2. Saturday, April 6: at Milwaukee Bucks
There’s no other way to put this. Brooklyn matches up terribly with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Nets have no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now, very few (if any) teams in the association have a somewhat viable solution for the Greek Freak’s offensive onslaught.
But Brooklyn especially stands out as a team that cannot defend Milwaukee’s MVP candidate.
As mentioned previously, the Nets have little-to-no elite athletes at the wing and guard positions. This makes life pretty easy for the league’s most tenacious transition player, Giannis Antetokounmpo; a guy who can envelop an NBA half-court with three giant strides.
Against Brooklyn, Giannis has averaged 30.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists, a steal, and three blocks in the two games played. With Giannis fitting the build of a 7-foot Russell Westbrook, his team has cruised to two easy victories.
In all honesty, “easy victories” is putting it lightly.
Replace the end of that sentence with humiliating blowouts. That’s how bad it has been.
In two games, Brooklyn has lost to the top-seeded Bucks by a combined margin of 33 points.
Their minus-16.5 point differential against the Bucks is by far Brooklyn’s worst mark against any team this season. (The second-worst is Indiana; the Nets have a minus-14 point differential against the Pacers).
This is nothing to be ashamed of. Milwaukee is currently the league’s best team with an absurd 43-14 record. They are en route to a 61-win pace; their best record since the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Defensively speaking, Brooklyn has been one of the best teams at defending the 3-ball. The Nets allow the fourth-fewest 3-pointers per game at a 29.2 (according to NBA.com/stats).
In general, Brooklyn’s philosophy on D is to coerce the opposing team into statistically inefficient midrange jumpers.
That whole strategy kind of goes out the window against the Bucks. Milwaukee has averaged 45 3-point attempts against Brooklyn; the second-highest average out of any team versus the Nets. (The No. 1 spot belongs to the parameter-defying Houston Rockets and their eye-popping average of 54.5 3-pointers attempted).
The scariest part of all: Milwaukee didn’t even shoot the 3-ball well during one of their two meetups. During their most recent game on Feb. 4, the Bucks missed 29 of their 39 3s. Even with an off-night from deep, the Bucks blitzed the Nets 113-94 on their home floor.
Brook Lopez is a mismatch nightmare for Brooklyn due to his affinity for shooting from deep. Jarrett Allen has proved to be one of the best young defensive centers due to his shot-blocking ability. However, Allen rarely steps outside of the paint on defense.
Against the Bucks, Allen has appeared completely stymied by Lopez; the center who preceded him in Brooklyn.
Because Allen is afraid to step away from the restricted area, a majority of Lopez’s attempts from deep have been wide open. This is a major issue for Brooklyn. Lopez has canned 37.2 percent of his total 372 attempts; by far career-highs in both categories.
Expect him to go all-out against the point guard who usurped the honor of the final All-Star spot, D’Angelo Russell.
Oh, and we haven’t even seen the Bucks in their final form.
By late April, Milwaukee will have fully integrated Nikola Mirotic and his 17.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. Mirotic’s 7.2 attempted 3s per game and the accompanying 36.8 shooting percentage from deep will certainly be an exciting wrinkle for the Bucks’ already-potent offense.
Sorry, make that two big guys that Brooklyn has no answer for. Sheesh.