Missed opportunities are paid, even more so in the NBA. And for the Bucks, the one that they have not known how to take advantage of against the almighty Nets, who ran out of James Harden on the first play but still they won a match that they dominated in their middle part and that they did not let themselves go up at the end. Kyrie and Durant were in charge, of course, of keeping New Yorkers afloat in the absence of their main supplier of balls, a guard who has been the base since his controversial transfer from the Rockets and who legitimately opted for the MVP until his injury to end of March. Now, with a tear in the tendon in his right leg, it is doubtful for the second round and he will have to wait to know if he can play the game or he will see him dressed in the street and on the bench, an image that is being repeated a lot in a season with a condensed calendar, marked by injuries (tell the Lakers) and full (full of oddities). What’s more, the only thing that remains uniform and in line with expectations is the level of the Nets, favorites for the title by talent … and by the way they have to win games, basically.
Mike Budenholzer, who seeks redemption (and avoid dismissal), started the game following the trend of changes he has made this season, trying new things and trying to surprise the rival, varying (or trying to vary) that single plan that was a great virtue when it went well, but a very big slab when it was immovable, especially in the final phase. The manager brought PJ Tucker into the starting lineup looking for more defensive presence and an antidote (if there is one) that could slow Durant. It was just the forward’s second start since joining the Bucks, his first in the playoffs; and it worked for a while, but it didn’t have a particularly great continuity as the minutes went by. It’s more, things didn’t work out for the visiting team once the Nets adapted to the new situation, without Harden but with two stars to which Milwaukee found no answers. Something that is very common that happens with Kyrie and Durant, obviously.
Once recovered from the initial setback, with that Harden injury (he did it himself) in a penetration that forced Steve Nash (who follows his thing, almost as impenetrable as his mentor was and today second, Mike D’Antoni ) to stop the game on the second play to see how the guard headed to the changing room tunnel, the Nets put the batteries. They got to go 9 points down in the first quarter, but they finished it stone’s throw (30-32). Then, to send: 10 points from Kyrie in the second quarter and 13 from Durant in the third, for an accumulated partial of 68-52, forged above all by a suffocating defense (because yes, the Nets also defend) in those last 12 minutes, which allowed the locals to escape definitively. Brooklyn started the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead (98-84) and led by 19. And he didn’t let the difference drop below 10 until Pat Connaughton scored a basket., with just 14 seconds to go, and with everything fully decided.
Kyrie and Durant beat Giannis
Antetokounmpo tried it in many ways and at no point was it the Bucks’ problem, but neither was it the solution in the hot minutes of the crash. He scored 10 points in an opening period in which he was strong, but he was diluted with the passing of the minutes in a tonic similar to that of the rest of his team; in the end, 34 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, with 16 of 24 in field goals, but -7 with him on the court. Middleton went to 13 + 13, but had a disastrous shooting series (6-for-23, 0-for-5 on 3s). And neither did Jrue Holiday, that trigger that has allowed the Bucks to develop their most positive changes, had his best performance (17 + 9 + 6, but 7 of 19 at launch. The problem for the Bucks was, of course, the triple : a 6 of 30 accumulated without anyone getting away: 1 of 4 from Tucker (who only had good minutes at the beginning and at no time could with Durant), 1 of 5 from Forbes, 2 of 7 from Jrue, 2 of 5 of Giannis … The situation will improve in the next game (they are the fourth team with the best 3-point percentage in the competition), but they have missed a golden opportunity and are forced to win the second round to get the advantage of the field and not travel 2-0 to Milwaukee.
In the Nets, the best were, of course, Kyrie and Durant: the point guard, who did not score in the fourth quarter, finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists, and with good runs despite his irregularity in the triple (3 of 11). Durant went to 29 + 10 + 3, with a good 12 of 25 shooting from the field. But, in addition to the dynamic duo (transformed into that by obligation), there was a lot of participation from the quartermaster: Joe Harris went to 19 points without almost dribbling the ball (usual alho in him), he is definitely emerging as the fourth sword of the Nets and continues to be a constant insurance from the outside (5 of 9 tonight). And Blake Griffin had a formidable performance: 18 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. The other good news was the performance of Mike James (12 + 7 + 3), who had one of his best games since his arrival in Brooklyn. And also, of course, that the Nets have been saved from a situation that could have been delicate and they await Harden with the tranquility of 1-0. The playoffs are going to save lives. And so have the Nets. The still top favorites. Something that will continue to be unless Giannis Antetokounmpo proves otherwise.