Bucks vs. Nets predictions, picks, schedule & more to know for 2021 NBA playoff series

Bucks vs. Nets predictions, picks, schedule & more to know for 2021 NBA playoff series



What to know about Bucks vs. Nets

Milwaukee and Brooklyn met three times during the 2020-21 regular season, but what did those contests really tell us? The Nets never had their full “Big Three” available against the Bucks — Kyrie Irving missed the first game, and James Harden sat out the other two — so it would be unwise to look into the results too deeply.

But now these Eastern Conference powerhouses are heading into the second round with the full set of stars ready to go.

The Bucks were the first team to enter the conference semifinals after easily dispatching the Heat. Six different Milwaukee players averaged at least 10 points per game in that first-round sweep, including reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who posted 23.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists against Miami.

The Nets, meanwhile, eliminated a battered Celtics squad in five games, only dropping Game 3 in Boston. Kevin Durant, Harden and Irving each shined in the series and showed exactly why many fans and analysts consider Brooklyn the favorite to win the NBA championship.

So what will happen when these contenders meet at center court? Let’s dive in…

The key matchup

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kevin Durant

No one can stop Durant. He is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game, and he gets buckets at every level, whether near the basket, in the midrange or beyond the arc.

With that said, Antetokounmpo is built to at least make it tough for him. How many defenders can actually block a Durant jumper?

Antetokounmpo proved he was willing to accept the toughest defensive assignment when he guarded Heat star Jimmy Butler in the first round. Butler averaged just 14.5 points per game while shooting less than 30 percent from the field. He went 3-of-12 with Antetokounmpo as his primary defender, per NBA.com matchup data.

“Giannis has unique defensive talent, and Butler is such a great talent, scorer, passer,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It takes a lot of discipline to guard a guy like Jimmy Butler. For Giannis to have that discipline with the competitiveness makes him special.”

Durant is a completely different challenge, of course. He torched the Celtics with incredible efficiency, including a 42-point effort in which he hit 14 of his 20 field goal attempts. 

The big question is whether Budenholzer will employ the same strategy he used in the first round by telling Antetokounmpo to focus on Durant, or if he is more concerned with Harden’s playmaking than Durant’s scoring brilliance. That’s the brutal part of facing the Nets — plug one hole in the boat, and another one suddenly appears.

The X-factor

Will one of the sharpshooters get hot?

Milwaukee knows better than any team how much one shooter can change a series. During the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet had the greatest three-game shooting stretch in playoff history against the Bucks, hitting 14 of his 17 3-pointers in Games 4-6. Toronto won all three of those games and advanced to the NBA Finals.

Both teams have guys capable of catching fire from the outside. Nets guard Joe Harris led the league in 3-point percentage this season (47.5 percent), and it wasn’t just because he picked his spots, as he took 6.4 attempts from deep per game.

Bucks guard Bryn Forbes wasn’t far behind Harris during the regular season, shooting 45.2 percent on 4.9 3-point attempts per game. He drilled 16 of his 33 triples against the Heat.

Harris and Forbes are far from the biggest names in this series, but they could easily swing a game or two.

The big number

64.9

Heading into Tuesday’s Game 5, Brooklyn had the lowest defensive rebounding percentage among all playoff teams at 64.9 percent, per NBA.com stats. Why is that a notable number?

Well, as of Tuesday, Milwaukee was second among all playoff teams in offensive rebounding percentage (33.6) behind only, yes, Boston (35.1). The Bucks are also first in second-chance points per game (18.8), a notable increase from the regular season (13.2).

If the Nets can’t keep Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, P.J. Tucker and others off the boards, that could be a huge problem.

Bucks vs. Nets schedule

The series schedule will be posted here when the NBA announces dates and times for each game.

Bucks vs. Nets prediction

Bucks in seven

This series should be fascinating and competitive from the start. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brooklyn build off first-round momentum and roll through the East, but that feels too dismissive of Milwaukee’s talent and chemistry.

The Bucks get a very slight edge here because they can attack multiple ways offensively and have shown they can be an elite team defensively.

“You gotta figure out ways to keep winning,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think this team’s so versatile. You know, we can win a game with defense, scoring 80 points to win the game. One game we can score 130 points. One game we can score 80 points in the paint. One game we can score 25 threes, so that’s what makes us such a unique team.” 

One prediction that feels safe: This should be a lot of fun.





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