For Brooklyn, the Celtics had been only a teaser. Now comes the true check.
The Nets dispatched Boston in a gentleman’s sweep, and discover Milwaukee — a group they misplaced the season collection to — ready within the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s a matchup of star-studded Big 3s that some say is extra befitting of the NBA Finals.
“They’re a great team and they’re tough to deal with,” Kevin Durant mentioned. “We respect everybody on their team. We know exactly what they bring to the table. We’re just going to go out there and have fun playing the game of basketball. We’re going to challenge each other. You know they’re going to challenge us and vice versa. May the best team win.”
Philadelphia gained the East’s prime seed, however the Nets are favored to win the title and — particularly with 76ers star Joel Embiid struggling a torn meniscus — Milwaukee is arguably their greatest problem within the East, beginning Saturday (7:30 p.m., TNT).
The Bucks have been resting and ready after sweeping defending convention champ Miami. And they did it with the simplest defensive efficiency in a collection up to now 5 postseasons, led by two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I think it’s meant for a lot of the best players in the league to go up against one another and show why we a-e who we are,” Kyrie Irving mentioned. “Mutual respect on either side for what we’re able to doing talent-wise.
“We obviously know it’s going to be some adjustments made on the fly when we’re going up against each other. … Basketball is basketball. Like I said, once we step on the floor, it’s who can score the most and get the most stops.”
Those Bucks gamers embrace defensive glove Jrue Holiday and ahead Khris Middleton. But any dialogue begins with Antetokounmpo.
The Nets misplaced the season collection 2-1 and couldn’t sluggish the Greek Freak. He averaged 39.7 factors, 10.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
“He’s long, athletic, plays hard — he cares about his teammates, he cares about winning. You put that combination together, you make a tough player,” Durant mentioned. “And his game is expanding. He’s hitting the turnaround J now, he’s shooting 3s, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. He’s a two-time MVP, defensive player of the year for a reason. So we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
According to Nets coach Steve Nash, that problem isn’t going to return all the way down to ways, however psychological toughness.
“He’s right,” James Harden agreed. “It’s not going to come down to X’s and O’s and plays and different schemes. At the end of the day, after Game 1 and Game 2, we’re going to know each other’s plays. So it’s about details and the small things, the box outs, who can dive on the basketball on the floor, who’s going to make winning plays. Whoever does is going to have a chance of winning.”
It needs to be famous, with all three regular-season matchups determined by a complete of simply 11 factors, the Bucks had their three stars for all of them. The Nets didn’t have their Big 3 for any of them.
Irving missed the Jan. 18 victory, whereas Harden was hamstrung for the May 2 and May 4 defeats at Fiserv Forum.
“I can just remember sitting out those two games we had in Milwaukee, and we fought, we fought, we had them down,” Harden mentioned. “It was close games possession-by-possession, like a playoff atmosphere. So we can expect that same kind of intensity, or even another level.”
Brooklyn began DeAndre Jordan towards Antetokounmpo within the May 2 matchup, and the Greek Freak scored 49 whereas Jordan is now out of the rotation. Jeff Green began two days later, however he’s injured. Durant and Blake Griffin are the one different Nets who spent any vital time guarding Antetokounmpo, and now they’ve Nic Claxton.
Nash has rather a lot to consider.
“Personally, I’m thinking about them right now, the matchups and things they do on both ends of the ball. Obviously, we know how good they are on both sides and their individual talents,” Harden mentioned. “Thursday we go watch film and prepare.”