The NBA is shaking and no one can blame it for it. It is a natural, irrational, uncontrollable reaction. The body’s response to what, due to ignorance or excessive information, is perceived as harmful. Against something like the Nets, for example. Today, James Harden wasn’t there, but it doesn’t matter. They don’t need him to make the Bucks, an aspiring franchise, look like an ordinary team. Any group of friends in any party in any park. Until two games ago, they were clear contenders for the ring; now they simply struggle not to lose what remains of their pride. Neither Giannis Antetokounmpo nor Khris Middleton, nor Jrue Holiday nor Mike Budenholzer. Nobody has answers and they are all in the corner, with their heads between their knees and their hands covering their faces. 125 to 86 at the end of a game that did not last a quarter. 39 points difference that means the biggest historic victory for the Nets in the final phase and, for the Bucks, more than 39 reasons to think about an irremovable 2-0.
Budenholzer repeated quintet and bet: PJ Tucker, who has spent a lifetime as an emergency defender for playoffs (read LeBron James or, now, Durant), repeated among the five starting players. And the Nets, through Irving, too: first offensive action, first triple. Far from a mere coincidence, I anticipate a nightmare for Milwaukee. And not just any one, the one from the previous duel, as if they had not woken up yet, as if they continued with their eyes closed, hammered, but with the fear of opening them not only to suffer it, but to see the pain. See a monster whipping them indiscriminately. It was the first quarter of the second game, but it could be the fifth of the first. Same problems on the one hand and same successes on the other. What was left of big-three it was enough to overwhelm the Bucks like no one had done before: 36 to 19 with 13 points from Durant, 9 from Irving and the biggest disadvantage of the season for Wisconsin after the first 12 minutes. The “record” was repeated at halftime (65-41). The game was unfolding at breakneck speed and, far from being a relief, it was the greatest of penances for Wisconsinites: nothing fast and painless, slow and like a burning nail tearing through the skin.
Attempts to stop Kevin Durant were counted as failures. What a player. At the end of the game, 32 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. All this, with 66.7% both from field goals (12 out of 18) and from the perimeter (4 out of 6). On playoffs, averages 32 + 7.3 + 2 with 55% + 50% + 91.1%. A perfect machine, in its optimal state of form, the genesis of basketball. Its essence. Its everything. Tucker added a foul in each dispute, a change to the zone was totally innocuous, Jrue Holiday or Bryn Forbes came out desperately and Giannis Antetokounmpo, trying to assert his position as even Best Defender of the competition, did not alter the product: two crossovers, a little step back and a face of resignation in the Greek, which kept the aiming attempt in the air. The order of the factors … does not alter Kevin’s talent.
Yes Blake Griffin’s. In Detroit, surely, they are wondering about the magic potion they have in Brooklyn. After a failure from Irving’s perimeter, he picked up a long rebound to, in a jump that began to draw from beyond the line of three, to leave a dunk like the ones before. Like that player who jumped over cars. Remnants of a past that is no longer so through a blow of pounding. Six minutes from the end of the first half, the show time was present in Brooklyn in the form of his umpteenth dunk of the course: Durant filtered a ball for Bruce Brown, who, from the baseline, left it facing Griffin to mistreat the rim against Giannis. Of pencils, of stars who have a good time (52-31), of a team that, with what is shown in the series, it seems difficult that it can find a rival at the height. From the beginning of the second quarter to the end of the third, the distance was negotiated above 20 points; once the last one started, with time for the less common on both sides, a definitive explosion above 30.
A failed plan and a historical perimeter
In the first round, the Wisconsin men were drowned in their plan. Budenholzer, who had even been able to rehearse against the Miami Heat, was clear about where he could attack … and he attacked. 72 points in the puncture for 48 and 58 rebounds for 47. He found the weaknesses, exploited them and was obfuscated in them, neglecting everything else. Not even Harden’s absence allowed the perimeter defenders to stop a siege capable of bringing down the most fortified castle. They tried to repeat the plan … and it turned out worse. It was a bad idea and ended in fatal inspiration. So much so that the Nets signed their all-time record for triples in the final phase (21), the third in the overall record for the competition. 50% accuracy that everyone signed up for: 3 out of 5 for Landry Shamet, 2 out of 4 for Mike James … Griffin also joined from outside, as in the first meeting, and Kyrie Iving showed off his devilish versatility. If Durant put the dynamite, Irving would throw the match: 22 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists with percentages, again, to rub his eyes. 52.9% from field goals and 50% from the perimeter with 8 attempts. By Globetrotters.
Milwaukee was imposed again on the inside (52 points for 38 and 50 rebounds for 48) … but so what. That’s your only possible satisfaction thus far, sticking with your plan, one that doesn’t work. Brooklyn renounces the area, knowing that all the damage that comes to it is more than offset by everything else. Antetokounmpo, surely, finished with the most bitter triple-double of his career (18 + 11 + 10) and Middleton, after a horrendous start, accompanied him in the scoring with 17 points. Little else to note from his stat sheet, punctuated by the infamous negative bullets in the more less. At the break, Durant went up to 21 points. His 53rd time exceeding 20 points in a playoff half, behind only LeBron James (96) and Kobe Bryant (69), in the last 25 seasons, in terms of nights at such a scoring level. Synonymous with its magnitude. Synonymous with a height that, to this day, seems unattainable for some Bucks devoid of the greatness that they always promise, but that they lose when the moment of truth arrives. There where the best appear. Where, for the moment, the Nets seem like an untamed monster. In the corner and with his head between his legs.