring team at 120.1 per game, had scored at least 96 points in every game this season, but could only muster 86 in this one. You have to go back to February 9, 2019, against Orlando, to find the last time Milwaukee scored this little in a game. The Bucks tied their season low with 14 assists.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were exceptionally good for the Nets, but it is not like their 54 points were too many for the Bucks to overcome. On betting sites, they each had six assists because the ball movement for Brooklyn was fantastic. Even without the assist machine James Harden, there were many possessions where three or more Nets touched the ball, setting up many easy shots and good looks.
Meanwhile, the Bucks settled for quick jumpers off one pass and continued to badly miss them. According to NBA.com, the Nets made 92 more passes than the Bucks in Game 2 and 91 more passes in Game 1. That is a significant difference. In the first round of the playoffs, the average difference in passes per game in the eight series was 32.3 passes. Only the 76ers-Wizards series (58) had a difference of more than 38 passes per game between the teams.
With the way the ball was moving for Brooklyn and the way Milwaukee did not attack the paint, this was an incredibly unique game as the teams combined to go 10-of-16 from the free throw line. It is the only NBA playoff game on record where neither team attempted at least 10 free throws.
Bucks in a Rough Spot
The fact is the three-point shot has been terrible for weeks for the Bucks. They shot 32.4% in the last five games of the regular season and are down to 30.6% in the six playoff games. Out of the seven teams shooting below 37% from three in the playoffs, only the Bucks were not eliminated in the first round. Meanwhile, no one is shooting the three better this postseason than Brooklyn (43.2%).
A poor-shooting team simply cannot advance in the playoffs in today’s NBA. The Bucks are in a tough spot as the threes have not fallen, but no team can rely too much on dunks and getting in the paint. In this postseason, teams who get at least 43% of their points in the paint are 10-25 (.286) in those games. Milwaukee was at 67.3% in Game 1 and 60.5% in Game 2, two of the three-highest games this postseason.
In this series, the Bucks are 19-of-57 (33.3%) on shots from the 5-to-14 feet range according to NBA.com. They were 39-of-69 (56.5%) on such shots against Miami in the first round. It is quite common to see the NBA team down 2-0 go home for Game 3 and come out victorious. In fact, NBA teams in Milwaukee’s position are 158-116 (.577) in Game 3 historically.
Brooklyn’s only loss this postseason was Game 3 in Boston. Despite jumping out to a 19-4 lead, the Nets fell 125-119 as Jayson Tatum scored 50 points. This is certainly a game where Giannis can put his team on his back in a must-win situation and deliver. But he still is going to need more help than the 30% Middleton is shooting this series or how easy the Nets are making it look against Milwaukee’s defense, according to the best sportsbooks.
Sportsbooks only see this game going one of two ways. Forget the three games decided by 11 points in the regular season, these teams look content on winning by double digits in the playoffs. So, you either go with the Nets moneyline (forget the spread) or you take Milwaukee to cover and keep some life in this series.
If Boston could do it to the Nets, I like to think Giannis and the Bucks can get it done as well. If they do fall behind 3-0, Budenholzer may be getting fired in a matter of days. Brooklyn is 6-1 ATS this postseason, but that should start regressing to the mean soon. Hopefully, so will enough three-point shots for the Bucks and they can cover this one for your NBA scores tonight.
*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.