Nets looking to shoot it better in crucial Game 4 vs. Bucks

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MILWAUKEE — The Nets know they blew a golden opportunity to take complete command of the Eastern Conference semifinals, left frustrated after wasting wide-open looks they may not get again. And they can’t change that.

What they can change — have to change — is how they respond Sunday in Game 4 against the Bucks (3 p.m., ABC).

“It was a missed opportunity. We missed a lot of shots, lot of makeable shots,” coach Steve Nash said. “But we don’t just chalk it all up to that. We recognize that you still have to find a way to win even if the ball’s not going in the basket like it normally does. We missed a great opportunity, but we also have a lot of things we can improve and clean up and have a better performance.

“They were physical, they played hard, they took some things away from us, but we still had plenty of looks, clean looks that we normally make that didn’t go in.”

The Nets — whose offensive rating this season was the best in NBA history — were left frustrated after shooting just 36.2 percent in Game 3 and being held to a season-low 83 points. The most vexed was likely Joe Harris, the NBA 3-point champion, who had a rare poor-shooting night in arguably the biggest start of his career.

Joe Harris and the Nets will be looking to shoot it better in Game 4 against the Bucks.
Joe Harris and the Nets will be looking to shoot it better in Game 4 against the Bucks.
NBAE via Getty Images

“A lot of the looks that I had were some of the best I had all series in terms of being uncontested clean looks where I’m able to get space,” Harris said. “Yeah, it was definitely one of those things where we’re certainly frustrated. Difficult night.

“Definitely wish I would’ve played better. But this is where we’re at, and there’s room to be encouraged, though. Like I said, a lot of clean looks where the whole goal for me as a shooter is just trying to find room and rhythm shots.”

Harris was just 1-for-11 overall, and 1-for-7 from 3-point range. That was the most shots he’d missed since a first-round Game 4 loss in the 2019 playoffs. But unlike that series, when the 76ers locked him down, what was most maddening about Thursday was Harris and the Nets got clean looks and just missed them.

“Pretty good looks for the most part, myself included,” Harris said. “I think — I don’t know if the stats are 100 percent accurate — but I’m pretty sure we had more uncontested looks last game than we did the first two games combined. So, it’s just one of those nights.

“Maybe we got sped up a little. And myself individually, that’s kind of what [will be key], looking back on it, just trying to go into shots with a little bit more pace, being a little bit more decisive, and not as reactionary shooting the ball.”

The Nets were indeed profligate. Harris was wide open — with no defender within 6 feet, according to league stats — on just 43.5 percent of his looks in Games 1 and 2 and shot 6-for-10. But Game 3? He was left wide open on a staggering 63.6 percent of his attempts, yet still shot just 1-for-7.

“I’m not worried about Joe Harris at all,” Nash said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s an incredible shooter. And if he gets the same looks, my money is on him.”

Blake Griffin hit 57.1 percent when left wide-open through the first two games, but was 0-for-2 on such clean looks Thursday. He is confident the Nets will shoot better, and added Harris’ confidence is unflagging — as is their belief in him.

“I know he was frustrated, but every time Joe shoots, we think it’s going in,” Griffin said. “You’re bound to have some games where you miss some; but he’s going to have more games where he’s making shots.”

Kevin Durant even missed his only two open looks — with defenders 4-to-6 feet away — on Thursday, after hitting 57.1 percent in the Barclays Center wins. He said himself the Nets can’t just assume they’ll regress to the mean and hit those shots. However, the job for Sunday’s Game 4 is making sure they do.

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