The Milwaukee Bucks should have taken advantage of James Harden’s injury and cruised past the Brooklyn Nets in game 1 of the semifinals matchup. Instead, the Bucks squandered a chance to go ahead 1-0 in the series with a 115-107 loss on Saturday night.
James Harden drove to the bucket on the left side and, after passing the ball, grabbed his right hamstring 43 seconds into the game. He later went to the locker room and didn’t return.
It was the prime opportunity for the Bucks to take advantage of the Nets with one of their ‘Big 3’ down for the count. Timely unforced turnovers (14) and dismal 3-point shooting (6-of-30) didn’t give them any chance to build momentum in the second half.
It wasn’t the offensive performance that will win any playoff game.
Game 2 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Nets is Monday night at 6:30 p.m. CT in Brooklyn.
After trailing by just two points at halftime, Milwaukee played little defense in the third quarter and fell behind by as many as 16 points. Brooklyn shot 56 percent in the third quarter.
Milwaukee, who has shown explosive 3-point shooting throughout the season, ended 6-of-30 (20 percent) from long range to go along with 11-of-19 at the free-throw line.
For head coach Mike Budenholzer, it was the execution that needs to improve.
Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, while Khris Middleton scored 13 points on 6-of-23 shooting and had 13 rebounds. Jrue Holiday ended his night with 17 points (7-of-19), nine rebounds, and six assists. Brook Lopez also had 19 points.
Kevin Durant had 29 points and 10 rebounds, while Kyrie Irving tallied 25 points and eight assists. What the Bucks couldn’t do was contend with Blake Griffin’s 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Giannis has plenty of experience to know that one loss in a series doesn’t mean the series is over.
Even in the final 12 minutes, the Bucks should have made a run but didn’t. They led the league in scoring during the regular season and weren’t able to find their touch. Brooklyn shot 30.4 percent and opened the door for Milwaukee.
Instead, the Bucks shot 2-of-7 from long range and got to the free-throw line just six times. Middleton went 0-for-5 in the final quarter.
It remains to be seen if Harden’s injury will keep him out of game 2 and beyond. Milwaukee needs to get ahead early and put the hammer down to even the series if Harden is out for an extended period of time.