Bucks Take Game 3 as Nets Fail to Pull Away in Fourth

C+

Final: 06/10/2021

L 83 86

With their season on the line, the Bucks scraped their way to make this a series — with the help of poor execution by the Nets. 

The Nets let the Bucks close the game on a 6-0 run to win 86-83 in Milwaukee on Thursday. Brooklyn now leads the series 2-1 with it now guaranteed to go at least five games. 

Fans expected this series to be competitive, but not like this. The winner of this one came down to the final minutes with the game for the taking.

Kevin Durant made a three-pointer to put the Nets up three with just over a minute remaining. All they needed was one more shot, but they couldn’t find one. Blake Griffin had a goaltending violation to pull the Bucks within one, Joe Harris missed his 10th shot of the night and Bruce Brown had a bad layup attempt in lieu of passing to Durant that ultimately buried the Nets’ chances.

Khris Middleton answered on the other end, Jrue Holiday gave the Bucks the lead and Durant missed a last-second heave at the buzzer that would have tied the game. It was Brooklyn’s lowest-scoring game of the season as the struggles remained constant throughout.

Sloppy inbounds passes late put the Nets in a tough position to get shots off, or get the ball back in Durant’s hands, but it was an ice-cold offense that put them in that position. Brooklyn shot 36.2% on the night and 8-of-32 from three, while the Bucks were not much better with 37.8% from the field and 6-of-31 shooting from distance. 

The matchup was the closest game Brooklyn has played this postseason. The Nets fell behind by 21 points in a flash as they managed to score just 11 points in the first quarter, but they were able to pull within two by halftime. 

Brooklyn had a 22-3 run that got them back into the game, but they could never find their offensive groove. They had just 15 assists on 34 field goals, though turned the ball over only seven times. 

Contested and open shots alike were off for two teams that had the top offenses in the NBA during the season. It ultimately came down to which team could put together a string of buckets down the stretch, and the Nets never were able to answer.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton powered Milwaukee with a combined 68 points while the Nets got 68 points from Durant, Brown and Kyrie Irving. Harris’s cold night really hurt Brooklyn as he went 1-of-11 from the field and 1-of-7 from three.

Each team’s struggles came down to a mix of good defense and poor shooting, as a lot of opportunities were wide open. All Brooklyn needed was one final push, but sloppy play kept the ball out of Durant’s hands and Brooklyn could not penetrate the paint as effectively as Milwaukee did (hello, Brook Lopez).

The good news for the Nets is they probably cannot play much worse, and maybe the team will be more motivated to bring back James Harden and Jeff Green to the lineup if they are ready. Still, they cannot afford to underestimate the Bucks in Game 4, because Milwaukee came out with more energy and will likely have that same intensity — and better shooting — next time.

We’ll see if the Nets will have their point guard back, but maybe this is a good wake-up call for them. We have a series, now it comes down to how the Nets will respond on Sunday afternoon. 

Kevin Durant

B+

The stats: 30 PTS, 11-28 FG, 3-8 3PT, 5-6 FT, 11 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 43 MIN

Kevin Durant was nearly Brooklyn’s savior. 

KD made some silly contested shots that kept Brooklyn in the game, including one that put them up three with over a minute to go. Everyone kept waiting for him to get the ball again, but it did not happen until just two seconds were left. 

It was a great offensive turnaround for KD after scoring just seven points in the first half, but he needed more help. It feels great to have KD on your side, but it would’ve been great to see him get one more look to seal the deal as he turned it on late. 

Kyrie Irving

B

The stats: 22 PTS, 9-22 FG, 2-8 3PT, 2-2 FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 3 STL, 45 MIN

The ‘Kyrie takeover’ game never came.

Kyrie had his timely buckets but also had his share of unfortunate misses. He was particularly off from distance and could not get the offense flowing between his teammates either.

We know Kyrie is capable of taking over a game, but it never truly came to fruition in Game 3 to give KD more help. The Bucks’ top two stars out-dueled Brooklyn’s, and though Kyrie impacted the game defensively, it feels like he has a big offensive performance in him for this series. 

Bruce Brown

B-

The stats: 16 PTS, 8-17 FG, 0-2 3PT, 11 REB, 3 AST, 1 TO, 38 MIN

This loss is not on Bruce — if anything, he was the reason the Nets were in it at all.

Yes, Bruce’s late misses were not ideal, but they were hectic sequences that the Nets were lucky to not turn the ball over first. Bruce was the hero of the first half, too, when he scored 12 points during Brooklyn’s 22-3 run in the second quarter.

Bruce’s screens and floaters were big for Brooklyn to gain momentum, and he was the lone role player to step up. He may be trending on Twitter for the wrong reasons now, but he had too much of a positive impact on the game to get the hate. 

Blake Griffin

C+

The stats: 5 PTS, 2-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 3 BLK, 30 MIN

Early foul trouble kept Blake from making a consistent impact offensively, but he had his productive defensive moments.

Blake had his hands full against Giannis, who came out aggressively and kept his foot on the gas. Blake was able to disrupt Milwaukee in stretches but could not find his shot.

Blake has had some big games this series, so we know he is capable. He just did not have the interior edge this time.

Joe Harris

D-

The stats: 3 PTS, 1-11 FG, 1-7 3PT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 37 MIN

Oh, Joe, how we wish your buckets fell on Thursday.

It was an uncharacteristic night for Joe as he had some great — and open — looks bounce off the rim. If any one of those went down, they could have been a true momentum-changer and even game-clincher.

It seemed like the missed shots got to Joe, especially when he missed a wide-open mid-range shot that would have given the Nets a bigger cushion in the final minute. We won’t be surprised if Joe drops 20+ in Game 4 to make up for his worst performance of the season by far. 

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