Nets travel to Milwaukee for primetime showdown with the Bucks
With just 96% of their season left, the Brooklyn Nets are on track to end the regular season with a terrifying 27 wins after losing a stunning contest Monday night in Memphis. Is it too late to fill up for Victor Wembanyama? The 134-124 loss to the Grizzlies was marked by the incredible performances of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane, and the aftermath was marked by the return of a trusted friend: Panic.
Well, at least some. We’re already seeing data, Jerry. DATA! Really, there should be a moratorium on using numbers until we’re eight games into the season. When the Nets take their first three outside shots on Wednesday, they’ll jump from 22nd in league-wide three-point shooting to 17th. One more and they come in 16th place. It’s all pointless now. Sure, the lineup data clearly shows the Nets starters are struggling at the moment. That Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton are headed for an awkward front-seat partnership. It also shows that Kessler Edwards is outperforming Kyrie Irving per minute so far.
Of course there is some Findings from the first week of the season. It was widely believed that this year’s Portland Trail Blazers were a lipstick-wearing pig repackaging the Lillard-McCollum era. It’s already clear that their roster changes weren’t just cosmetic – the chaotic, athletic energy on the wings is a marked change from what the likes of Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu have brought. The impact of that on Portland’s final cap? open.
Which means we’ve gotten no damn answers to the cap-determining questions the networks are facing. We all know these questions. How close can Ben Simmons get to the best we’ve seen of him? Can he fit into Claxton offensively? How does Brooklyn react to adversity, how much will this team gel? None of these questions have answers that will take 12 quarters to figure out, certainly when the heart of them is only until his third real game in 16 months. All we have so far are some clues.
The loss to Memphis hurt, in part because wasting Irving and Durant’s 74 combined points feels just like that, a waste. But it happens. Memphis, which was eager to get home two days after being throttled on a street for the second night in a row, shot 47% on three-pointers. Morant and Bane went 12-17 alone, and most of those looks were Capital Tough. Brooklyn didn’t get the benefit of the whistle. That’s the way the NBA is. As with most games, I looked and compiled a Twitter thread of my observations here and found that while the defense was far from perfect, it wasn’t as bad as a 134 point would suggest.
Watching nets grizzlies will find interesting finds in this thread, although my type @MattBrooksNBA already has a great thread about the game
— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) October 25, 2022
The great thing about the NBA is that there’s always a next game, and it’s coming very soon. Wednesday and Thursday form a cross-city back-to-back for the Nets against Milwaukee, then against Dallas. Right, Giannis and Luka over 24 hours. A 1-4 start is not out of the question for Brooklyn. As panicked as the mood may be on Friday morning, we still won’t have the answers to the big questions. However, we will have more clues. Those hints were more encouraging than a 2-1 start (against three really good teams) would suggest. So let’s move on to a preview of Wednesday’s game against the Bucks, shall we? Just remember to breathe.
Where can you watch the game?
We have our first double dip of the season! It will air nationally on ESPN, but YES Network and the YES App will also be broadcasting the game. Meanwhile, WFAN-FM will have the paging once again. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Seth Curry and TJ Warren are staying out as expected, rehabilitating their respective injuries. Markieff Morris will miss his second straight game where a personal matter is at stake. The Nets did not provide an update for either Curry or Morris last Wednesday, so neither is currently ruled out for the second half of the clash that will take place against Dallas in Brooklyn on Thursday.
The Bucks are dealing with three unavailable players themselves, three wings all riddled with fairly long-term injuries. Pat Connaughton (calf) and Khris Middleton (wrist) are not expected to be reevaluated until mid-November. And veteran Joe Ingles, who is still rehabilitating a cruciate ligament rupture last January as a member of the Utah Jazz, isn’t expected to return until just before the All-Star break.
Milwaukee is rested and last played on Saturday. However, they probably didn’t need all three days off to recover from the Houston Rockets’ absolute flogging that put them down. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 44 points in a 17:21 shootout in just 28 minutes. The highlights are what you’d expect, although it’s surprising YouTube hasn’t reported it for child abuse yet.
And that’s it for the Bucks. Their win over the Rockets was the only game they’ve played since a season-opening win caught from the jaws of defeat on the Philly road. They are the only team to have played just two games. And mainly due to injuries, they look a little different at the start of the season.
The Milwaukee starting lineup consists of three guards, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and old friend Jevon Carter (who the Nets are paying this season), and two giants, Giannis and old, more-than-friends Brook Lopez. You may remember when these teams went head-to-head in preseason, but you would also be forgiven if you wiped preseason from your brain as soon as it ended.
Despite roster changes, the Bucks are still the Bucks: fierce to prevent shot attempts on the rim and completely nonchalant about allowing three-pointers outside the corner. Fun fact: Milwaukee has given up the most non-corner threes in four straight seasons, according to Cleaning the Glass. Last season, 32.2% of the shots they fired were threes over break. The Knicks, who had the second most shots, were closer to the 15th-ranked team than to the Bucks. The audacity of Milwaukee’s defense plan cannot be overstated.
It’s also a reason Brooklyn is much better suited to going full force against them this year. By any measure, the Nets lost to the Bucks in 2021 because their stars got injured. They brought aging, lumbering big men with them that offseason, and suddenly Milwaukee had a different class of athletes. This season, however, Brooklyn could stretch that defense beyond its limits. A lineup like Irving-Curry-Harris-Durant-Simmons asks for trouble defensively, but could be worth it against this team. And it’s not that O’Neale can’t shoot, or Warren should he be healthy enough to play. Swap those two for Curry and Harris and the team isn’t exactly microscopic.
If you want to look down the road, this could be the ultimate Simmons-at-the-5 matchup. Is Brook Lopez guarding Ben, sinking all the way into the paint and allowing him to do easy handoffs with whoever he wants? Does Milwaukee need to unseat their defensive anchor?
Of course, “down the road” is many rocky miles away. But Wednesday night could be the first look at Simmons playing the 5 surrounded by shooters. Philadelphia 76ers fans will tell you this isn’t the panacea it seems, and they’d be right. But we’ve heard repeatedly this offseason that the Nets were keen to try. So far we have seen nothing of this zeal:
Simmons played 97% of his minutes next to a non-shooting big, a lot of that off-ball. If you’re trying to minimize his skills and maximize his liabilities, you’re not sure you could top what Steve Nash has put out so far
– Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) October 25, 2022
That’s what I’ll be watching for on Wednesday night in terms of the matchups. Are we finally getting our first taste of Simmons in The 5? With Day’Ron Sharpe struggling in defense against this opponent, the answer could be yes. Other things to watch out for is an Irving Holiday matchup. Well that never disappoints.
players to watch
Monday night’s player was an obvious choice: Yes Morant. He only had 38 points and almost as many highlight games. Let’s see if Wednesday night’s obvious pick can match Morant: Giannis Antetokounmpo. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Brooklyn meet the three boys who will finish as the top three voters for this season’s MVP. Storylines are primed for all three, and I’m not sure you could have more diverse skills for three MVP candidates.
However, Giannis Antetokounmpo has possibly the most difficult skills Brooklyn has to contend with and that is sheer strength and power, attributes the Pelicans tanked the Nets with in the season opener. Of course, the Bucks are very different from New Orleans, and Giannis doesn’t exactly have teammates who are as physically imposing as Zion Williamson, for example. Check out this video from preseason:
Giannis knocks out Simmons and is greeted with branch arms by Nic Claxton, 6’11. He introduces himself to attack and would you watch that? Simmons waits in paint; left O’Neale, already with one foot in the paint. So he drives to the right, where the 7-foot-1 Kevin Durant is waiting for help and comes up with a steal. Brooklyn has the exoskeleton of a defense that can contain, if not stop, Giannis. We’ll see how hard they make him work on Wednesday night.
From the vault
hmmmm Too bad nothing memorable has happened between these teams lately. Oh! I almost forgot the legendary encounters between 2013 and 2015. There were, of course, Joe “Jesus” Johnson’s game-triggering and game-winning shots in the same overtime contest. In 2015, there were two separate triple overtime games between these teams, which they split.
And because I have a feeling Nets fans might be in the mood to laugh at the misfortunes of others for a change, here’s the most memorable highlight from both of those competitions, in the game they lost. It’s always a good time to remember Brandon Knight’s shocking lay-up miss:
Poor knight, everyone forgets he hit a game-winning three with 12 seconds left in double-OT. Oh well.
See Brew Hoop for more information.