Through two games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Brooklyn Nets are putting the brakes on one of the NBA’s best offenses.
While the Nets are rolling right along with an offensive attack that set an NBA record for efficiency this season, they’ve jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Milwaukee Bucks while containing an attack that was in Brooklyn’s rarefied air during the regular season.
"I think we just competed,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash after Brooklyn’s 125-86 Game 2 win. “You could talk about schemes and all that stuff but really our fight and our level of competition, guys being locked in, being aware of the game plan and being able to take care of details has been outstanding. It's gotta continue. It's even gotta improve. They're gonna raise their level and we've gotta raise ours as well."
Joe Harris called Game 2, “probably some of the best possessions, quarters that we’ve had all season.”
“I think a lot of it is effort, just a level of continuity where I think, as the season has gone one, we’ve improved on the defensive end,” said Harris. “That’s just our ability to play off of one another. We’ve always kind of been able to do that offensively because of the level of talent we have. But defense takes time to get familiar with one another and piece it together where you’re playing so in sync that you’re able to cover for each other. That combined with a high level of intensity, a high level of preparation and you have defensive efforts like tonight.”
The Bucks were fifth in the NBA in offensive rating this season, but their 116.5 points per 100 possessions made them one of seven teams to surpass the previous record set by the Dallas Mavericks last season. They also led the league with 120.1 points per game and were second in effective field goal percentage (56.6) behind only the Nets.
That’s the group the Nets have locked down through the first two games. The 86 points the Bucks scored in Game 2 were their fewest of the season. Through two games the Nets have held Milwaukee to 97.0 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks are shooting 44.3 percent overall and 24.6 percent from 3-point range with an effective field goal percentage of 48.1. During the regular season, they shot 48.7 and 38.9 percent.
“It’s the level of effort, the attention to detail, our communication,” said Kyrie Irving. “Just really being there for one another on the defensive end. That makes a huge difference when guys are playing against us and instead of seeing one body they’re seeing two or three. Just trying to make our opponent think.”
“I like our attention to detail, I like how we didn't get a lot of plays perfect but we made second and third efforts,” said Kevin Durant. “They didn't destroy us on offensive rebounds, that showed we were boxing out, that was an emphasis for us. But for the most part we just did what we were supposed to do, win two at home now we got to see if this game is going to travel on the road for us and we got to stay locked in.”