Over the years, I’ve grown to have an affinity for these strange, wonky contests between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. Besides the obvious connection between the two franchises forged by Jason Kidd, they always seem to bring out the best in each other. From overtime extravaganzas to last-second buzzer-beating buckets, more often than not, you’re in for an entertaining, up-and-down game between these two young and not-quite-there squads.
Tonight was no different.
Following up his immense, 38-point effort on Tuesday, the enigmatic Sean Kilpatrick (7) led the way for the Nets in the first quarter, going toe-to-toe with Giannis Antetokounmpo (5). A cold start from Bojan Bogdanovic (0-3) was offset by some of Randy Foye’s best minutes in a Nets uniform, thankfully.
Following two late three-pointers from both Justin Hamilton and Joe Harris, the Nets finished with just a one-point deficit after the first quarter — although Brook Lopez almost managed to nail one from Stephen Curry range as the shot clock expired — as the score was just 27-26.
However, as one international star heated up, the other stayed ice cold and Antetokounmpo helped push the Bucks ahead for much of the quarter. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, returning to the rotation after missing three games with an ankle injury, struggled offensively, but quickly resumed his place as the Nets’ best defensive presence as he jumped passing lanes and changed a handful of Bucks shots.
Oddly enough, however, it was Isaiah Whitehead carrying the Nets through the rough stretch of the second quarter and they badly needed his penetration and distribution. For a rookie that was forced to play 46 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers, it sure looks like Whitehead has started to find his footing as a professional point guard, even if the statistics don’t always show it.
After a late three-pointer from Lopez and a flurry of difficult buckets via Kilpatrick, the Nets slimmed their deficit to just one point again at the half. Not perfect by any means, as indicated by their 10 turnovers, but it’s hard to complain about the effort, per usual.
Every team could use a Trevor Booker.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) December 2, 2016
The second half brought onlookers a super revved up version of the first half as Bogdanovic fired away, Whitehead continued to make game-altering plays, and Antetokounmpo kept marching towards superstardom. It’s unfair watching the Greek Freak at times — he’s a seven-footer in a running back’s body; he can Eurostep around you or dunk over a defender just as easily. And, even scarier, he’s just 21 years-old — while I typed this sentence, he scored another effortless bucket and Booker, who was tasked with defending him, picked up a crucial fourth foul.
In danger of getting run out of their home building thanks to a smoldering Malcolm Brogdon and a Bucks team that shot 12-19 in the quarter, good for 38 points and 12-point lead after three quarters. Harris and Lopez helped keep the Nets within striking distance, but it seemed hollow. Could the Nets claw back in another late game?
Well, the short answer is no, but they sure did try.
The Bucks aren’t a particularly strong three-point shooting team, so when lesser-depended on players like Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, Malcolm Brogdon, and Mirza Teletovic start hitting (a combined 13 three-pointers) and Antetokounmpo flirts with a triple-double, there’s not much you can do. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost to the Bucks definitely on Tuesday night as well. The Nets didn’t get the heroic individual performance like Kilpatrick against the Clippers and they eventually suffered massively for it.
Back to the drawing board.
The stats: 15 PTS, 4-12 FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 1 TOV
I used to think that Brook Lopez draining three-pointers were just dreams. Now I get to watch it 3x a week.
I am truly blessed.
(You gotta want more than 4 rebounds and 4-12 shooting, however.)