To secure a much-needed win on Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks did the opposite of what the team got so far in the playoffs: they slowed down their game.
It was not beautiful. It was not very efficient. But it was enough to let their stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, break up.
In a throwback game that looked at home to the 2000s, the Bucks won the Nets, 86-83, on Thursday night, and reduced their lead in Brooklyn’s Eastern Conference Semifinal series by two games to one.
For the Bucks, it was a commendable recovery from their game 2 performance, when the Nets beat them by 39 points.
This time, the Bucks were crawling for the win.
During the regular season, the Bucks were fast—second in speed Only for Washington Wizards. On Thursday night, the Bucks generated offense by bowling to Antetokounmpo and Middleton. He either took them apart one by one or made shots by grinding the screen and roll to get near the basket. Throughout the game, the Bucks There were only seven fast break points. During the regular season, He averages 14.5, which is good for fourth in the NBA.
“Personally, I enjoy the fast pace, finding my teammates for a lot of 3, high-scoring games, obviously. But at the end of the day, it was a very low-scoring game,” Antetokounmpo said. .
The slow pace allowed the team to get the ball to Antetokounmpo and Middleton, between whom seven All-Stars appear, and get out of the way. they combined Get 68 out of 86 points for Milwaukee. Both played almost the entire game. Antetokounmpo scored 14 for 31 off the ground (45.1 percent) and Middleton scored 12 for 25 (48 percent).
Most of their loss was done in the opening period, when the Bucks led by 21 points, with home territory in the Fischer Forum behind them. Antetokounmpo and Middleton scored all Bucks 30 points in the first period, and Milwaukee entered the second period, 30–11.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game, “I think that was a little bit of what set the tone.” “Those two guys have a great first quarter, they’re our leaders. They’ve been here a long time. They’ve been through a lot together.”
He continued: “It doesn’t matter how you do it this time of year. You just have to find a way to get it done.”
Yet the Nets recovered quickly in the second quarter. The Nets took the lead in regulation with 1:23 on a Kevin Durant 3-pointer in the fourth period. But a Middleton layup stopped the bleeding, and her free throw with 2.1 seconds left didn’t leave much time for the Nets to get a quality shot to tie the game. (Durant’s Desperation 3 was still almost inside.)
It was the kind of game where a lot of Antetokounmpo’s strengths and weaknesses were on full display. In the first quarter, Antetokounmpo attacked Rim relentlessly, and was able to give himself several stings in a way that made him a star. He got his primary defender – Blake Griffin – in trouble with an early foul.
But after the opening quarter, Antetokounmpo’s flaws began to emerge. The nets left him open from the perimeter, and Antetokounmpo bound the nets by shooting a lot 3. He was 1 for 8 from deep, and those missed shots helped the nets, still missing James Harden, climb back into the game. It was Antetokounmpo’s career high in 3-point shots in the post-season game.
When asked about his shooting, Antetokounmpo seemed surprised at first: “I took eight 3’s tonight?”
“They’re back. You have to shoot it,” Antetokounmpo said, recounting how the defenders play him. “You don’t necessarily have to shoot, but you have to make the best decision.”
Antetokounmpo defended his desire to take forward jumpers, saying that his instinct told him to do so and that basketball is a sport based on instinct.
“Like everyone else, if you wake up in the morning and feel like you need to have a cup of coffee, and that’s what you want to do – instinct is telling you, that’s what your spirit is telling you – whatever it is, you That’s what you do. It doesn’t matter what happens next,” Antetokounmpo said.
It is also possible that Antetokounmpo may have strayed into the perimeter to avoid initiating contact under the basket and risking fouls.
He was only 4 for 9 from the free throw line, and rarely called a 10-second violation.
Defensively, the Bucks shot the nets to 36.2 from the ground. Durant was dismissed for 11 runs from the ground for 28 wickets. Kyrie Irving was on 9 for 22.
The one offensive liability the Nets have—a rare one—is that they are primarily a jump shooting team. They are based on finesse rather than attacking the basket in the manner of Antetokounmpo. Unlike the Bucks 19, the Nets only went to the line eight times on Thursday. Six of these free throws were shot by Durant, who missed many of the midrange shots he usually does.
This means that the same look for the Nets in the first two matches did not drop on Thursday. Sometimes this happens with jump shooting teams. There is a high amount of variance and at some point, there is usually a regression to the mean.
One of the best 3-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris missed many wide-open opportunities and scored 1 for 11 from the ground. And if jump shots aren’t falling for the nets, they have trouble scoring. (During the regular season, was second in the nets) League in 3-point percentage at 39.2 percent. on Thursday night, They were 8 for the 25 percent of the 32.)
Which means a slow, low-scoring slugfest could benefit Milwaukee over the long term. But it is not clear that Antetokounmpo wants this.
“We could have played better,” Antetokounmpo said. “We could have played faster. We could have played more together. We could move the ball better so that we could get back to our 110, 120 points, as we usually do.