The Milwaukee Bucks will now officially square off against the Brooklyn Nets in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Both teams handled their business in their respective first round matchups, with the Bucks sweeping the Miami Heat and the Nets knocking out the Boston Celtics in five games. Following those victories, these two top-heavy titans will now clash in a seven-game set that is shaping up to be must-see television.
Although the Bucks won the regular season series 2-1 against the Nets, all three matchups were played without Brooklyn at full strength. One member of their formidable trio, arguably among the best accumulation of talent in league history, was sidelined in each matchup.
Slowing down these three superstars will be the top priority for the Bucks, and they have the necessary personnel to do their part.
With that being said, here are the three most important matchups that will occur throughout this series between the Bucks and the Nets.
Jrue Holiday will likely have to guard Kyrie Irving for the Milwaukee Bucks
Kyrie Irving has built up a reputation as arguably the flashiest ballhandler and scoring guard in the association today and the Bucks will need to keep him in check.
Luckily for them, they have Jrue Holiday, who has earned his stripes as one of the best defenders in the association. According to NBA.com/stats, Holiday was tasked with guarding Irving for 59.3 partial possessions throughout their two regular season matchups this year, the second-most of any player in the league. However, Irving certainly got the best of the two-time All-Defensive honoree by scoring 21 points on 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) shooting in addition to dishing out seven assists.
To his credit, Holiday forced three turnovers from the guard during their time matched up and the Bucks won both contests. Irving subsequently praised Holiday for his pestering defensive efforts throughout their back-to-back games played against one another last month as these are two of the best players at their craft in the league.
This time around, Holiday will almost certainly be tasked with guarding Irving from the opening tip. It will be a tough cover once more, but Holiday has the defensive prowess to slow down the seven-time All-Star. It will be another individual instance of high-octane offense versus hounding defense, and the ladder will need to succeed for the Bucks to have the best chance to one.
At the same time, Holiday will also have to put forth his contributions offensively. No defender saw more time against Holiday this season than Irving on partial possessions with 43.9 total. Milwaukee’s starting point guard scored just nine points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-3 from behind the arc in that time, not exactly leaving his mark. If Holiday can take advantage of the matchup with Irving, the Bucks will be in good shape in that area.