NBA

NBA Big Game Focus: Bucks and Nets ready to do battle again

By Sports Desk May 03, 2021

After going toe to toe just over 48 hours earlier, two Eastern Conference heavyweights prepare to face each other again when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

The brilliance of Giannis Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks prevail in the first of two back-to-back meetings between teams with serious title aspirations.

Aided by landing four of his attempts from beyond the arc, the two-time NBA MVP scored 49 points to see Milwaukee come out on top.

The result moved them closer to the second-placed Nets in the standings, though both trail the Philadelphia 76ers. The trio know that finishing as top seed will leave the other two rivals to potentially fight it out on the path to the Conference Finals.

With the playoffs looming, there is a balance to be struck over clocking up more minutes in the regular season and saving energy for what is to come down the line.

Still, while there are no concerns over suffering a knockout this time around, both the Bucks and Nets will want to land a telling blow on their opponents before a potential postseason reunion.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

A third MVP award appears unlikely, yet the Greek is averaging 28.4 points per game (he finished at 27.7 in 2018-19, but rose to 29.5 last season), as well as 11.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

His performance against the Nets, which included scoring his team's first 16 points in the third quarter, was even more impressive considering he had missed the previous game due to a sprained right ankle.

Kevin Durant

Like Antetokounmpo, Durant returned from a layoff to shine on Sunday. He finished the game with a team-high 42 points, boosting his average for the season to 28.1ppg.

Hamstring tightness was behind the decision to sit him against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, having previously scored 42 in a win over the Indiana Pacers. Injuries have hampered his availability during the campaign, but Durant has excelled when on the court for Brooklyn.

KEY BATTLE

Antetokounmpo and Durant will be preparing for round two as the headline acts for their respective franchises, though both can lean on help from stellar supporting casts.

However, missed shots – and what happens in the aftermath – could be crucial to deciding the outcome. The Bucks lead the East in terms of defensive rebounds, while the Nets sit second on the list. Milwaukee, though, is superior on the boards on offense when compared to their opponents, potentially offering key second-chance opportunities.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks may have come out on top at the weekend but the Nets triumphed earlier in the year when the teams met in Brooklyn, James Harden - who remains sidelined - leading the way with 34 points in a 125-123 triumph for the home team.

Durant also played in that game – contributing 30 points, including landing eight of his nine free-throw attempts – but Kyrie Irving was absent.

Related items

  • 'He is part of Madrid history' – Ancelotti hails Bale ahead of Bernabeu exit 'He is part of Madrid history' – Ancelotti hails Bale ahead of Bernabeu exit

    Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Gareth Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires in June as he hailed the forward who remains "a part of the history" at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Madrid wrapped up the LaLiga title with four games to spare and host Real Betis on the final matchday of the league season, with a Champions League final against Liverpool to follow on May 28 in Paris.

    Bale's role in their success to this point has been extremely limited, making just seven appearances in all competitions this season, totalling only 290 minutes of action.

    The Wales international, who will hope to qualify for the World Cup when his country face either Ukraine or Scotland in their play-off final on June 5, was expected to leave Madrid when his contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ancelotti confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

    Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three final goals.

    But his exit will mark the end of a turbulent stay in Madrid, with his Los Blancos commitment regularly coming under scrutiny from Madridistas and the Spanish press.

    Ancelotti could not promise Bale a final farewell appearance at the Bernabeu on Friday as injury problems persist, but the Italian insisted the 32-year-old's name will be etched into Madrid's history books.

    "Bale isn't 100 per cent fit, and he won't be in the squad. Tomorrow I'll choose if he's on the bench or in the stands," Ancelotti told a pre-match news conference.

    Asked about his future, Ancelotti added: "The contract ends, and he will leave. It is not so important if he plays tomorrow. Bale is part of the history of this club. He will remain in the memory of all Madrid fans.

    "He was important in the Decima [the club's 10th Champions League win], in Kyiv, in the Copa del Rey. He has written important pages in this club's history, and we have to take that into account."

    While Bale will not feature against Betis, who are winless in their past 10 LaLiga visits to teams from the Madrid region, Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side to build fitness for the Champions League final.

    "I think about giving minutes to the players who need it the most," Ancelotti continued. "Tomorrow Marcelo, [Luka] Modric... [David] Alaba will train with the group starting on Monday."

    Karim Benzema has scored 27 goals in LaLiga this season and is set to become the first French player to finish a campaign as the top scorer in the competition's history, but he is expected to be rested again.

    Despite fielding another heavily rotated side, Ancelotti expects an exciting game against Copa del Rey winners Betis.

    "We are the two teams that have won the competitions," he added. "It will be an entertaining game because Betis plays quality football."

  • Frank promises Eriksen statue in 'two, three years' if playmaker stays at Brentford Frank promises Eriksen statue in 'two, three years' if playmaker stays at Brentford

    Christian Eriksen would have a statue built in his honour in the next "two, three years" should he stay at Brentford, Thomas Frank has said.

    Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest when playing for Denmark against Finland at Euro 2020, but survived the ordeal.

    However, the 30-year-old was unable to play for Inter due to medical rulings in Italy preventing players from competing after having a cardioverter-defibrillator fitted.

    Brentford subsequently offered the midfielder a six-month contract in January and Eriksen has starred, scoring once and assisting four in 10 league games to lift Brentford way clear of any danger.

    Eriksen has also created 26 chances since his Brentford debut in February, with only Son Heung-min (27), Martin Odegaard (33) and Kevin De Bruyne (37) laying on more opportunities in the Premier League in that period.

    Manchester United and Eriksen's former club Tottenham are reportedly circling, but Frank has reiterated his desire for his compatriot to stay with Brentford.

    "I'd love to say 100 per cent but I am convinced there is a good chance that he will wear a Brentford shirt [next season]," he said of Eriksen at a news conference on Thursday.

    "The way we play, our environment, and the role he is given, gives him an opportunity to flourish and play his best game.

    "He enjoys going to work every day and I still think you can be extremely ambitious playing for us.

    "I know I am optimistic, but I also picked up the phone and called him and said 'do you want to come to Brentford', no one thought about that six months ago.

    "So I'm convinced we will have a chance, the way I see it for us it is a win-win. He helped the team, he gave something to the fans they have never seen before at this level.

    "We helped him back to his football life again, for Christian it's a win-win, either he signs for us and everyone will be happy.

    "The fans will build a statue of him outside the stadium in two, three years' time or he goes to a bigger level and we will applaud him and we will say thank you for your time; go forward."

    Brentford will be hoping Eriksen can deliver again when they conclude their maiden Premier League season on Sunday against relegation-threatened Leeds United.

  • Mavericks believe 'brilliant' Doncic will bounce back in Game 2 Mavericks believe 'brilliant' Doncic will bounce back in Game 2

    The Dallas Mavericks have faith in Luka Doncic to put a disappointing Game 1 behind him when they meet the Golden State Warriors again on Friday.

    Mavs superstar Doncic was tightly marshalled by the Warriors on Wednesday, with the Slovenian only managing 20 points on six-of-18 shooting.

    Andrew Wiggins was the primary defender on Doncic, who had seven turnovers and was also limited to seven rebounds and four assists in a 112-87 defeat.

    However, team-mate Spencer Dinwiddie has full confidence that one of the best players in the NBA has the ability to be back at his best in Game 2.

    "He's just brilliant. I think he's seen every defense from probably playing professionally overseas when he was younger," Dinwiddie told reporters.

    "If you've seen it before, you've probably developed counters for it.

    "So, now, it's just about continuing to improve game by game, and he's one of the best in the business at doing that."

    The sentiment was echoed by Mavs coach Jason Kidd, who said: "[Doncic] understands what [the Warriors] are trying to do, and he'll be better, we believe that in that locker room."

    Doncic was still the second-highest scorer in Game 1, behind only Warriors talisman Stephen Curry, who had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.