Kevin Durant lacks support as Nets are blown out by Bucks

The Nets hosted the Bucks on Friday night for the first time since last season’s heartbreaking ouster, an overtime loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

This time the stakes weren’t as high. But the beating was far worse. 

The Nets got thrashed 121-109 by the shorthanded Bucks before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Barclays Center. 

And the game wasn’t as close as it sounded. 

The last time the Bucks walked off the floor, the Nets’ minds were filled with “what-ifs.” This time it was more “what went wrong?” The Nets trailed 87-63 midway through the third quarter after a pair of free throws by Giannis Antetokounmpo and never rallied. 

“I think the reflection on the series is one part the disappointment of injuries. The other part is: What could we do better? What could we learn from this? What could we take from this?” coach Steve Nash said before the game Friday. “Part of it is difficult when you expect to have … you never plan to have guys out at that critical moment. But you also look inward and be reflective on what you can improve and what you can do. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo tips out a rebound during the Bucks’ win over the Nets.
Getty Images

“Like I said, some of that is difficult. You don’t plan [on injuries], but you always look back on those things and think, ‘What could we have done better?’ I think a lot of it is 50-50 on whether it’s valid or not. But it’s still a great experience to go through to push your resolve, to ask questions of your approach and all of the decisions you make as a group.” 

The Nets are convinced that playoff loss came down to Kyrie Irving’s absence, James Harden’s hamstring injury and Kevin Durant’s long two-pointer at the buzzer being an inch inside the 3-point line. Had any one of those things gone their way, they believe they would have advanced — and maybe would have earned the championship rings the Bucks have now. 

But Friday was a stark reminder of the current gap between the two teams. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo takes the ball away from Kevin Durant.
Giannis Antetokounmpo takes the ball away from Kevin Durant.
Robert Sabo

The Nets (24-13) were drilled by a team playing without Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, George Hill and even coach Mike Budenholzer due to the health and safety protocols. It didn’t seem to matter. 

Durant finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to duel Giannis Antetokoumpo in a matchup of the two best players on the planet. Antetokoumpo had 31 points and nine assists, and he also had help. 

Harden had a fairly quiet 16 points and finished a minus-20. He had just six points on 2-for-10 shooting in the first half, when the Nets fell behind by 60-49. That deficit reached 24 in the third quarter. 

For Milwaukee, Bobby Portis had 25 points and 12 rebounds, including 20 and nine at the break. Khris Middleton added 20. 

Khris Middleton drives against LaMarcus Aldridge during the Bucks' 121-109 win over the Nets.
Khris Middleton drives against LaMarcus Aldridge during the Bucks’ 121-109 win over the Nets.
Robert Sabo

“I think Giannis is such an incredible player. I think he makes them a threat no matter who’s out there with him,” Nash said. “Him and Middleton will certainly lead them and cause all sorts of problems for us and we’ll have to be engaged and physical and ready to play.” 

The Nets’ 14-3 record away from Brooklyn is tied for the best road record in the NBA. But at home? Friday’s loss dropped the Nets to 10-10, just .500 in their own building, where they have failed miserably to develop a homecourt advantage. 

Barclays Center may have been sold out, but it has lacked vital energy except for rare exceptions, such as when the Nets have hosted the rival Knicks. 

“I don’t know. Sometimes that happens with teams,” Nash said. “I think it’s great that we have a good road record but certainly should be something we seek to improve at home. We don’t start games as well as we’d like to. Just haven’t had maybe the same kind of intensity at home as on the road perhaps if you look at the totality of our games but I don’t really have an answer for you.”

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