When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Bradley Center
Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
Tuesday night’s Nets-Sixers matchup was not pretty. While the Nets did shoot well from the perimeter, the 76ers just did everything better. After a competitive first two quarters, Philadelphia broke loose in the third with a 32-point outburst. There was no looking back, with the Nets left in the dust. As with many losses this season, Brooklyn struggled with ball control (15 turnovers) and rebounding (outrebounded by 20).
The 76ers extended their win streak to 11, while the Nets’ 25-point loss was the biggest point differential in a loss since they played the Sixers on March 11. Brooklyn’s past two performances have left much to be desired.
On Thursday night, the Nets will play the second game of their final road trip of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn’s last two games against Milwaukee have not been pretty – a 25-point loss on Jan. 26 and a 15-point loss on Feb. 4. The Jan. 26 game featured a 41/13/7 stat line for Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the Nets were able to handle Giannis in their next matchup, Bucks big man John Henson flirted with a 20-20 game, scoring 19 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in the victory. The Nets will have to turn the tides for this game to gain an edge.
Here are three things to watch for in the final Nets-Bucks matchup!
As of Wednesday, the Bucks are tied for the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference, sharing a 42-36 record with the Washington Wizards. While the Bucks’ playoff status is nearly guaranteed, their seeding is not. They currently hold the eighth seed in the East, pitting them against the Toronto Raptors. While any of the Bucks’ potential three matchups seem problematic, the team could try to improve its seeding with strong play in the final week of the season. Jason Kidd is not the coach of the Bucks anymore, so Milwaukee probably will not try to tank a game to play the Raptors – like he did with the Nets in 2014. (We remember.)
With a win for Brooklyn, the Nets could play spoiler and hurt Milwaukee’s chances of improving their playoff seeding. The Nets can compete against any team, and while things have not gone the way they have expected against Milwaukee this season, the team might now know what to do. A Milwaukee loss could also help the Nets in improving the second round draft pick they acquired this season in the Tyler Zeller deal.
To top off a bad loss on Tuesday, the Nets also lost DeMarre Carroll. The veteran forward will miss Thursday’s game with a left hip strain. The Nets have lost each of the five games without Carroll this season, as his consistency and competitiveness leave a hole in the Nets’ starting lineup. It is likely that Joe Harris steps up again and enters the starting lineup, but he will have the difficult task of guarding Antetokounmpo. It will be all hands on deck on the boards and in guarding one of the best players in the Eastern Conference without Carroll on Thursday.
Memo to Nik and Jah
There are four games left for the Nets this season — that is not a lot. It could be time for Nik Stauskas and Jahlil Okafor to possibly earn a shot at playing on the Nets this season. It may even be time for them to prove that they belong on an NBA roster. The two former lottery picks have played sparingly since being acquired this season via trade but still could make an impact. Although it was garbage time, both Stauskas and Okafor performed well on Tuesday, scoring 13 and 15 points respectively. Defensively, their performances left room for improvement. With Carroll out, both players can earn meaningful minutes against a good team. Can either player step up?