Nets hoping to avoid major letdown against Bucks

Posted on

The Nets don’t have to think back too far to be reminded of the last time they handily took care of the first two games at home in a playoff series, before letting their opponent off the mat in Game 3 on the road.

Nearly two weeks ago, the Nets ventured to Boston in the same position, only to allow Jayson Tatum to erupt for 50 points to get the Celtics on the board in the first-round series before Brooklyn closed them out in five.

The Nets certainly don’t need to be told that the Bucks also have players capable of that sort of domination — particularly two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — as the series shifts to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Thursday night for Game 3. Brooklyn can lean on its recent experience to ensure the proper mindset of not letting up following a 39-point demolition of the Bucks in Game 2.

“Definitely different scenarios, but we can draw and take something from that situation,” veteran forward Blake Griffin said via Zoom after practice Wednesday. “I think we did a great job the first two Boston games of executing our game plan and being focused on the little things and we kind of lost sight of that [in Game 3]. That’s going to be a big point of emphasis.

Kevin Durant goes up for a shot against the Bucks.
Kevin Durant goes up for a shot against the Bucks.
NBAE via Getty Images

“For us, there’s no relax. We’ve basically done what we’re supposed to do. We’ve won at home. That was kind of the message in the locker room. What have we done? We haven’t done anything. We played solid, but this is sort of how it’s set up. I think that will be our mindset going in.”

James Harden (hamstring) and Jeff Green (plantar fasciitis) will sit out for the third straight game Thursday night, Nets coach Steve Nash said. The 34-year-old Green might return as soon as Game 4, Nash added, but the 14-year NBA vet has tried to provide another invaluable set of eyes from the bench during the first two victories.

“Our energy, the aggressiveness we’ve had at both ends of the floor has been amazing,” Green said. “Communicating with each other, being on the same page, our defense has been tremendous. We’ve been doing a lot of great things to put ourselves in the position we’re at.

“But we can be better, and that’s the great thing about it. We can be better than what we have been, so we’ve been watching film these last couple of days. We’re prepared going to their building in Game 3 to try to duplicate what we’ve been doing.”

Just 28 of 402 teams (6.5 percent) in NBA history who’ve dropped the first two games have recovered to win a playoff series. One of those instances happened this year, however, with the Clippers losing the first two games at home before eliminating the Mavericks in seven. The Bucks also were on the other end of one of those scenarios in 2019, losing four straight games to Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals after taking the first two.

The Nets can't let up with Giannis Antetokounmpo around.
The Nets can’t let up with Giannis Antetokounmpo around.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Nash said he’s been most impressed with “the fight” his team has displayed despite Harden’s absence, and its “competition level” at both ends of the court. He also stressed that being “defensively locked in” was the key to Monday’s blowout victory.

Indeed, Brooklyn has limited the Bucks to 24.6 percent from 3-point range during the series and 45.6 percent overall. Two-time All-Star forward Khris Middleton has missed 30 of 43 field-goal attempts, and he’s totaled just 30 points in the games at Barclays Center.

Antetokounmpo was held to 18 points in Monday’s blowout, but the Greek Freak is capable of erupting and carrying his team back into the series, just as Tatum did in Game 3 against the Nets one round earlier.

“It’s not something that we necessarily make a huge deal out of to the players because it’s a different series at a different time. But it is an experience that we do have and something that we can mention to guys in moments just to make sure we stay extremely locked in and prepared,” Nash said. “This is going to be a really tough game and seeing the best Milwaukee has in Game 3, so we’ve got to be prepared for that and be ready to come out of the gates really strong.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *