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The Bucks’ best players were on the bench in the fourth quarter with the game conceded, watching the final minutes of an ugly blowout loss to the Nets as the Barclays Center crowd celebrated.
The Bucks performed dismally at both ends of the court, enduring their uncustomary second consecutive poor shooting night, while the Nets set a team record with 21 made 3-pointers, in a 125-86 loss to fall behind 2-0 as the second-round playoff series shifts back to Milwaukee on Thursday night.
“Whether you get beat by a point or by 40, you know, you’ve got to be ready for Game 3. You’ve got to have a short-term memory,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They’ve won two games at home. Now it’s our turn to go play there. I mean we’ve all seen it 1,000 times, you guys have heard it.
“You know we’ve got to go and protect our home court, just like they protected theirs. If you’ve been in the league a long time you’ve seen this before and we’ve got to go home and play better.”
That was the party line with the Bucks’ players after the game, as well, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, neutralized two-time All-Star Khris Middleton and point guard Jrue Holiday all attempting to spread the same message about the rout counting as just one loss, regardless of the final score.
Middleton was hounded by Bruce Brown from the start and missed his first eight shots. He finished 7-for-20 from the field (17 points) after a 6-for-23 shooting night in Game 1, for a 23.3 shooting percentage through two games.
“I missed a couple I should have had, forced a couple I shouldn’t have. I’ve gotta find a better rhythm, and better shot selection,” Middleton said. “I think we’ve been playing right into their hands, playing too much one-on-one.”
At the defensive end, the Bucks allowed Kevin Durant and the Nets to do whatever they wanted despite James Harden’s injury absence. The Nets connected on a team record 21 3-pointers, and KD led the way with 32 points in 33 minutes.
“We gotta figure out how to stop that. You can’t stop it, but have to make it as tough as possible,” Antetokounmpo said of Durant. “At the end of the day, I’ve said it before, he’s one of the best scorers in the league, he’s supposed to do this, but we have to make it as tough as possible.”
Antetokounmpo also finished with a relatively quiet stat line with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bucks finished 8-for-27 from 3-point range after missing 24 of 30 from long distance in the opener.
“When you’re down 25 or 30 [in the fourth quarter], sitting on the bench, there’s no frustration, the game is over,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, I don’t get too high or get too low. I wasn’t too high after the Miami series, up 4-0. Down 2-0, I’m not low. … Keep believing in the team and in the habits we had all year, and hopefully Game 3, we’ll get a win.”
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