It’s never quite easy when Jason Kidd comes to town, but it’s always fun. With neither team having won a game yet this year, Monday night featured flashes of the best either squad has to offer: Giannis Antetokounmpo lunging his way into the paint, Greg Monroe spinning into the lane on post-ups, the Nets hustling down loose balls and bopping the ball around the perimeter, Brook Lopez scoring from all over the place, and a fight-to-the-finish fourth quarter.
Entering Monday night, the Nets featured the third-worst offense in the league, scoring 91.8 points per 100 possessions through the first three games. On the other side, the Milwaukee Bucks have allowed 117.8 points per 100 possessions in the early going, ranking as the league’s worst defense.
So what happens when a wholly stoppable force meets a wholly movable object?
Well, a little bit of both sides. The Nets offense stagnated in the second quarter as the Bucks built an easy double-digit lead. But the third was the opposite of what you’d expect: the isolations came with purpose, the ball whizzed around the arc to disrupt Milwaukee’s aggressive defense, and the Nets created a boatload of open looks, cutting a double-digit lead to zero with a ridiculous 15-foot fading bank shot and-one from Andrea Bargnani.
But the game effectively ended with the team’s crunch-time performance, in Jarrett Jack’s hands. With the Nets down three and 31.7 seconds left, Hollins called a play to get Joe Johnson the ball on the left wing. But the Bucks fronted Johnson to prevent the pass, and the ball ended up with Jack, who took a flailing, off-balance shot in the paint with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. Add a blocked layup on the next play, and a hard fight ended with a whimper.
This was the first real winnable game of the season for the Nets, and to their credit, they didn’t fade away. But those late miscues mean the difference between the Bucks and the Nets, between 1-3 and 0-4.
There are three primary ways Lopez gets the ball in a position to score: on dump-offs within eight feet, in pick-and-roll/pop situations, and in post-ups. He’s been getting a more steady diet of post-ups to start the season, and that didn’t change against the Bucks, who brought quick doubles and made him make decisions.
Foul trouble kept him on the bench until the final 31 seconds, but even when he returned, the Nets didn’t run anything to involve him in the offense.
His most surprising move of the night was something that didn’t register in any box score: in the fourth quarter, Lopez was trapped in the corner by two defenders and fired a low bounce pass cross-court to a wide open Bojan Bogdanovic. The read took him a couple of seconds, but if he can make those kinds of passes consistently… watch out.