Here we go again? Following an embarrassing 125-86 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of this second-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks face another postseason mountain to climb with pressure mounting on making the proper adjustments.
The Bucks trailed by as many as 49 points during the Monday night beat down and never led at any point. Brooklyn controlled every aspect of the game as Kevin Durant led the way by dropping 32 points and six assists on 66.7 percent field goals in 33 minutes. As a team, the Harden-less Nets were able to get whatever they wanted offensively and shot 50.0 percent from 3-point land on a franchise playoff-high 21 made 3’s.
Milwaukee committed more turnovers (16) than assists (14), shot 29.6 percent from beyond the arc, and made just four free throws. It was an absolutely horrific display of offense that completely bailed out a non-threatening Brooklyn defense.
While the series heads to Milwaukee now, the Bucks will look to regather themselves on their home court with a bunch of looming factors at stake. They have two days to watch film, regroup, and mentally prepare for a crucial Game 3 that will take place Thursday night.
As the Milwaukee Bucks sink to a 2-0 series deficit against the Brooklyn Nets, their offensive identity looks to be vanishing at the worst time.
Many adjustments seem to be needed for the Bucks whether it’s the schemes, personnel, or decision-making involved if they want to turn this series around, but most importantly, Milwaukee needs to re-find their well-known identity, especially offensively.
Game 2 showcased the exact opposite of how they’ve been succeeding for years on that end of the floor. Instead of opting to attack the rim and dominate the paint, the Bucks continuously forced tough mid-range shots and settled for 3’s. It obviously didn’t turn out well.
On top of that, there was little to no ball movement on each possession, a lack of intensity, an even higher lack of purpose, inefficient shot selection, and extremely poor execution. Yeah, it was a disaster.
Give Brooklyn credit for how they’ve prepared to slow down Milwaukee’s top-tier offense coming into these first two games, but they really didn’t have to exert much effort in Game 2 compared to what you would expect. Game 1 was a solid offensive performance from the Bucks besides the fact that they shot 20.0 percent from 3 since they dominated the paint like they’ve done for the majority of the season and throughout the demolishing sweep against Miami, but according to the latest contest, their interior-minded game plan has suddenly changed.
For questionable reasons, the Bucks went away from what they were doing best. Rather than feeding reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the seven-foot Brook Lopez in the paint to take advantage of the mismatches down low, they launched contested shots around the perimeter.
It was inexcusable to see the Bucks earn their first points in the restricted area at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter off of a Jrue Holiday layup. They did not even attempt a single shot within the restricted area throughout the entire first quarter.
Let’s emphasize that sentence again: The Milwaukee Bucks did not attempt a single shot attempt within the restricted area during the first quarter with Antetokounmpo and Lopez on the floor, and with Durant, 6’9″ Blake Griffin, and 6’4″ Bruce Brown defending the rim for the Nets. That’s simply unacceptable for a team as good as Milwaukee in the paint.
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It doesn’t make sense at all to see head coach Mike Budenholzer drift away from trying to own the paint as it’s mostly been a positive game plan within their established system and schemes. The new “dunker spot” that was implemented into the offense this season hasn’t been efficiently utilized lately. Evidently, the Bucks couldn’t get anything going offensively when they shifted outside their most comfortable strength inside.
Milwaukee scored 19 points in the initial quarter, 22 in the second, 24 during the third, and 21 in the fourth. They ended up with a total of 86 points. 86 points for a team that led the league scoring 120.1 points per game during the regular season.
That’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for Bud, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and everyone else. The Milwaukee Bucks need to bounce back with a major offensive burst, and that won’t happen if they don’t return to their tactics of taking advantage of the size and length that they possess in the interior.
Antetokounmpo must look to receive the ball in the post more rather than near the perimeter. Budenholzer must realize that and utilize Giannis as more of a power forward rather than an oversized wing. It’s certainly not ideal to see Antetokounmpo letting it fly from 3 with still 18 seconds left on the shot clock. It may be reasonable to try that during the regular season, but not during meaningful possessions in the playoffs.
Lopez is the X-factor for the Bucks and must take advantage of the smaller guys that will be defending him throughout this series. It starts with his positioning and composure needing to be much, much more precise, and the same could be said for others such as Bobby Portis. There are so many little, but essential details that the Bucks need to clean up on both ends of the floor, yet mostly on the offensive end.
The Milwaukee Bucks are lacking confidence, poise, togetherness, urgency, anticipation, and that “underdog mentality” is nowhere to be found. This is not the same team that just swept the Heat. These aren’t the dawg-like Bucks that we’ve seen thrive with swagger offensively. With the season and future implications on the line, it’s now or never to regain the identity that’s brought them optimistic success this year.