Nets host Milwaukee Bucks in final game of March: Gameday

Nets Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown and center Andre Drummond in the second quarter at Fiserv Forum.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks (47-28) vs. Brooklyn Nets (40-36)
Thursday, March 31 @ Barclays Center

How to Watch/Listen:

7:30 p.m. ET on YES Network, TNT and WFAN 101.9 FM / 660 AM.

Bucks vs. Nets Odds, Lines, More

  • Spread: Nets -1.5
  • Nets Moneyline: -120
  • Bucks Moneyline: +102
  • First Basket: Kevin Durant +500
  • O/U: 243.5
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The name of the game will be defense for the Nets on Thursday with the Milwaukee Bucks in town. Brooklyn is down to its final six games of the season and is fighting for positioning in the Eastern Conference.

While the Nets’ offense has not been a problem of late, their defense has been a cause for concern, especially after eking out a win over the basement-dwelling Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Barclays Center. It was the fourth time in their last 11 games that the Nets had allowed an opponent to score at least 120 points against them.

[READ: Nets need to find their ‘edge’ defensively if they hope to make this season count]

Now the high-powered offense of the Bucks charges into Brooklyn, which includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

“He’s one of those players that established themselves that his points are almost absolute,” Kevin Durant said about Antetokounmpo. “It’s about playing physical, making it as tough as you can. Also from top to bottom, their whole team, they got a great team that play well off each other with continuity. It’s much more than Giannis, but his points they going to happen, so you just have to make them as tough as possible.”

Brooklyn would prefer to not have to get into a track meet with the Bucks on Thursday, but they have the firepower for it. Durant had 41 points for the Nets in their last game, which included 16 in the third quarter, and Kyrie Irving appeared to play better in his second game at home with 25 points. Brooklyn’s offense has scored at least 120 points as well in five of their last eight wins.

They’re 8-3 in that stretch and have found ways to win after an ugly 3-17 run that dated back to January. Still, it will come down to a consistent defensive effort for the Nets on Thursday.

“I think when we play with edge, we’re a much better team defensively,” head coach Steve Nash said. “When we take our foot off the gas a little bit, we’re not good enough to just roll out there and shut people down.”

Milwaukee will be motivated entering the game trying to stave off the Philadelphia 76ers from catching them in the standings. The Bucks are coming off a close win over the 76ers and are 11-3 in their last 14 games.

They’ve managed to keep their opponents below 120 points nine times during that stretch, which began right after the Nets defeated the Bucks back on Feb. 26 in Milwaukee.

Nets’ Playoff Push:

Brooklyn has clinched a spot in the play-in round, but there are still five games left in the season after Thursday. The Nets remain in eighth in the conference, but only by a very slim margin. The Charlotte Hornets are half a game back from the Nets and the Atlanta Hawks are a full game back.

Brooklyn is still chasing the Cleveland Cavaliers for seventh and trails them by two games, while the sixth-place Toronto Raptors have a four-game lead on the Nets.

Nets Notables

Since Durant returned from a 21-game absence (1/17 – 3/1 – left MCL sprain), Brooklyn leads the league in FG % (.520), is second in offensive rating (122.1), third in 3FG % (.395), fifth in ppg (120.8), sixth in apg (27.4), point differential (+6.5) and net rating (6.6) and 17th in defensive rating (115.5). – in 13 games (3/3 – 3/29). … KD (31.0 ppg) and Irving (30.6 ppg in eight games) would be the first Nets teammates to average 30.0 ppg in a month (min. five games). The only duos in the last 20 seasons to average 30.0 ppg in a month (min. five games) are Houston’s James Harden (31.9 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (33.4 ppg) in Feb. 2020. … The Nets’ 130-point effort on Tuesday marked their fifth game with 130+ points this season and the third such game this month.

Injury Report

Nets: David Duke Jr. (G League – two-way), Joe Harris (left ankle surgery), Day’Ron Sharpe (G League assignment) and Ben Simmons (return to competition reconditioning/back soreness) are out.

Pistons: DeAndre’ Bembry (right knee ACL/MCL tear) is out.