Nets-Bucks looked like the most intriguing on-paper matchup of the second round of the NBA playoffs…until the games began, at least. Despite the fact that James Harden reaggravated his hamstring injury less than a minute into Game 1, this series has been a total dud. The Nets have jumped out to a very easy 2-0 lead as the scene shifts to Wisconsin for Game 3 on Thursday night.
The Bucks weren’t even competitive in Game 2 despite entering the night as odds-on favorites. Milwaukee was favored by 1.5 points at tip. They then proceeded to fall behind by as many as 49 points on their way to a disastrous 125-86 loss on Monday night. Perhaps some home-cooking will do them some good, but this is shaping up to be another cataclysmic playoff failure for a team that has come up short in these situations over the past few years.
BetOnline’s oddsmakers aren’t swayed by what happened in Game 2, because the Bucks are favored again tonight. BetOnline has Milwaukee at -3.5 in their first home game of the series, which comes with an over/under of 234 points.
Nets Still Shorthanded
Steve Nash confirmed on Wednesday that both James Harden and Jeff Green will remain out for Game 3. Nash added that both are progressing and that he thinks Harden will return at some point in this series, but we’ll see. The Nets haven’t even needed the former MVP to take a commanding lead early in the series with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Blake Griffin leading the charge.
Even sans Harden, the Nets’ offense has simply been too much for Milwaukee to handle. Brooklyn shot 52 percent from the field in Game 2, including a stellar 50 percent from three-point country. The Nets nailed 21 of their 42 attempts from long range, which was ultimately the difference in the game. The Nets made nearly as many triples as the Bucks even attempted (27). Brooklyn shot just seven free throws in the game, as well.
Kevin Durant’s fully healthy playoff road games since 2019:
Durant and Irving combined to score 54 points in Game 2, which was more than the Bucks’ three leading scorers combined (48). Brooklyn also got 23 combined points from Bruce Brown and Mike James, who have both been playing bigger roles since Harden went out.
The Nets’ defense has come to play in this series, which is a bit of a surprise. Milwaukee mustered just 86 points in Game 2 while committing twice as many turnovers (16) as the Nets did. Brooklyn has put the clamps on Khris Middleton, who has scored just 30 points total in the first two games on abysmal 13-for-43 shooting from the field (30 percent).
Bucks Need To Adjust
Clearly, what Mike Budenholzer has tried to begin the series ain’t working. Milwaukee blew a golden opportunity to steal at least one game on the road before coming back home, but they now face a must-win scenario in Game 3. If they don’t, the Bucks are looking at a quick second-round elimination for the second straight year. Budenholzer will also be looking for a new job this summer if the Bucks can’t turn things around in a hurry.
Getting Middleton going is key, but the Bucks also need Giannis Antetokounmpo to play like a two-time league MVP. Giannis scored an efficient 34 points in Game 1, but he was held to just 18 points in 31 minutes in Game 2. The Nets’ small lineup doesn’t offer much rim protection, and Antetokounmpo should be able to use his size to his advantage as a result. Settling for three-pointers isn’t his game, and he should leave the shooting to the likes of Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and others.
Khris Middleton looks very average when you put him in a series w truly great players.
The Bucks are 28-10 at Fiserv Forum so far this season, and we did see Milwaukee sweep back-to-back games at home against the Nets earlier this season. The playoffs are a different animal, of course, but I would be fairly shocked if the Bucks didn’t play with a renewed sense of urgency tonight with their season effectively on the line.
The Bucks and Nets have now squared off five times this season, and all five have been high-scoring contests. The teams have combined to score 248, 231, 242, 222, and 211 points in those games. The two postseason meetings have been the lowest-scoring games, but I expect the Bucks to actually show up offensively tonight in front of the home crowd.
Frankly, the Bucks can’t play much worse than they did the other night. That said, I’m still gunshy about backing them after the abject catastrophe that was Game 2. 234 points is a high over/under, but it’s attainable if the Bucks can actually get their shots to go down in this one. Brooklyn’s offense shows up on a nightly basis, so I’m not concerned about the Nets’ ability to hold up their end of the bargain. Bet the over at NBA betting sites on 234 points in Game 3.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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