Early comeback not enough as Bucks outlast Nets, opportunity passes

B+

Final: 04/01/2019

L 121 – 131

Brooklyn’s gameplan through the last week and a half of the regular season is simple: Win games you’re not supposed to.

With the Heat, Pistons and Magic all losing Monday night, a closely contested home matchup that involved a large early comeback against the Bucks seemed like a prime opportunity for the Nets to gain an edge in the playoff race. 

Unfortunately for the Nets, the Bucks are atop the league for a reason — and they had answers to Brooklyn’s threats, using a strong fourth quarter to answer all doubt. 

It was Milwaukee’s strong start and finish that Brooklyn could not keep up with, and playing catchup was not enough. 

The Nets found themselves down early — with the Bucks taking as large as a 22-point lead in the first quarter. It seemed like a game Milwaukee was going to dominate, until the Nets made their statement in the first half. 

Brooklyn answered the Bucks’ 19-2 run in the first quarter with a 22-2 in the second that led to the Nets taking the lead in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The run was electric. 

Caris LeVert was in the driver’s seat during Brooklyn’s success, leading the team with 15 points at halftime en route to his best game post-injury. The Nets out-scored the Bucks 34-24 in the second quarter to breathe life into the game. 

As the Nets have showed at different times this season, they have the ability to battle with the best. And this turned into a battle. 

In a game that was fueled by pace, it was a zone defense by the Nets that initially slowed the Bucks down. But that same zone came back to bite the Nets in the fourth quarter, as Milwaukee knocked down their open threes to outlast Brooklyn’s grit and grind. 

While the Nets showed fight and talent against the Bucks, their mistakes stood out just as much. Brooklyn turned the ball over 23 times while giving up a 68-42 advantage to Milwaukee in points in the paint. The Nets did maintain a 55-40 rebounding edge, including 16 offensive, but the Bucks countered that by closing the door in the fourth.  

Brooklyn’s free throw shooting masked the team’s mistakes and poor shooting early on, finishing with 27-34 shooting from the line, but that did not make up for everything. The Nets also held an edge in second-chance points, but the 16-of-44 shooting from three did not cut it as the Nets fired away from distance.  

After out-scoring the Bucks 69-56 in the second and third quarters, the Bucks surged in the fourth as all five starters finished in double digits (birthday boy Brook had 14), and George Hill added 22 off the bench. The Nets finished with six players in double figures, with D’Angelo Russell leading the starters and Caris leading the bench. 

The Nets have proven this season that they can compete with the best, with Monday’s contest being the epitome of that — but with just four games left in the regular season, they need to prove it with wins. Brooklyn will get another shot against the Bucks on Saturday, and will face the Raptors on Wednesday. 

Brooklyn has shown it can be competitive and did not lose any ground in the standings Monday night, but will likely need more wins to get the chance to prove it in the playoffs. The Nets have shown they deserve a shot to battle in the playoffs, and have four more chances to try and control its own destiny. 

DeMarre Carroll

A-

The stats: 20 PTS, 6-14 FG, 2-6 3PT, 6-8 FT, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 35 MIN

DeMarre was a large part of Brooklyn’s success against the Bucks, and was a burst of energy. He recorded his first 20-point game as a starter this season and was a spark in Brooklyn’s 22-point comeback.

It was encouraging to see DeMarre draining timely shots and working well with the starting lineup. Still, his shooting and shot selection still leave room for improvement. 

Caris LeVert

A

The stats: 24 PTS, 8-15 FG, 4-8 3PT, 4 REB, 6 AST, 3 TO, 30 MIN

Caris’s confidence and hot hand were evident from the start. He was Brooklyn’s driving force of the first half, and even more encouraging were his four threes, four offensive rebounds and muscle plays like this one. 

This was Caris’s best game since his injury, his fourth straight game in double digits and his first in double digits since Nov. 6. The Nets need every ounce of his hot streak in the last four games of the regular season. 

D'Angelo Russell

B-

The stats: 28 PTS, 9-27 FG, 4-12 3PT, 6-6 FT, 10 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 6 TO, 35 MIN

DLo may have led the Nets in points, but this was far from his most efficient game. His 4-of-12 shooting from three stood out the most, next to his team-leading six turnovers. He still registered a double-double (with rebounds), and stole the show with his pretty rainbow floaters, but has to be more efficient down the stretch. 

Ed Davis

A-

The stats: 4 PTS, 1-3 FG, 2-2 FT, 14 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, 2 TO, 20 MIN

Ed Davis had 12 of his rebounds in his first eight minutes. His two blocks came early as well, but his impact gave the Nets the opportunity to build their large comeback.

Davis plays right into his role off the bench, and helped the Nets out-rebound Milwaukee 55-40.

He also did a good job of containing Giannis alongside Jarrett Allen, holding him to a low shooting efficiency despite Giannis’ 28 points and 11 rebounds. 

Joe Harris

A-

The stats: 17 PTS, 6-9 FG, 5-7 3PT, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO, 35 MIN

Joe Harris is a baller and a fighter. His hustle in the fourth quarter, and his threes, gave the Nets a shot at battling the Bucks.

His dive into the crowd to save a ball and following it up with drawing a foul in the paint is something that stands out, and adding in his five threes, it was an impact performance. You will never see Joey Buckets not hustling, and it makes a difference. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

C-

The stats: 12 PTS, 3-8 FG, 0-3 3PT, 6-6 FT, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 19 MIN

The Nets need some Spencer magic through this final stretch of games. He did not have it on Monday. 

Jarrett Allen

B

The stats: 10 PTS, 4-7 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-4 FT, 9 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 3 TO, 27 MIN

An ode to Jarrett’s block party and mostly encouraging fight against Giannis. The Greek Freak got the edge in the fourth, but Jarrett did a good job of containing him early. 

Two more blocks for the Fro’s reel this season. 

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