The Nets fell to Bucks 124-118 despite 32 points from Kevin Durant and 38 from Kyrie Irving. The loss highlighted the familiarity of the Bucks’ core that has been built over several deep playoffs.
“It’s a huge factor,” Durant said afterwards. “Continuity is an important thing in this league. “
The Nets’ misfortune stifled connectivity within a team that already had ground to catch up with several new players to integrate. The Nets’ Big Three of Durant, Irving and James Harden have only played seven games together. When they just have Irving and Durant on the floor and not Harden, as they do now, the Nets are 7-8.
The Bucks, meanwhile, are catching their stride and have won six of their last eight games. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 36 points on Tuesday night, found a rhythm from the 3-point line. He played four straight three-point games, both against the Nets, for the first time in his career, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information.
Khris Middleton, who has played alongside Antetokounmpo for eight seasons, tallied 23 points on Tuesday, shooting 4 in 4 to 3 points.
“We have a gap to fill here,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “We understand that this is a team that has been leading the same attack, playing together, the same defense strategies for years now. Got deep into the playoffs, and it’s something we don’t have, so how do we close that gap? sort of our life in a nutshell when we come home here. “
The Nets are striving to develop quick chemistry as they prepare for the seeding of the playoffs. Brooklyn’s loss to Milwaukee puts the Philadelphia 76ers in the driver’s seat to take the Eastern Conference seed. Philadelphia, which also lost back-to-back games to the Bucks in late April, is now two games away in the losing column on Brooklyn. The Sixers, who also hold the tiebreaker with the Nets, have the easiest schedule in the NBA, according to BPI.
The Nets’ loss to the Bucks also ensures that Brooklyn and Milwaukee will finish second and third in the East, although the order in which they finish remains to be determined. The Nets are one game higher in the losing column, but Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker thanks to those two wins.
Durant said he believes one of the advantages of the Nets is their presence as a veteran. While they haven’t played so many games together, the Brooklyn players have individual playoff experience. Durant is a two-time MVP of the NBA Finals. Irving won a championship in 2016. Jeff Green and Joe Harris were also on the teams that made it to the finals in Cleveland. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan both made playoffs with the Lob City Clippers.
“We have veterans on this team who have played in different situations and who know just about all the terminologies that are going on in this league and all types of sets that we run on both sides,” Durant said. “It’s also our advantage to have this veteran leadership, but we are still a connected group. “
Durant said that because of this experience, he feels the team “have been together for years”, even if it is only one season. Durant added, “We have to keep building on this. “
Nash summed up the Nets’ remaining regular season goals in trying to regain full health and trying to “overcome a lack of shared experiences.”
“It’s our challenge as much as anything,” Nash said. “While we’re doing this, can we be more physical? Can we be more connected? Can we manage and control some of the controllables that can help us hang in some of these games and win some of these games while we try to put the pieces together? ”