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Nets slaughter Bucks in Game Two

Brooklyn blows out Milwaukee at Barclays to take 2-0 lead

June 8, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving wasn’t the least bit surprised that the Brooklyn Nets dominated the Milwaukee Bucks at Downtown’s Barclays Center Monday night for a commanding two games to none advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I think we were capable of greatness every single night,” Irving said following Brooklyn’s start-to-finish 125-86 demolition of the Milwaukee Bucks in front of 15,776 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“Just depends on the approach we have coming in.”

Monday’s approach resulted in the Nets posting their largest margin of victory ever in a playoff game, Brooklyn’s tenacious defense limiting Milwaukee to no more than 24 points in any of the four quarters and a game-high 32 points from Kevin Durant.

With a sparkling 6-1 mark in these playoffs and a scintillating 49.6 percent shooting percentage from the field, including 43 percent from 3-point range, the Nets are eager to continue taming former two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounpo and the Bucks.

Milwaukee took two of three meetings from Brookyn during the regular season, but as Irving explained, the regular season was simply prologue to the playoff run the Nets have embarked upon after breezing through Boston n five games and grabbing a quick 2-0 lead on the Bucks.

“Throughout the regular season I feel like we would let our guard down playing against some of the teams in our league and they would punch us in the mouth and we would come in and talk to you guys after the game about what happened,” noted Irving, who finished with 22 points in Game 2.

“I think we just figured out the little things in terms of how to create separation within the game and just remain resilient throughout,” he added. “That’s basically what it’s come to. It’s just remaining resilient no matter what’s going on and sticking to our preparation, our game plan.”

Joe Harris and Bruce Brown tacked on 13 points apiece and Mike James had 10 off the bench for the Nets, who will be in Milwaukee Thursday night looking for a 3-0 advantage.

Antetokounpo was limited to 18 points and Khris Middleton had 17 for the Bucks, who are two losses from elimination after entering this series with hopes of advancing to the conference finals.

“We feel like we’re better than the way we’re playing and we know that,” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday insisted. “But at this point, we can’t really be down. We’ve got to stay positive.”

Giannis Antetokounpo and the Bucks will try to begin climbing out of a 2-0 series hole when they take the floor for Game 3 in Milwaukee Thursday. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

Hard to do when you are shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range in back-to-back games and getting beat up and down the floor despite the absence of Brooklyn superstar James Harden, who left Game 1 in the first minute of play with a hamstring strain.

“We didn’t play very well overall — first quarter, the whole game,” ceded Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer. “I think we’ve got to play better from start to end.”

That’s exactly what Brooklyn did at Barclays on Monday, running out to a 17-point cushion after one quarter, running that lead to 29 in the second period and opening up as much as a 49-point cushion early in the fourth.

“Tonight was exceptional,” gushed Nets head coach Steve Nash.

“The guys have worked hard out of this year trying to find our best kind of level defensively, what works for us, how we can refine and improve it.”

If it improves any more, the Bucks will be sent home early for the third consecutive year despite title aspirations and the Nets will be exactly where many thought they would wind up when this season began: one step away from the NBA Finals.

For now, however, Nash is making sure his team doesn’t get complacent on the road.

Brooklyn took two from the Celtics here before dropping Game 3 in Beantown.

The Nets don’t want to give a stronger and more able opponent any breathing room when this series continues Thursday.

“We held home court. We performed well in the two games,” Nash said.

“For our group, we want to keep growing, keep getting better. We’re still very new to one another and so there’s a lot of things that we can continue to refine and improve and we’ll go and try to keep improving in Milwaukee.”

The Bucks can only watch as Kevin Durant rises up for two of his game-high 32 points Monday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center

NOTHING BUT NET: There was no medical update on Harden following Game 2 as the former three-time scoring champ re-aggravated the hamstring injury that caused him to miss 18 games toward the end of the regular season. Also, the Nets are still without veteran forward Jeff Green, who missed his fifth straight game with a left foot strain. … Former Net Brook Lopez finished 10 points and six rebounds Monday. … Game 4 will also be in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Game 5, if necessary, is back in Brooklyn next Tuesday night.

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