April 23, 2019

Nets in striking distance of Bucks through first-half, but overwhelmed by Bucks in 3rd quarter 36-22; Nets still 6th in NBA Eastern Conference

The Brooklyn Nets have been undergoing a rough patch lately. All teams in the NBA go through a backward slide during the NBA season at some point or another, even the reigning NBA champion, the Golden State Warriors, as of today, has lost 15 games this season. However, when you’re fighting for relevancy and trying not to fall out of NBA playoff positioning, you have little room for error and so is the case for the Brooklyn Nets.

Last night, and every game at this point and going forward is important for the Nets. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Nets couldn’t pull off a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the current number 1 team in the NBA. The Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 113-94. With the loss, the Nets fell to 28-27 overall and 16-12 at Barclays Center. Meanwhile, the Bucks improved to 39-13 overall and 17-9 on the road. There’s little surprise that the Nets would lose to a team aiming to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, but the play of game exposed how Nets player injuries have put a serious dent in the Nets ability to keep pace with an elite team operating at full strength.

Even Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer agrees.

“Brooklyn’s really banged up so it’s almost not fair,” Budenholzer said graciously. “But for us on the end of a road trip, it’s a good win.”

Budenholzer highlighted key elements that helped the Bucks pull off a win against the Nets: “Really good win. The focus coming out of the halftime was really good. Khris (Middleton) had a stretch there for two or three minutes -- kind of put us on his back, and obviously, Giannis is special. I thought the defense between (Eric) Bledsoe and Malcolm (Brogdon) on D’Angelo Russell and Shabazz Napier was very good.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson sees a silver-lining ahead for his team, as Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe will be at a full-on practice today.

“Progressing great,” Atkinson said about LeVert during his pregame press conference last night. “He will practice with the G-League team tomorrow, a full-on practice. Allen Crabbe will be in that bucket too and then we will evaluate after the practice, but both of them (are) progressing nicely.”

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell is chomping at the bit for Crabbe and LeVert’s return to the lineup because he knows how much their return will help the team.

“A lot, a lot, a lot,” Russell said about how much getting Crabbe and LeVert back in the lineup would help the team. “It’s forcing Coach to really go deep in the bench (player absences), but you get that caliber of guys back and you’re at another level, so the sooner the better.”

In addition to LeVert and Crabbe being out for the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie, a team leader, is also out. Dinwiddie underwent successful surgery last week to repair ligaments in his right thumb. There is no timetable for his return as yet. And, Nets center Jarrett Allen acknowledges Dinwiddie's importance to the team and what the Nets are missing without Dinwiddie’s presence.

“Just Spencer driving to the rim,” Allen said. “Just Spencer being able to create space. Just him all around.”

Regarding Nets scoring leaders, Russell led the Nets with 18 points and five assists in 29 minutes against the Bucks. Shabazz Napier, who made his second start for the Nets last night, recorded 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 28 minutes. Theo Pinson added 10 points, a career-high-tying eight rebounds, and two assists in 26 minutes off the bench.

Although (Jarrett) Allen did not score in double-digits, he led the Nets in rebounding with 11.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 30 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and three blocked shots; Malcolm Brogdon scored 15 points and eight rebounds; Eric Bledsoe registered 15 points, five assists, five steals, and three rebounds, and; Khris Middleton chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

The Bucks are heading home to Milwaukee to host the Washington Wizards, tomorrow, Wednesday, February 6, at 8 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, the Nets will stay at home and host the Denver Nuggets at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Milwaukee Bucks coached by former Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd, came into the Barclays Center and wreaked havoc on the Brooklyn Nets. Just two days before, the Nets played like they belong in the conversation about top NBA teams when they stunned the Los Angeles Clippers with a 127-122 double overtime win.

The Nets started off staying close; in fact, during the first half, the teams looked evenly matched. The Nets were even up 60-59 three minutes into the third quarter. But the Nets’ the third quarter nemesis showed up and said not so fast, and the team’s fortunes quickly changed. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks went on a tear ending the third quarter 90-78.

“I think turnovers hurt us,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “Just giving them too many easy baskets and, you know, third quarter again – they outscored us pretty good there, so we’ve really got to look at what we are doing there. And we are looking at it and trying to figure it out, but we haven’t figured it out yet.”

Early in the fourth quarter, it was a 10-point game, Bucks 92 and the Nets 82. But, the Nets just couldn’t get over the hump. They had too many missed opportunities in the fourth quarter, shooting 2-for-14 over the first six minutes. Meanwhile, the Bucks knocked down three 3s in less than 90 seconds.

“I think our offense got really stagnant,” Atkinson said. “Give them credit, they switched a lot of our stuff and forced us into a lot of one-and-one play and the ball stopped moving.”

In the win, Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo had 23 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, Jabari Parker scored 22 points, and Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell each added 13 points.

Brook Lopez posted 15 points for the Nets. Sean Kilpatrick, who was signed out of the D-League last season, and who scored a career-high 38 points against the Clippers on Tuesday, only scored 14 points tonight. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 for the Nets.

This was not a fun game to watch. Only the presence of former president Bill Clinton, a marriage proposal, and Clinton taking a photo with the engaged couple made it interesting.

Next up, the Nets have an opportunity to avenge the loss as they play the Bucks again on Saturday in Milwaukee.

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