Milwaukee Bucks: 3 key tactics to slow down Brooklyn Nets in Conference Semifinals

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 04: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 04: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – MAY 04: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – MAY 04: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After handling the Miami Heat in a swift sweep during the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks look to extend their excellent form to the next series against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

Going head-to-head against an offensive juggernaut like the Nets will require a lot of focus and persistence from the Bucks on both ends of the floor. Brooklyn is coming off a gentleman sweep of the Celtics where the Big 3 of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant averaged a whopping 85.2 points per game, the highest ever by a trio in the playoffs.

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The Bucks, meanwhile, have been experimenting a lot on the defensive end through the regular season and have sacrificed their seeding and in advanced metrics compared to the previous two years. The dividends have definitely payed off as the Bucks’ suffocating defense played a huge role in their sweep over the Heat. Per, the Bucks ranked first in defensive rating (95.4) going into their series against the Nets.

In order to have a good chance of winning against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks need to throw every tactic in the book. So, let’s look at three ways the Milwaukee Bucks can slow the Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Milwaukee Bucks should use a highly versatile lineup and intense switching

The Bucks have a massive task at hand to guard three of the greatest perimeter scorers ever at the same time for 40-plus minutes. Although the Nets’ ‘Big 3’ has played only eight games in the regular season, they were devastating on offense against the Celtics in the first round. The Nets averaged 123.4 points per game on a highly efficient 58.2 effective field goal percentage.

Compared to the injury-riddled Celtics, the Bucks are definitely more equipped to handle the Nets and could try a few adjustments to their starting lineup to better match up, especially in light of losing Donte DiVincenzo for the rest of the season. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer inserted Pat Connaughton into the starting lineup for the series clinching victory over the Heat as Donte’s replacement, but that alone might not be useful against the Nets.

After all of the many additions throughout the year, the Bucks have the potential to play with a highly versatile lineup and make use of their switching experiments from the regular season. Putting in a lineup of Jrue Holiday, Pat Connaughton, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and P.J. Tucker in crunch time could be huge defensively and may be necessary.

That small lineup would be able to provide a counter to a lot of the Nets’ offensive plays. The Harden-Durant pick and roll is stuff from nightmares for NBA defenses. This simple pick & roll can baffle defenders and set up a pull up for both players, cuts from a big or a wide-open three. Even more terrifying is a Harden-Griffin pick and roll, with Kyrie Irving, Durant and Harris waiting for the ball at the 3-point line.

The Bucks would look to have Jrue Holiday on Kyrie Irving since he has shown he can hold his ground when defending one-on-one. Having Khris Middleton bother James Harden with his length might be helpful as Harden takes up the role of the primary playmaker for the Nets. Connaughton is the weak link in the starting lineup, so he could be great using his stamina and athleticism chasing Joe Harris and trying to contain him since the team doesn’t demand much from Pat on offense.

The matchup between the two best forwards in the game, Durant and Antetokounmpo, will be exciting, to say the least. After last year’s criticisms, Antetokounmpo took on the challenge to guard Jimmy Butler in the first round and came up huge and the same will be asked of him when trying to corral Durant’s scoring and give the Bucks a breather.

For the center spot, PJ Tucker has shown his effectiveness when matched up on undersized big men in Houston and would be a great selection against Blake Griffin and/or Jeff Green when the latter returns to full health (if he does).

This lineup allows the Bucks’ ‘Big 3′ to switch onto the Nets’ ‘Big 3’ and still maintain their defensive schemes and not get scrambled and give up easy points. Having Tucker also prevents the Nets to target a weak defender in isolation as he did a great job on Durant in their matchup in May and could provide valuable insight on Harden.