In what strength losing as a franchise loss, the Milwaukee Bucks epically choked themselves in Game 5 by losing 114-108 to the brooklyn nets, in a match where they led up to 17 points in the first half.
What we have learned
The Bucks are a mentally weak team. I’m not sure that counts as what we’ve learned since we’ve seen it throughout this season, but it came out like a sore thumb last night.
They started to let things go wrong in the 3rd quarter by letting Brooklyn get what they wanted offensively, but were able to hold onto their lead somewhat by going down and converting at the other end. In the fourth quarter? Different story. Kevin Durant decided the game was over and apparently made all the moves. It got a ton of clean looks on a high screen and roll and the Bucks adjusted, but it was too late (and it didn’t really matter). The Bucks moved the ball well in the first half and part of the third quarter, but they played iso-ball exclusively in the fourth, which led to their demise. The execution was horrible and whenever they had a chance to get their head back they either turned it or fired a horrible shot.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was fantastic in the first half. He was deservedly the victim of his collapse in the last quarter, but he dominated in the second period, which is why the Bucks ended up at almost 20. Giannis had a lot of success attacking the teeth of the defense from Brooklyn and constantly seeking to exploit the shift in transition. His performance was capped by a personal run of 7-0 during the quarter in which he made a three and converted on two fine shots around the rim. Now his fourth quarter performance was just atrocious and inexcusable. Although he finished with 12/34/4, it didn’t matter as he didn’t play well when the Bucks needed him as well. After Jrue Holiday tied the game at 104 with a finger roll, the Bucks came to a halt after forcing a KD dud… what did Giannis do? He got off, backed James Harden back and took the silliest fadeaway at the start of the shot clock. This shot had no chance to enter, no matter who was defending. His situational awareness in these places is not that of a superstar. His missed free throws in clutch time came as no surprise and his loss of the ball on a pass from Khris Middleton with a chance to tie was the icing on the cake of an extremely frustrating period. While Giannis was a huge reason for the early lead, he’s just as much a reason they ended up losing a golden opportunity to go 3-2 in the series.
Kevin Durant showed why he was the best player in the NBA last night. He played every minute and lost 49/17/10 on 16 of 23 shots. A lot of people have asked if KD can carry a team on his own, and well, they got their answer last night. Even when the Buck defended well it didn’t matter, he still hit the hard knocks. Durant also did a great job setting up his teammates throughout Game 5. I thought he was better at moving around without the ball and set several back screens that made it easy for his teammates to look into the paint. . It will go down as one of his best games EVER… and of course, it goes back to the Milwaukee Bucks. Even if James Harden wasn’t there, he still would have. In fact, he might have gone for 60 if Harden hadn’t grabbed the ball by dribbling aimlessly between his legs. I have absolutely no doubts in my mind that he could have an even bigger performance Thursday night in Milwaukee, and it would be only fitting if the Bucks came out that way.
Milwaukees’ defense was horrible. The Bucks took a big lead thanks to Brooklyn missing almost every open jumper they had, but you just had a feeling he was going to come back and bite them. We have seen, once again, bad habits killing the Bucks. Over-help leading to a WIDE-OPEN Jeff Green who of his eight three-point attempts, none of them were contested. Leaving Blake Griffin open on the perimeter is one thing, but Green has proven he can take down big shots throughout his career. Plus, not adapting to the Nets with a tall screen for Kevin Durant was definitely… a choice. While Giannis won’t defend him, let’s be honest, he doesn’t stand a chance of defending him on the perimeter. PJ Tucker and Khris Middleton are Milwaukees’ best options in this regard. While Joe Harris shot 1 of 7 from deep, many of those misses were also on unchallenged shots. Just a forgettable performance defensively when it mattered most.
- Jrue Holiday scored 19 points and added eight assists while defending James Harden for most of the game. No complaints from me here, but in Q4 Holiday took on some questionable jumpers. However, not all of the onus falls on him, as the entire Bucks roster has fallen prey to it.
- Khris Middleton added 25 points but only managed 3 out of 10 shots from deep. Alongside Giannis, he played a big role in helping the Bucks forge a double-digit lead. I’m not sure what you can ask of him, especially when he defends KD and does a solid job.
- PJ Tucker didn’t score and spent a lot of time on the bench in the fourth quarter with foul issues, but in a series-changing game I would have liked to see him there sooner.
- Brook Lopez added 15 points and you can’t ask him to help Durant defensively when he comes out of a screen. It’s a bucket every time. Lopez, however, did a remarkable job of protecting the rim of the entire series.
- Pat Connaughton added 10 points and was also instrumental in helping Milwaukee extend their lead in the second quarter.
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