It’s do-or-die for the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 at home. The Bucks are in an 0-2 hole against the Brooklyn Nets, losing Game 2 by 39 points.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks figure out how to slow down Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, or is the team facing another lackluster postseason performance?
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Even without James Harden in Game 2, the Nets were able to blitz the Bucks, building a 49-point lead at one point.
Milwaukee, who was seventh in the league in points per possession in the regular season according to Cleaning the Glass, are six points worse than the worst team in the regular season through two games of this series.
Every Milwaukee action has been discombobulated and out of character. The Nets are swarming Giannis Antetokounmpo on rolls to the basket and the Nets are content with Milwaukee trying to hunt switches on the perimeter or Giannis settling for mid-range jumpers.
Brooklyn is generating more turnovers as well, up three percent through two games compared to their regular season mark. The Nets have executed their game plan to date and are comfortable with letting the Bucks try to beat them at their own game -- isolation basketball.
On the other end, Brooklyn has been finding the weak link in the Bucks defense and are attacking it at will. Whether it is taking advantage of Brook Lopez’s drop coverage in the pick-and-roll, or forcing a switch onto the slow footed Bryn Forbes, the Nets are picking apart Milwaukee’s defense.
The Bucks sit as 3.5 point favorites in Game 3. Oddsmakers are making bettors pay a premium to back the desperate home team. If they lose, this series is a wrap, plain and simple.
There are adjustments to be made, but we have seen this time and time again with Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and his inability to make mid-series changes. Why will it come now?
I can’t see backing Milwaukee in this spot at this number. The Nets have proven that their ceiling is significantly higher than the Bucks. With that in mind, I do see an angle towards the over though, which is still a few points too low.
The over took a ton of money ahead of Game 2, closing four points higher than open, and the Nets did their part, scoring 125 points despite the fourth quarter consisting mostly of garbage time. However, it was Milwaukee who didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, scoring 86 points.
At home, Milwaukee should shoot better. The team shot 24% from beyond the arc in the first two games. However, what isn’t changing is Milwaukee’s defense.
I theorized ahead of the series that the loss of Donte DiVincenzo would weigh on the Bucks, who sacrificed their depth to get Jrue Holiday this offseason, and that has in fact been crippling to their defense, who are out manned in any lineup combination.
The Nets are going to continue to run through Durant and Irving, who are operating at any other worldy level. Durant is shooting 55/50/91 for 32 points per game. Those are real stats. They will hunt out mismatches and attack with the likes of lab-created center Bruce Brown on the short roll or Joe Harris on the perimeter.
I don’t see value in betting the side at this number with this being a must win for Milwaukee, but I do think this game gets back to their regular season scoring. The three regular season meetings went for an average of over 140 points.
Pick: Over 234, play to 236