Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are going to get their points for the Nets. That’s not what left the Bucks so dissatisfied about the opening two games of this Eastern Conference semifinal series.
No, it was the lack of intensity and connectivity. Allowing the Nets to dictate everything. Enabling their role players to make such a significant impact.
That is what has to change if anything in the series is to be different as the venue shifts from Barclays Center to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for the next two games.
“[We have to] play with a chip on our shoulder,” Bucks reserve guard Pat Connaughton said over Zoom after practice on Wednesday. “It’s have a little more pride, have a little more personal and team pride on the defensive end, the offensive end. Make it tough for them. Use Game 2 as fuel to the fire to come out and show what kind of team we are.”
Almost everything went wrong for All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee in the first two games. Even with James Harden (hamstring) missing all but one minute of those contests, the Nets outscored the Bucks by 47 points. Durant averaged 30.5 points in the two games and Irving posted 23.5 per game.
The effortless manner in which the Nets did it, and how easy it all seemed to come for them was remarkable. There was very little pushback, almost no resistance in the 39-point Game 2 emasculation. The Nets committed just 16 turnovers in the two games, compared to 30 by the Bucks. As a team, the Nets are shooting 44.4 percent (36-for-81) from 3-point range. A large portion of those have been open looks, the result of a whopping 52 assists. The smaller Nets have even blocked more shots, nine to six, and have been the better team when it comes to intangibles.
“Those are the things we got to get back to doing, taking people off the glass, the 50/50 balls, those things have to be more in our favor and that’s the stuff we have to get back to,” Bucks forward P.J. Tucker said. “They’ve had great intensity the first two games. They’ve been all over the place, all over the floor, offense and defense.
“They just had a little more of an edge than we have. For us, we got to be able to have an effect in those parts of the game as well, not just making shots, things that go into the stat sheet. We have to do better in things that are not on the stat sheet.”
The Bucks know they can’t let the Nets’ other guys go off, too. So far, however, that has been the case. Joe Harris and Bruce Brown each scored 13 points in Game 2, and Mike James added 10. Blake Griffin had 18 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1 and Harris notched 19.
“We can’t give everyone else what they’re getting. We can’t let all the guys on the bench come in and make shots and get layups and second-chance points,” Tucker said. “It starts to mount up, and that’s when the lead goes up. We have to contain everybody else.”