The Nets face the top team in the East at home as 8.5 point underdogs
Let’s not beat around the bush here, the Nets were incredibly disappointing in their last game. They lost to the 76ers on the road by double digits despite the absence of Joel Embiid. This was shocking to me considering the Nets won their first matchup against Philadelphia by 20 points. Things are not about to get any easier for the Nets. They will have to face the best team in the Eastern Conference Saturday night when the Milwaukee Bucks come to town.
Saturday night’s game will feature teams headed in opposite directions. The Nets have lost two straight while the Bucks have won five games in a row. And to make things worse, the Nets lost to a banged up 76ers team while the Bucks tore apart the 3rd best team in the East. Now, Brooklyn will have to win this game without the services of DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple, while Milwaukee comes into this one with an almost entirely healthy roster.
You cannot heap enough praise onto the Milwaukee Bucks. Through 43 games, the Bucks have a record of 37-6, which is the best in the NBA so far. Pretty much all the Bucks’ success can be attributed to reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak leads Milwaukee in minutes per game, points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, and field goal percentage. He also leads the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating with a PER of 33.29. For some perspective, James Harden is currently posting a PER of 30.84 despite scoring seven more points per game than Giannis. If Antetokounmpo keeps up this pace of play, he may once again be named Most Valuable Player.
The Bucks have plenty of talent beyond the Greek Freak. Milwaukee currently leads the league in points per game (119.6 PPG). The Bucks also average the most rebounds per game in the NBA (51.7 RPG). Furthermore, they are near the top of the league in assists per game as well as blocks per game. They have had no problem playing as a complete team so far this season. In fact, the Bucks have four other players after the Greek Freak that are putting up more than ten points per game. Small Forward Khris Middleton is playing the perfect Scottie Pippen to Giannis’ Michael Jordan. The 28 year old is averaging 19.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 3.8 APG. While his PER of 21.25 may not be elite, it certainly is good enough to draw attention away from Giannis, leaving him open to terrorize opponents. Eric Bledsoe is also having himself a good season. The 10th year man out of Kentucky is quietly putting up more than 15 points per game as well as 5.3 assists per game. These guys aren’t necessarily producing numbers that will blow you away, but they are doing enough to help Giannis dominate other teams. As a result, the Bucks find themselves with the best record in the NBA and a 7.5 game lead over the second best team in the Eastern Conference.
So what does this mean for the Nets? In all likelihood, another tough loss. I could potentially see Brooklyn winning this game because the Bucks barely squeaked by a very dangerous Boston Celtics team, so this could be a trap game for Milwaukee. But if this game were to be played 100 times, I would venture to say that Milwaukee would end up winning this game 60 to 70 times. 8.5 points is a pretty big spread, but I think some late game heroics by the reigning MVP will put this game just out of reach for the Nets. I like the Bucks to cover.