The Bucks host the Nets Tuesday night in the third and final meeting between these teams this season. The Nets won the first matchup 125-123 on January 18th, but the Bucks won the second meeting 117-114 on Sunday in Milwaukee behind a season-high 49 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This game will have significant playoff seeding implications as the Nets are just one game behind the 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference while the Bucks are just 2.5 games behind the Nets for the second seed. A win Tuesday would go a long way to keep the Nets’ hopes of being the number one seed or the Bucks’ hopes of being the two seed alive.
Can Durant and Irving Lead the Nets to an Upset Win?If the Nets cover as road underdogs, they will need Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to play at a high level and shooters Joe Harris and Landry Shamet to step up with James Harden out. Harden (hamstring) and Chris Chiozza (hand) remain out indefinitely.
Durant is surging as he has scored a season-high 42 points in each of his last two games. In Durant’s nine games since April first, he is shooting 59% on threes, and he will need to continue his hot shooting for the Nets to upset the Bucks in Milwaukee.
Irving will face a challenge against the likes of Jrue Holiday and the Bucks defense, but Irving is one of the best shotmakers with limited space in the legue, and his handle is the best in the sport. Irving is an underrated cutter as an off-ball guard, and he will need to continue making crafty plays without the ball as Durant sees more usage against the Bucks.
Joe Harris has led the Nets from beyond the arc as his 48% accuracy from beyond the arc ranks in the 98th percentile among wings while doing so on high volume. Landry Shamet has increased his 3-point shooting percentage every month this season, and he has made over 42% of his threes since the beginning of April as he closes the season strong in Harden’s absence.
The Nets will also need other role players to play well to pull the upset. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green must put pressure on the rim and can give the Nets easy buckets when the Bucks over-commits to stop Durant, Irving and shooters. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Bruce Brown, Griffin (who leads the NBA in charges drawn), and Shamet give the Nets defensive versatility, and they will need to step up against the likes of Antetokounmpo when the Bucks drive to the basket.
Antetokounmpo Must Stay AggressiveIf the Bucks win and cover, as short home favorites they will need Antetokounmpo to stay aggressive and not settle for jump shots against the smaller Nets while Khris Middleton and shooters step up on the wings. Bobby Portis (illness) is probable while Jeff Teague (abdomen) is out Tuesday.
The Nets simply don’t have anyone who can guard Antetokounmpo, and he must put as much pressure on the rim as possible while playing under control. Antetokounmpo took a season-high eight three-point attempts in Sunday’s win while making a season-high four threes. It is unlikely Antetokounmpo continues this level of shooting from beyond the arc, and he will need to bully the Nets down low again and utilize his speed and strength advantage. While Antetokounmpo scored 49 points on Sunday, his most impressive play came on defense when he blocked a Durant step-back as he showed off his incredible length and athleticism.
unless you’re Giannis or a giraffe, i would never believe Kevin Durant’s jumper could be blocked like this. 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan and perfect form. it’s why Giannis won DPOY. inexplicable ability derived from inexplicable athleticism/drive. https://t.co/YFqHt2TFNG— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 2, 2021
While teams have shown that the best way to stop Giannis is to build a well to prevent him from getting to the rim, Middleton can counter that when defenders help on Antetokounmpo as he is making 43% of his threes this season (ranking in the 88th percentile among forwards). Middleton is also more than capable of getting his own shot at any time as his 118.4 points per 100 shot attempts rank in the 71st percentile among forwards (per Cleaning The Glass). He also distributes at a high level (his 23.0% assist percentage ranks in the 94th percentile among forwards).
Jrue Holiday’s two-way playmaking will also be important for the Bucks to cover, and shooters like him, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, and Donte DiVincenzo’s three-point accuracy will also be important for the Bucks to win and cover. Among three-point shooters making at least one three per game, Portis ranks third in the NBA with a 47.9% from beyond the arc this season.
- Nets are 11-28-1 ATS in the last 40 meetings.
- Nets are 44-19-1 ATS in their last 64 Tuesday games.
- Bucks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Bucks are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
- Bucks are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While the Nets have thrived as an underdog this season, I like the Bucks’ chances of winning and covering as the Nets remain without Harden. The Nets have two of the best tough shot makers in the league in Durant and Irving, but the Bucks will be able to consistently get higher quality looks against the Nets’ defense. Durant and Irving will get theirs, but Antetokounmpo’s advantage inside and the Bucks’ defensive versatility will be the difference.
Full-Game Total Pick
While both teams have prodigious scorers, there is value on the under as both teams face each other for the second consecutive game. While I don’t expect the defenses to reveal too many looks as these teams could face each other relatively soon in the playoffs, they should make some adjustments that challenge the offenses on Tuesday. This game will have a playoff-like feel to it, and this will lead to value on the under as the second consecutive matchup between these teams stays below the total.