Breaking down matchups that will decide Nets-Bucks series

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Now that the Nets have brushed aside Boston, Milwaukee is expected to put up much more of a fight in the second round. The Nets are essentially 2-to-1 favorites to beat the Bucks and reach the Eastern Conference finals. But what are they going to have to do to accomplish that?

The Post’s Brian Lewis breaks down the matchups that will decide what kind of series this is going to be:

Nets’ 3-point shooting vs. Bucks’ 3-point defense

Joe Harris topped the NBA in 3-point percentage, while the Nets were second as a team at 39.2 percent. That jumped to a league-leading 42.6 percent through the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks’ defense — now more versatile than last season’s conservative drop coverage with Brook Lopez under the basket — still allowed the most 3s in the league (14.8), along with the second-highest percentage and third-most attempts. Losing Donte DiVincenzo (ankle) hurts as well. Edge: Nets

Bucks’ 3-point shooting vs. Nets’ 3-point defense

The Nets’ perimeter defense has been middling in both the regular season and postseasons. The Bucks were top 5 in the league both in 3-point percentage and makes during the regular season, but suddenly went cold from the outside in the playoffs, one of the few things they didn’t do well in the first-round sweep of the Heat. DiVincenzo is out, while Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday are 5-for-39. Can the Nets keep them cooled off? Edge: Nets

Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Getty Images (2)


The Bucks were second in the regular season in rebounding, but that doesn’t express how dominant they are on the glass. They got even better in the playoffs, with their first-round averages of 59 boards a game, and 15.3 on the offensive glass, both leading the league by a wide margin. The only reason the Nets’ 12.3 offensive rebounds allowed weren’t the worst in the first round is because of what Milwaukee did to Miami. Edge: Bucks

Drawing fouls and shooting free throws

The Nets were just eighth in free throws attempted during the regular season, but that has predictably spiked in the playoffs as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and foul-drawing machine James Harden have taken over. The Nets’ average of 25 free throws made per game in the first round led the league by a huge margin, thanks to sinking a misprint-like 91.2 percentage. The Bucks, despite closer Khris Middleton — who hit 96.4 percent over his last 10 games — are sitting near the bottom among the remaining teams. Edge:


Nets’ ability to get paint points vs. Bucks’ interior defense

The shocking retirement of center LaMarcus Aldridge left the Nets with essentially no post-up threat, so their paint points have to come from drives, lobs and in the pick-and-roll. The Bucks can slow that either with defensive glove Holiday taking away Harden’s drives, or with the interior defense of Antetokounmpo, Lopez and P.J. Tucker. Their average of 37 paint points allowed in the sweep of the Heat were the second-fewest in the first round. Edge: Bucks

Bucks’ ability to get paint points vs. Nets’ interior defense

After being third-worst in the NBA in allowing paint points through the first half of the season, the sieve-like Nets finally tightened that up and improved to sixth in the second half. The Bucks aren’t going to post the Nets up, but they certainly could feast on the offensive glass or with Antetokounmpo getting to the rim, especially if Jeff Green is out. The Greek Freak’s game has gone more from isolation and pick-and-roll ball-handler to roll man. Edge: Even

In transition

Both the Nets and the Bucks have dangerous fast-breaks, and considering the presence of Irving, Antetokounmpo and the other stars in this series, that’s not really much of a surprise. But the difference is on the other end, getting back in transition. The Bucks’ transition defense was third-best in the NBA (10.7 points allowed), while the Nets were middle of the pack. That gap did close somewhat in the playoffs, but it still favors Milwaukee, as do most things defensively. Edge: Bucks


As usual, rotations will shrink in the playoffs. The Bucks were essentially going nine-deep before the loss of DiVincenzo, who averaged just 2.3 points in the playoffs, but added solid perimeter defense. The Nets have played just 10 men with any regularity, but that’s including Green, who suffered a plantar fascia injury on May 25 against the Celtics and is still trying to return for this series. Against a team as big as Milwaukee, that’s a pivotal injury. Edge: Bucks


The Nets’ Steve Nash has acquitted himself well as a rookie head coach. Yes, he had access to impressive talent, but it was rarely all at his disposal with the Big 3 logging just 202 minutes, stretched over eight games, all season. He did keep the team pulling in the right direction as his timeout use and endgame management improved. Still, Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year and has the edge most nights. Edge: Bucks


There is something to be said for the Bucks running it back again with all that playoff experience. And while some might ask is failure experience, yes, experience is experience. But deep playoff runs are about stars who have complete offensive games that can’t be taken away or easily game-planned for. With their Big 3, the Nets have more of those than the Bucks — or just about anybody else, for that matter. Edge: Nets

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