The Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks will lock horns in what could ultimately prove to be the most compelling series of the 2021 playoffs. In fact, many insiders believe the winner of this matchup will go on to win the championship, and understandably so.
Both teams took care of business in the first round, as the Nets disposed of the Celtics in five games and the Bucks swept Miami in a shockingly lopsided series.
The Bucks are likely feeling confident heading into this series after they took two of three from the Nets in the regular season, but it’s worth noting that Brooklyn’s big three wasn’t at full strength in either of those matchups
If Milwaukee stands any chance at pulling off the upset, they will have to slow down Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving to the best of their ability. Unlike most teams in the NBA, they actually have the required manpower to make life difficult for the Nets’ superstar trio.
That got us thinking: with Game 1 tipping off on Saturday night, what are some vital matchups fans should keep an eye on in this series?
3. James Harden vs PJ Tucker
Could we see a matchup of former Rockets teammates? Well, if you consider that the Bucks’ two premium wing defenders (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday) will likely be tasked with other assignments on that end of the floor, we just might.
Tucker has proven to be an absolute brick wall of a defender who’s capable of defending all five positions. With the Rockets, he became a hero on NBA Twitter for guarding opposing team’s centers in the playoffs (and pretty effectively at that) in their small-ball lineup.
While Tucker will avoid that ridiculous challenge vs the Nets, he’ll likely have the unfortunate responsibility of defending Harden, one of the best offensive players the sport has ever seen who really kicked it into high gear after a passive Game 1 showing vs Boston.
James Harden could go to battle against former teammate PJ Tucker.
Most fans in Brooklyn believe Harden is the most essential piece to the team’s championship hopes and it’s easy to see why. With the nine-time All-Star out of the lineup — he didn’t arrive until the middle of the season and missed over a month with a hamstring injury — the Nets were a lousy 19-17…compared to a ridiculous 29-7 with him starting.
In other words, if The Beard is cooking, Brooklyn wins. However, he won’t have it easy against his former teammate, who’s one of the most relentless defenders the league has to offer. Don’t be surprised if the winner of Harden vs Tucker is a potential turning point in this series.