2021 Playoffs: East Semifinal | Nets (2) vs. Bucks (3)

Bucks face character test after getting embarrassed by Nets

A 39-point loss re-oriented expectations for Milwaukee vs. Brooklyn. Can the Bucks rediscover their mojo?

Steve Megargee | The Associated Press

Inside the NBA: Can Bucks recover from 39-point loss?

MILWAUKEE (AP) — No second-round matchup had more advance billing than the Brooklyn Nets-Milwaukee Bucks series that featured the NBA’s two highest-scoring offenses.

So far, it’s been no contest.

Brooklyn has been every bit as potent as advertised in building a 2-0 lead. But the struggling Bucks posted their lowest point total of the season in a 125-86 Game 2 loss.

The Bucks’ chances of making this a competitive series depend on whether they can return home and regain the form they showed before these last couple of games.

“I think they have a great track record and history of playing well and responding,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said Wednesday. “We talked about how your character is tested.”

These Bucks certainly have a great track record in the regular season. They posted the league’s best regular-season record in 2018-19 and 2019-20 before finishing third in the Eastern Conference this season.

But they’re staring at the likelihood of a second straight second-round playoff exit unless they turn things around quickly. Thursday’s playoff action has the Bucks hosting the Nets in Game 3 and the Utah Jazz attempting to take a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers.

“This is going to be a really tough game,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “We’ll see the best Milwaukee has in Game 3. We’ve got to be prepared for that and be ready to come out of the gates really strong.”

Brooklyn entered the playoffs with a reputation as an offensive juggernaut and with question marks on its defense. But the Nets have spent the first two games of this series shutting down Milwaukee’s high-powered offense.

Durant's offensive skillset has mystified the Bucks through two games.

The Bucks were the first team since the 1984-85 Denver Nuggets to finish a regular season averaging at least 120 points per game, but their offense has looked like a shell of itself so far in this series. Brooklyn’s constant switching on defense has thrown the Bucks out of sync.

“They’ve had great intensity the first two games,” Bucks forward P.J. Tucker said of the Nets. “I think they’ve kind of been all over the place, all over the floor, on offense and defense. I think they just had a little more of an edge than we’ve had.”

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