Nets nipped by Bucks in riveting potential playoff preview

If this was a playoff preview, the followers bought their cash’s price. And the Bucks bought the win.

Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo dueled back-and-forth, MVP towards MVP. Until Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton stepped as much as tilt the scales, that’s.

The Nets led early in the fourth quarter, till Middleton sparked the decisive run handy the Nets a 117-114 loss earlier than a sellout crowd of three,280 at Fiserv Forum.

Durant had 42 factors and 10 rebounds however missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer that fell simply brief on the buzzer.

Antetokounmpo poured in a season-high 49 factors, and Middleton had six of his 26 throughout an 11-0 run that gave the Bucks the lead for good.

The Nets (43-22) fell right into a digital tie atop the Eastern Conference, pending Philadelphia’s sport towards San Antonio later Sunday evening. They noticed their lead over third-seeded Milwaukee (40-24) slashed to simply 2 ¹/₂ video games.

Kevin Durant drives towards Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Nets’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday.
Getty Images

If the Nets and Bucks end second and third, they’d be on a collision course to satisfy in the second spherical of the playoffs.

“It’s a great rehearsal,” coach Steve Nash stated. “Obviously, the game means a lot as far as seeding, but it’s also great that we approach the business end here, and everyone’s trying to find themselves and make sure they’re prepared to play at as high a level as possible. In a sense, things feel a little heightened now, and that’s great. It’s exciting, and it’s good for our team to face that type of realness, so to speak.”

The Nets bumped into some playoff-level protection on Sunday, arguably the hardest they’ve seen all season. Kyrie Irving, who has been placing defenders on skates, needed to work for his 20 factors and 6 assists towards Jrue Holiday.

The Nets went large towards Milwaukee, beginning DeAndre Jordan at heart and primarily leaving him alone on Antetokounmpo. They dared the Greek Freak to hit bounce photographs, and the remainder of the Bucks to beat them.

It didn’t work out.

“There’s no secret that you want to keep [Antetokounmpo] away from the basket. He’s so dominant at the rim, incredible in transition, picking-and-rolling, offensive rebounds, whatever it may be, so long, athletic,” Nash stated. “If he will get to the basket, it’s bother, not simply because he can rating or draw a crowd for offensive rebounds, or kick out and make these rotations actually lengthy.

“So it’s really important for us to keep him off our rim and outside of that area around the basket. But easier said than done, especially when they have some sort of balance. So many guys that are capable, they shoot the 3 very well, and Middleton and Holiday are All-Star level players. So great challenge for us.”

And after a high-quality, back-and-forth affair — with 5 lead modifications and 7 ties by means of three quarters — it was knotted once more at 90-all going into the fourth.

The Nets had been 35-1 when main or tied coming into the ultimate interval. Now its 35-2.

They scored the primary six factors of the interval with Durant and Irving each off the ground. Landry Shamet discovered Blake Griffin for a 3-pointer, and Griffin returned the favor after a Donte DiVincenzo miss, hitting Shamet for a 3 and 96-90 lead.

But the Bucks went on an 11-0 run to steal the momentum. A Holiday 3-pointer left the Nets in a 101-96 gap with 7:29 to play.

It was 113-107 after a Pat Connaughton 3-pointer with 3:51 left. The deficit was minimize to a few, however no nearer, as Durant missed on the buzzer.

The final time the groups met, the Nets gained at Barclays Center behind 34 factors and 12 assists from James Harden. But Harden was out Sunday with a hamstring harm and won’t be again earlier than the playoffs.

“It definitely can be a preview. Both teams are vying and expecting to make a run at this thing, so that’s definitely possible,” Nash stated. “I don’t know that we’ve had enough time and have a big enough catalogue of things to start hiding things. We are who we are. … We don’t have the corporate knowledge of four or five years of playing together. … We’re still growing, we’re still learning, we’re still trying to build every day. So we’re trying to get there, let alone start hiding things.”

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