The Milwaukee Bucks can’t even beat two-thirds of Brooklyn’s Big 3, and after two lackluster games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Nets opened a 2-0 lead without All-Star James Harden. Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are in deep trouble, down 0-2, but they have two home games and a shot at finally securing their first win of the series in Game 3.
We’re guilty of hyping up this East semifinals series as the real NBA Finals. And that was before the Nets lost Harden to a hamstring injury in the first 43 seconds of the opening game. So far, this nightmarish series has been a giant dud for the Bucks.
|Game 3: #2 Brooklyn Nets (2-0) vs. #3 Milwaukee Bucks
- Tip-off: 4:30 pm ET
- Location: Fiserv Arena, Milwaukee, WI
- Point Spread: MIL -3.5
- Total: 234 o/u
- Money Line: BKLYN +135 / MIL -150
- Series Line: MIL +360 / BKLYN -530
The Nets listed Harden as out for Game 3 against the Bucks.
The Bucks are a -3.5 favorite in Game 3 — their first home game of this series against the Nets. The Nets are 2-0 ATS this series as a favorite in Game 1 and a slight underdog in Game 2. Bookies anticipate a shootout with a total of 234 points, but the first two games both went under.
The Nets are huge favorites to win the series at -530 odds, according to DraftKings. The Bucks are +360 dogs to pull off a miracle. The Nets are +180 favorites to win the championship, whereas the 0-2 Bucks saw their title odds continue to slip to +700.
Beer City shooting blues
The loss of shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo caught up to the Bucks in this series. They lost DiVIncenzo to an ankle injury in the first round, but head coach Mike Budenholzer opted for a bigger lineup in the Brooklyn series. He inserted power forward PJ Tucker into the starting five instead of a backup guard like Pat Connaughton. The bigger lineup backfired with Tucker averaging only 4.5 ppg while shooting just 12.5% from 3-point range. Veteran Jeff Teague looked awful off the bench with just two points in both games.
In the first two losses, the Bucks shot 14-for-57 from 3-point range for only 24.5%. The bench was even worse from beyond the arc, shooting 16.6% on a 3-for-18 clip. The Nets kept Khris Middleton in check with just 15 ppg. He’s also stuck in a shooting funk with an icy 3-for-13 stretch from downtown.
The Bucks vastly improved their defense this season by adding Jrue Holiday and altering their overall strategy on defending PNRs. But, the Bucks’ revamped defense failed to slow down the Brooklyn Nets, who averaged 120 ppg in both wins without Harden. At this point down 0-2, the only way for the Bucks to beat the Nets is to outgun them. Someone aside from Antetokounmpo will have to provide a gigantic scoring boost if the Bucks want to avoid an embarrassing sweep.
Shaky postseason history, Budenholzer dunzo?
Since joining the Bucks eight seasons ago, Antetokounmpo advanced to the postseason six times, including five straight trips. In 2015, the Chicago Bulls spoiled Antetokounmpo’s postseason debut when the young Bucks were bounced in six games.
The Bucks returned to the postseason in 2017 after Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player. They were picked off in the first round by the Toronto Raptors in six games. In 2018, the Bucks made back-to-back trips to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They met their fate in the first round once again when the Boston Celtics edged them out in seven games.
|Milwaukee Bucks Postseason Results|
|2017||#8||Lost First Round||Toronto Raptors 4-2|
|2018||#7||Lost First Round||Boston Celtics 4-3|
|2019||#1||Lost Conference Finals||Toronto Raptors 4-2|
|2020||#1||Lost Conference Semis||Miami Heat 4-1|
At the start of the 2018-19 season, Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach and the Bucks won 60 games to secure the #1 seed. They went 8-1 in the first two rounds of the 2019 playoffs, but ran into Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Kawhi and the Raptors needed six games to end the Bucks’ auspicious run.
Last year inside the NBA Bubble, the Bucks beat the Orlando Magic in the first round. Antetokounmpo hurt his ankle in the second round, and the Bucks were knocked out of the East semifinals by Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Word got out that the Bucks would fire Budenholzer if he didn’t deliver them a trip to the NBA Finals.
As of now, the future looks grim for Budenholzer with the Bucks down 0-2 against the short-handed Nets.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.