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Breaking down matchups that will decide the Nets-Bucks series





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Now that the Nets have sidelined Boston, Milwaukee is expected to put up a lot more battle in the second round. The Nets are essentially 2-on-1 favorites to beat the Bucks and reach the Eastern Conference finals. But what should they do to achieve that?

Brian Lewis of The Post lists the matchups that will decide what kind of series this will be:

Nets’ 3-Point Shooting vs. Bucks’ 3-Point Defense

Joe Harris led the NBA with a percentage of 3 points, while the Nets were second as a team with 39.2 percent. That jumped to a lead of 42.6 percent in the first round of the playoffs. The Bucks’ defense—now more versatile than last season’s conservative drop coverage with Brook Lopez under the basket—still allowed the most 3s in the league (14.8), along with the second-highest percentage and the third most attempts. Losing Donte DiVincenzo (ankle) hurts too. Edge: nets

Bucks’ 3-Point Shooting vs. Nets’ 3-point defense

The Nets’ perimeter defenses were mediocre in both the regular and postseason. The Bucks were top 5 in the league both in 3-point percentage and in the regular season, but suddenly got cold from the outside in the playoffs, one of the few things they didn’t do well in the first round of the heat . DiVincenzo is out, while Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday are 5-for-39. Can the Nets keep them cool? Edge: nets

Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo
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rebounding

The Bucks were second in the rebound in the regular season, but that doesn’t show how dominant they are on the glass. They got even better in the playoffs, with their first round averages of 59 boards per game and 15.3 on the offensive glass, both leading the league by a large margin. The only reason the Nets’ 12.3 offensive rebounds weren’t the worst in the first round is because of what Milwaukee did to Miami. Edge: money

Draw fouls and shoot free throws

The Nets were only eighth in free throws during the regular season, but that predictably peaked in the playoffs when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and foul-drawing machine James Harden took over. The Nets’ first-round average of 25 free throws per game led the league by a huge margin, thanks to a misprint-like drop of 91.2. Despite the closer Khris Middleton – who has scored 96.4 per cent in his last 10 games – the Bucks are near the bottom of the remaining teams. Edge: nets

Nets Ability to Get Paint Points vs Bucks Domestic Defense

The shocking retirement of center LaMarcus Aldridge left the Nets essentially out of a post-up threat, so their paint points have to come from drives, lobs and into the pick and roll. The Bucks can slow that down, either with the defense glove Holiday taking away Harden’s drive, or with the internal defenses of Antetokounmpo, Lopez and PJ Tucker. Their average of 37 paint points allowed in the ‘Sweep of the Heat’ was the second least on the first round. Edge: money

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Bucks’ ability to get paint points vs. Nets’ inner defenses

After being third worst in the NBA by allowing paint points in the first half of the season, the sieve-like Nets eventually tightened that up and improved to sixth in the second half. The Bucks won’t place the Nets, but they can certainly feast on the attacking glass or with Antetokounmpo reaching the rim, especially with Jeff Green out. The Greek Freak’s game has gone from isolation and pick-and-roll ball handler to rolling man. Edge: Even

In transition

Both the Nets and the Bucks have dangerous fast breaks, and given the presence of Irving, Antetokounmpo and the other stars in this series, that’s not much of a surprise. But the difference is on the other side, getting back into the transition. The Bucks’ transitional defense was the third best in the NBA (10.7 points allowed), with the Nets sitting in the middle of the pack. That gap was closed somewhat in the playoffs, but it’s still in Milwaukee’s favor, like most defensive things. Edge: money

Depth/bench

As usual, the rotations in the playoffs will shrink. The Bucks essentially went nine deep for the loss of DiVincenzo, who scored just 2.3 points in the playoffs but added solid perimeter defense. The Nets only played 10 men with any regularity, but that includes Green, who sustained a plantar fascia injury against the Celtics on May 25 and is still trying to return for this series. Against a team as big as Milwaukee, that’s a critical injury. Edge: money

Coaching

Steve Nash of The Nets has pretty much acquitted himself as a novice head coach. Yes, he had access to impressive talent, but it was rarely at his disposal with the Big 3 logging just 202 minutes all season over eight games. He did keep the team moving in the right direction while improving his timeout usage and endgame management. Still, Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year and has a head start most nights. Edge: money

intangible assets

There’s something to be said for the Bucks doing it again with all that playoff experience. And while some may wonder if failure is experience, yes, experience is experience. But deep playoff runs are about stars having complete offensive games that cannot be taken away or easily planned. With their Big 3, the Nets have more than the Bucks – or just about anyone. Edge: nets

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