After a dismal 2-6 start to the season, the Brooklyn Nets are now just 1.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference standings. What a transformation!
Brooklyn avenged her Early season loss And they beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who entered Friday’s contest as the top seed, convincingly winning 118-100 in front of a babbling Barclays Center crowd. Brooklyn’s eighth straight victory is the league’s longest active winning streak, tying the longest winning streak since the Nets moved to Brooklyn. The Nets have also won 12 of their last 13 games.
“I think we’re putting together a consistent game plan now. The guys are filling their roles at a high level no matter who they are in the lineup. This is our group, we just swing, we have fun playing a great brand of basketball, we do the little things, and that has resulted in some wins. But we just want to keep up. We don’t want to take our foot off the gas pedal,” said Kyrie Irving. “It’s a long season, but this is a great place we’re in right now, and we feel good.”
Nic Claxton was hugely impressive for the Nets, dropping a season-high 19 points on a near-perfect 9-of-10 shooting line to go with eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
“Give him lots of love for doing this on both ends of the earth for us tonight. A luxury for us to have him,” said Jack Vaughn. “He’s growing as a young man as a player. It’s great to see him.”
I felt a bi-directional Ben Simmons presence. Great moment. Simmons, best known for his defense of Giannis Antetokounmpo, did a great job guarding the Bucks star on one side and had a near triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists as well as three steals. Kevin Durant scored a routine 24 points, hitting 9 of 17.
“He was amazing. 12, 11 and 8 three steals. I think his aggression was really good all night,” Durant said of Simmons. “Giannis is the most physical player in the league so there will be some doubters. I think he kept everything in the game, he was able to make life difficult and I think we all did a solid job of showing him to the crowd a little bit, getting him to kick the ball and forcing him to turn the ball over, seven turnovers. So Ben is the catalyst for that and we’ll need that going forward.”
Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 26 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Former Net Brook Lopez also had an impressive outing with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
Three-point shooting was a big factor in this. The Bucks could find no rhythm from three, going only 9 of 37 from long distance, while the Nets hit 43.8% in their 32 total away appearances. The Nets also held their own on the glass, tying for $45-45 in total rebounds.
Fastbreak in Brooklyn was also impressive. The Bucks, led by Antetokounmpo, are always a threat to come out and hurt opponents on the break, but the Nets edged Milwaukee 24-13 in this category.
“For us to have more quick break points than they had where huge turnovers in their game, which meant we were playing at a very high level pace for us and then we kept it in our own half,” said Jack Vaughn. “A really good effort from our guys and we focused a lot on three of the four quarters that we got the better of, so it’s really a very clean game for us.”
Early on, Giannis was unstoppable, starting the game by catching a bad pass from KD for a dunk in addition to a foul from the other end. He put up 8 early points in under 7 minutes and threw a great curling pass to the also rolling Lopez. However, Brooklyn wasn’t phased by its hot start, with Royce O’Neal and Kevin Durant each scoring twice. Brooklyn finished with a 36-29 lead after the first period of play.
The Nets maintained their advantage in the second quarter. TJ Warren gave some crucial minutes with seven quick points in the post game against former Net Jevon Carter, a three-point pick-and-pop shot, and a mid-range shot. Nick Claxton also got three shots from a left hook to give him 12 first-half points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting streak. Meanwhile, the Bucks couldn’t buy a shot of three on just 3-of-15 from long range. Brooklyn entered the half leading, 60-47.
Brooklyn opened the third quarter on a 17-10 run for its first 20-point lead of the game. Simmons was particularly impressive, pulling off a range of tricky shots including impressive precision in the hesitation dribble, and a finish with a euro step in the transition. The Bucks then went on an 18-8 run in the final five minutes to close out the quarter strong. Brooklyn’s lead narrowed to just 10, up 85-75 with a head to fourth.
Milwaukee was hanging around in the fourth, as the Bucks went down to Lopez on multiple possessions. López’s entry into his former home court gave the former Net some momentum, and he followed that up with a corner hat-trick. But the curling did not stop. O’Neal hit a pair of threes to build Brooklyn’s lead to 16, and Kyrie Irving finally got it going after a rough start to the game with some truly ridiculous finishing touches from the glass. Irving’s three-run 3 touchdown transfer in the fourth quarter effectively sealed the game, and the Nets claimed their 21st victory of the season.
The Nets were primed for aggressive coverage of Milwaukee on Friday.
The Bucks repeatedly blasted Durant with a pick-and-roll to limit his impact, and it worked: KD had a fairly uneventful night by his standards with 24 points. But the webs quickly adapted, using their guards and wings as displays to create picking and popping opportunities.
“It just gives us a new look,” Durant said of the Nets’ pick-and-pop offense. “Late in the hour for example, someone might run in and out of the screen. They might show two of me and now we have a good late hour shot, so we can do that — we don’t want to rely on it too much — but we also know we’ve got that We’re in the back pocket and just in case we don’t have a lot on the offensive end to own. So we’re training for that, we’re working on it, and I have to give the pass to whoever’s in the pick-and-roll situation, to make a good pass.”
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this strategy was Royce O’Neale, who hit 5 threes on the night and is on a tight streak, bottling 12 of his last 18 long-range shot attempts.
Three of these three five came from the aforementioned pick-and-pop milieu. On each segment, the Bucks send two into the ball toward Durant, and Royce “ghosts” his screen and pops to the top of the three. Brooklyn was particularly aggressive about using this strategy when Durant was pressed toward the sideline with O’Neal at the top of the arc. The third clip is a little closer to the middle of the floor, but the general concept is the same.
“I think it’s part of our group as an insult. At first, we wanted to see how they played that, so they jumped in and left Royce’s body and he was able to get some space and shoot it confidently,” Durant said. “He made some huge shots for us in the fourth. I think those plays where you can open up and beat all three give you confidence.”
Trading a first-round pick for O’Neale, who posts a career-high 41.5% from three, continues to look better by the day. O’Neale, along with many others on the Nets roster, added a new dynamic to the Brooklyn offense. The pick-and-pop is suddenly a weapon at the Nets’ disposal, the most dangerous they’ve been since the days of Jeff Green.
As noted, the Nets’ eight-game winning streak is tied for the longest winning streak—ever—in Nets’ Brooklyn history. The previous eight-match series took place between February 10 and February 24 last year.
The Nets’ 18-point margin of victory over the Bucks is the largest margin over Milwaukee (in the regular season) since 2002. The Nets edged the Bucks by 39 points in Game 2 of the EC 2021 Semifinals.
The Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. EST on NBA TV.
For a different perspective on tonight’s match, head over to Brew hoopBucks., sister site.
#Nets #win #eighth #row #victory #Bucks