In one of the most anticipated series' of the second round, the Bucks and Nets will renew acquaintances beginning on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
Here's a quick look at the tale of the tape entering this marquee NBA playoff showdown.
The Bucks dropped the first meeting between these two teams during the regular season by a narrow 125-123 margin in Brooklyn in mid-January but answered back with consecutive victories in a two-game set played in Milwaukee in early May. Note that the Bucks were favored in all three regular season matchups, although never by more than 3.5 points. They're currently a four-point underdog in advance of Saturday's Game 1 tilt in Brooklyn. The 'under' cashed in two of three meetings during the regular season with all three totals closing at 240 points or higher. Saturday's total currently sits at, you guessed it, 240 points. For the series, BetAnySports lists Brooklyn as a -190 favorite, with Milwaukee's odds at +175.
First round recap
Neither team faced much resistance in the opening round with the Bucks sweeping aside what appeared to be a disinterested Heat squad and the Nets crushing an under-performing, injury-plagued Celtics team in five games. Give the Bucks a slight advantage in terms of rest as they wrapped their series with Miami last Saturday while the Nets didn't finish off the Celtics until Tuesday night.
Stopping the Big Three
Milwaukee will be hard-pressed to stop or even slow down the Nets vaunted 'Big Three' with KD, Kyrie and the Beard having gone off against the Celtics in what at times looked like playground basketball in the opening round. The Bucks may be better served to focus on the other end of the floor, where they're certainly capable of exposing a bottom-tier Nets defense that ranked 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season and quietly allowed 117 points per game in the final four games against Boston last round. The Bucks check in averaging 120 points per game on better than 48% shooting this season.
Playing small ball
The Nets went with a smaller lineup for much of their opening round series, something that might not work so well against a Bucks squad that crashes the boards relentlessly led by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Nets are essentially void of any true rim defenders and could have a tough time preventing the Bucks from generating a boatload of second-chance scoring opportunities in this series. Brooklyn is at its best when it can get out in transition. Floor space just isn't going to be nearly as plentiful against Milwaukee as it was against Boston.
The Nets are the favorites to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy for a reason. While the Bucks got over a major hump by ousting at Heat squad that owned them in the bubble last summer, they face a much different challenge in round two. This is usually where we see Milwaukee start to wilt and while I don't believe we're in for a short series, I'm with the majority in thinking that the 'Big Three' will simply be too much over the course of a potential six or seven-game battle. Pick: Brooklyn in six.