3. Nets must account for Milwaukee’s ‘other guys’
The Brooklyn Nets simply don’t have a defender capable of matching up with two-time All-NBA selection Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s not a criticism of the Nets — there’s no team in the league that has a defender truly capable of matching up with The Greek Freak.
Seriously? How does one stop a 6-foot-11, 242-pound monolith that has handles like a point guard and can Euro step to the rim from the freaking 3-point line?
Antetokounmpo tore up the Nets the first time they met this season, posting a 31-10-10 triple-double in Milwaukee’s 129-115 win at their new Fiserv Forum on Dec. 29.
Brooklyn’s two most capable defenders were mostly unavailable — Treveon Graham was still out with his hamstring injury and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson left with an adductor strain three minutes into the game — so that factored into the Nets’ inability to contain Antetokounmpo.
The problem was that Brooklyn didn’t do enough to stop the Bucks’ other players from torching them.
Khris Middleton went off for 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting and added seven assists. Brook Lopez scored 24 points, putting on a big-man shooting clinic by going 7-for-15 from 3-point range. Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 points.
You can survive with Antetokounmpo scoring 31 and getting a triple-double. But you will get slaughtered if you allow Middleton, Lopez and Brogdon to team up for 71 points.
And that’s exactly what happened — Milwaukee led by as much as 26 points while knocking down 21 3s in the game.
The other guys from the Bucks will be the key to how Monday’s matchup turns out. If the Nets can stop Middleton, Lopez, Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and the other boys in the band from going off, they can stay with Milwaukee so long as they don’t let Antetokounmpo go fully nuclear.
Offensively, these teams are very similar — Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was an assistant to Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks for three seasons, after all.
That means both coaches have a pretty good idea of what the other is going to run and Atkinson should have at least some tools in the box to figure out how to let Giannis get his without getting crushed by everyone else.