20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Milwaukee Versus Brooklyn Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#3 Milwaukee (46-26) vs. #2 Brooklyn (48-24)

Season series: Milwaukee, 2-1

Brooklyn can win if…the Nets commit to consistently playing solid defense, and then completing those possessions with a defensive rebound. The Nets ranked just 21st in points allowed this season, though they posted a good defensive field goal percentage (.459, seventh in the league). The Nets are an average rebounding team, ranking 14th in the league. Prior to the playoffs, the Nets' vaunted "Big Three" of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden had barely played the equivalent of one playoff series together this year. That lack of continuity did not matter much when the Nets defeated the overwhelmed and injury-riddled Boston Celtics 4-1 in the first round, but the Bucks are a better team than the Celtics at both ends of the court.

Milwaukee will win because…the Nets have no one who can match up with Antetopkounmpo, but the Bucks--with the addition of Jrue Holiday to form a "Big Three" with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton--can at least slow down Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. 

Antetokounmpo averaged 23.5 ppg, 15.0 rpg, and 7.8 apg as the Bucks swept the defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat in the first round. Middleton contributed 21.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 4.3 apg in that series, while Holiday added 15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and a team-high 9.8 apg. Antetokounmpo is the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, Holiday is a two-time member of the All-Defensive Team who should receive that honor again this season, and Middleton is an above average defender. The Bucks will miss Donte DiVincenzo, a starting guard who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in game three versus Miami, but this roster is filled with tough, two-way players. The Nets have great players, but it will not be easy for them to hunt or create mismatches versus the Bucks.

Other things to consider: Milwaukee scored at least 117 points in each of their regular season games versus Brooklyn. Antetokounmpo scored 34 points (13-26 FGs), 49 points (21-36 FGs), and 36 points (11-30 FGs) in those games (39.7 ppg, .489 FG%). The Nets are respected and feared for their offensive prowess, but the Bucks also have a great offense. The difference between the teams is that the Bucks are better defensively, both in terms of mindset and also in terms of personnel.

Durant has emerged as the the Nets' leader. That should not surprise anyone who has followed the careers of Durant, Irving, and Harden. Durant is a two-time Finals MVP, while Irving played his best basketball as the second option to LeBron James as part of Cleveland's version of a Big Three (with Kevin Love as the third option), and Harden's playoff resume is littered with subpar performances when the lights have been the brightest. 

Versus Boston, Durant led the Nets in scoring (32.6 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), blocked shots (2.2 bpg), and field goals attempted (97). Harden averaged 27.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and a team-high 10.6 apg. He is the primary playmaker and the third scoring option; Irving ranked second in field goals attempted (87, 15 more than Harden) but he finished third in scoring (24.8 ppg) because Harden posted his best field goal percentage for any series in his career (.556). This is just the fourth time in 24 career playoff series that Harden has shot at least .500 from the field, but he has shot .420 or worse from the field in 14 playoff series. 

If the Nets win the 2021 NBA title, many commentators will likely use that success as a reason to tout Harden's greatness--but if the Nets win the 2021 NBA title playing the way that they did against the Celtics then that will validate what I have been writing about Harden for nearly a decade: he is an All-Star caliber player who is best suited to being the second or third option on a championship team. When Harden's shot attempts and role are reduced to the appropriate level, his efficiency increases and his team's likelihood of winning increases. Harden's 72 field goal attempts in the first round versus the Celtics are his fewest field goal attempts in a playoff series since he was the third option for Oklahoma City nearly a decade ago. Harden shot at least .480 from the field in four of his eight playoff series with Oklahoma City, but he shot at least .480 from the field in just one of his 15 playoff series when he was miscast as the number one option in Houston.

The Bucks are a more well-rounded team than the Nets, but if the Nets keep their squad together and if Irving and Harden continue to play supporting roles to Durant then the Nets will be championship contenders for at least the next two to three years. 

This year, though, the Bucks will defeat the Nets in six games.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 11:49 PM



At Friday, June 04, 2021 5:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gotta disagree on this one. Nets have too much talent to lose to a Bucks team that has underachieved in the playoffs for so many years (prior to winning first round this year, which is just one round).


At Friday, June 04, 2021 8:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


New year, new team. The Bucks are a different, better team than they were in previous seasons. The Nets clearly have a lot of talent, but we will see how they respond against a team that will not be intimidated or overwhelmed by their talent.

At Sunday, June 06, 2021 8:18:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Hi David,

A lot of reaction and overreaction the Bucks blowing game one, especially with some criticism being directed in Coach Bud's direction. The average NBA fan does a lot of backseat coaching and everyone seems to think they could be doing better than whatever NBA coach they're criticizing at a particular moment, so I try to not get wrapped up in debates over minutes and substitutions and "adjustments". But I do find it weird that Giannis only player around 35 minutes in Game 1 and the Bucks starting lineup played around 13 minutes or so. Durant played 40. I imagine that might have to do with defensive matchups?

Hoping Milwaukee can still succeed in this series.

At Monday, June 07, 2021 1:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Overreaction is par for the course for many people. Just a few days ago, many people insisted that Tyronn Lue is a terrible coach and Kawhi Leonard is overrated. To put it mildly, those "hot takes" did not age very well after the Clippers won games six and seven with Leonard dominating and Lue at the helm.

At Tuesday, June 08, 2021 8:20:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Fact is kd and irving are highly skilled

Giannis is not

I been saying this david he can't shoot anything 15 ft beyond or from the ft line

And in todays nba u cant play if u cant shoot

Middleton and jrue holiday are solid on and off again all stars

But u need hall of famers to win in todays game

Bucks may come back i guess well see

If they dont its cause kd and irving are by far best players on either team

And bucks cant shoot and play any semblance of d on kd and irving

Harden not playing u getting beat by 39 cmon

At Tuesday, June 08, 2021 11:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that KD and Irving are highly skilled, but Giannis is also highly skilled. Shooting is not the only skill. Giannis can score, rebound, pass, defend, and dribble.

I disagree that KD and Irving are "by far" the best players in this series. KD may well be the best player, but if he is better than Giannis the margin is not great.

Giannis did not perform badly in the first two games but the Bucks as a group performed well below their demonstrated capabilities. The Clippers fell behind 2-0 and then by double digits in game three before winning in seven games. It will be interesting to see what kind of energy and effort the Bucks bring to game three at home.

Regarding Harden, perhaps the Nets are better without him? It is clear that his contributions are bonus material, at best, and non-essential. Remember, the original plan was that KD and Irving could lead the team to a title, and that was before the supporting cast included former All-Star Blake Griffin. The Nets do not need Harden's playmaking or scoring, and he is hardly a defensive stopper. It is perhaps a luxury to have Harden, as long as he is willing to be the third option, but we can now see that if he wins a title this year it is as the third best player. What team wins a second round playoff game by 39 points without one of their top two players? It doesn't happen, which is a pretty good indicator that Harden is not one of the team's top two players.

At Thursday, June 10, 2021 11:46:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


Im not a james harden fan or hater no bias from me here

But i agree and disagree with ur assessment of him

I agree with u james is not a 1 option on a title team

To me one option are jordan kobe bron kd shaq duncan etc

James put up great numbers and led his team deep in playoffs but didnt make the plays necessary as one option to be up there with those guys

He played a gimmickry stule but it was effective

I disagree that he a 3rd option

2 reasons

He won a mvp

And made first team all nba

Now if u look historically no non top tier player makes that team

Joakim noah
Deandre jordan did

But that cause weak center position

All the other players who made all nba first team was typically high end 2 options

Klay thompson
Paul pierce
Ray allen

Never made a all nba first team and many other greats


They dont give mvp to third option

Chris bosh
Klay thompson
James worthy
Robert parish

Never would win mvp

Also kyrie not better than him

So my assessment is james is a high end 2 option

Like giannis and dokic

None of them are 1 options

Giannis cant shoot at all

Jokic got d flaws

So im im the middle of u and the media on james

And brooklyn has played well when james played its not like they worse with him he is a great player who valuable

At Friday, June 11, 2021 2:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I disagree with your assertion that Harden's MVP proves what caliber of player he is. Steve Nash has as many MVPs as Shaq and Kobe combined. That does not prove anything other than the MVP voters have messed up several times: Nash, Harden, and some other players won MVPs that they should not have won, while Shaq and Kobe were each denied MVPs that they should have won.

Harden is an All-Star caliber player. He has not demonstrated the necessary skill set or mindset to be a number one option for a championship team. He possibly could be the number two option, but for the Nets he is the third option. Durant is far and away option number one. Irving is a proven clutch performer, and he is the second option. On this team, Harden is a playmaker who serves as the third scoring option.

For what it's worth, I'd take prime Bosh, Thompson, Worthy, or Parish in a heartbeat over prime Harden. Same with Kyrie, Pierce and Allen. I'm not sure who I would take between prime Melo and prime Harden.

Giannis is a seven foot, two-way player who can score, rebound, pass, and defend. There is no question that he can be the best player on a championship team. Sure, he is not a great shooter, but neither was Shaq (or Wilt or Russell). I don't want Giannis taking a last second jump shot to win the game, but I don't want Shaq, Wilt, or Russell doing that, either.

Jokic is not a great defender, but he holds his own, and he is a superior scorer, rebounder, and passer.

Giannis and Jokic are both far superior players to Harden.

It is too early to write off the Bucks or the Nuggets. All the Bucks have to do now is win one more home game and then there will be a lot of pressure on the Nets to win at home in game five. The Nets are not used to playing close games, and they did not look great down the stretch when game three was close.

The Suns are better than I thought, but the Nuggets have this annoying/strange habit of looking disinterested one game and then dominant the next game. They have made a pattern of falling behind in series and then coming back. Perhaps the Suns will just continue to dominate, but I would not be surprised if the Nuggets bounce back at home.

It is interesting that the media insists that Paul is the best player on the Suns. Playmaking guards who played alongside high scoring wings (such as Booker) and dominant big men (such as Ayton) were not typically called the best player on their team, including Hall of Famers like Cousy (who did win an MVP, but prior to playing with Russell, Sam Jones, Havlicek, etc.) and Robertson (who no one called the best player on the team when he played alongside Kareem). Don't get me wrong: Paul is playing at a very high level right now, and he played at a high level during the regular season--but Booker is an All-NBA caliber player and Ayton is at least an All-Star caliber player.

At Sunday, June 13, 2021 1:14:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Game 3 a game they missed James in

I wouldn't

Bosh over james but if u do that perfectly fine

I take pierce and maybe ray allen over him

The media liked steve nash and didnt like kobe in 06 that why nash won it. Nash would of finished second tho anyway so he had a mvp caliber year

James won and deserved mvp in 2018

Plus he averaged 36 ppg a couple years back


Bron got to finals without kevin love and kyrie

But couldnt win it without them

Gs warriors got to finals without kd in 2019

But couldnt win it without them

So brooklyn having sucess now with no harden dont mean they wont need him down the road if they get there.

Giannis got to get way better offensively

He too predictable

I seen people say david

Chris paul carrying the suns like dirk did mavs in 2011

Lol chris is 3rd best player on team

But i see the narrative media paints


Was media darlings

At Sunday, June 13, 2021 6:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Its 2 to 2 now

This a game they missed harden

He by far they best play maker and very efficient scorer

Interesting to see if kyrie plays in game

5 after ankle sprain

If he can be effective i like nets

If not that favors bucks

Kd gonna have to put a team on his back and carry them

He gets out physical and he not a great play maker and it shows in series like this when he doesnt have a star next to him

Buck's caught a break And took advantage

Giannis is still one of the worst half court players i ever seen almost all his buckets come in transition and lobs

He needs to learn how to shoot better

This series look like a long one david or short depending game 5

At Sunday, June 13, 2021 10:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


If you would take Pierce and Allen over Harden but would not take Parish, Worthy, or Bosh over Harden then you are ranking Pierce and Allen higher than Parish, Worthy, and Bosh. That is interesting.

The Nets were supposedly built to win a title as soon as they acquired Durant and Irving to go along with the playoff caliber team that they already had. They moved some players to acquire Harden, and then they also added Griffin and Green. It is difficult to argue that Harden is essential under these conditions. Right now--or at least before the Irving injury--the Nets have Durant and Irving plus a better supporting cast than they had when they initially acquired Durant and Irving. It is nice to have a third All-Star, but not essential. That is all that I am saying.

Regarding Giannis, he may be predictable, but he is also a dominant inside scorer who rebounds, passes, and defends at a high level. He is a special player.

The Nets did not miss Harden in game four as much as they missed Irving. If they had Irving, they would not need Harden. Obviously, with both players out there is a problem.

That being said, Irving has been injury-prone throughout his career, and Harden is a notorious playoff choker. You can say that the Bucks "caught a break," but Irving and Harden not being 100% dependable or available is part of their playoff resumes (Irving hitting clutch shots when he is healthy is also part of his playoff resume).

Giannis is one of the most dominant scorers in the paint in the past 20 years or so, perhaps surpassed only by Shaq and Duncan. He should either shoot fewer threes or else become a better three point shooter, but that does not change the fact that he is a dominant scorer in the paint. He is better in the open court than in the half court set, but that is true of many great players.


Post a Comment

<< Home