The Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks played one of the most memorable games of the 2021 NBA Playoffs in Game 5 of their second-round series. After the Bucks took a huge lead in Game 5, the heroics of Kevin Durant propelled the Nets to a victory and a 3-2 series lead. Now, a game away from the Eastern Conference Finals, the Nets will look to close the Bucks out in Game 6 despite being short-handed.
Without Kyrie Irving and with James Harden close to immobile in Game 5, the Brooklyn Nets knew they would need to count on Kevin Durant. But the extent to which Durant carried the Nets in that game could not have been anticipated. Durant played all 48 minutes of Game 5, scoring 49 points on just 23 field goal attempts to lift the Nets to victory in the most important game of the team’s season.
In addition to Durant, Jeff Green and Blake Griffin stepped up in a big way for the Nets. The two combined for 44 points on a combined 15-22 shooting from the field. While it may be difficult to replicate that production from those role players on the road in Game 6, the fact that the Nets were able to ride Durant, Green, and Griffin to a 3-2 lead gives them some margin for error heading into this contest.
As of now, James Harden is expected to play again for the Nets, while Kyrie Irving is set to miss Game 6 with his ankle injury. Harden scored just five points on 1-10 shooting from the field in Game 5, and it is unclear just how much the Nets can expect from him tonight.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, they have to feel like they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in Game 5 against the Nets. The Bucks led by as many as 17 points in the game and were up by 16 points at halftime. Now the Bucks will have to show that they can respond to adversity in Game 6, or their season will be coming to an abrupt end. Giannis Antetokounmpo also mentioned how he wanted to take on the task of guarding Durant.
The offense for Milwaukee wasn’t the issue in Game 5, as the team shot 49% from the field and 40% from three-point range. Instead, it was the defense in the second half that let them down, as the Bucks allowed a whopping 71 points in the final 24 minutes of play to blow their substantial lead. If the Bucks can’t figure out a way to stop Durant from getting whatever he wants, this will be the final game of Milwaukee’s season.
The Pick: Bucks -5
While their performance in Game 5 has not inspired much confidence in their intestinal fortitude, the injury situation for the Nets still gives the Bucks an advantage in this game. Expect Milwaukee to play with a sense of urgency and for the Nets to play like a team that knows they still have a home game to work with if things don’t work out tonight. The Bucks will win convincingly and force a Game 7.