What looked like a runaway series for the Brooklyn Nets is now up in the air, with Milwaukee having battled back from 0-2 in this NBA playoff series to ties it at 2 apiece.
Both those victories came on the Bucks’ home court and Milwaukee must now find a way of continuing the form that drove them to victory in games 3 and 4 while playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Nets, on the other hand, have their minds on their injury list, which now features 2 out of their 3 superstars: James Harden has played just 43 seconds of basketball this series while Kyrie Irving went down with a sprained ankle in game 4.
That means all the pressure is on Kevin Durant, the 11-time All-Star who was meant to be leading a star-studded Nets team, not carrying it.
Nets: Now a one-man show
Durant put up the numbers in game 4 – he had 28 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday – but he found little backing from his teammates. Irving’s X-ray results came back negative, but he remains a serious doubt for game 5 and coach Steve Nash must find a way of making his team gel when its Big 3 is down to a Big 1.
What Brooklyn will do when KD gets some rest remains to be seen: when Durant stepped off the court in the second quarter on Sunday, the Nets went 12-for-32 from the field, 0-for 10 on three-pointers and gave away 8 turnovers.
Coach Nash can take heart from the fact that his team has rarely had all three of its superstars on the court together this season. If his team can squeeze out a victory in game 5, they can then keep Harden and Irving rested in game 6 to have them ready for an eventual game 7 showdown on home territory.
Bucks: riding the wave
The Bucks appear to have hit a hot streak and coach Mike Budenholzer will know that his team now has a golden opportunity to stun the Nets and record a memorable playoff upset.
Victory in game 5 would, statistically, put them in the ideal position to kill off the series: historically, the team that wins game 5 in a 2-2 series ends up winning it about 82% of the time.
In Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has a towering presence in the center with the talent and presence to dominate. If anything, the Bucks can sometimes appear to rely a little bit too much on their point man.
But that was not the case in game 4. While the Greek Freak led his team with 34 points, he found solid support from Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker and Bryn Forbes, who all posted double-digit point totals.
Tucker in particular was outstanding, hustling Durant on the defensive end while also netting 13 points – more than he had managed in the entire series until that point.
Part of the Bucks’ Sunday success also came from a marked improvement from the three-point line, with the team making 16 3s and shooting more accurately from beyond the arc than during the rest of the series.
As game 5 approaches, Milwaukee can also take heart from another NBA statistic: only seven other teams in NBA history have managed to win 45 games by double-digits in a single season. Each of those teams has gone on to win the NBA championship.
NBA betting pick - Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets
If you're not sure what the numbers mean, this is a great time to check our two way betting guide.
Milwaukee Bucks -190
Brooklyn Nets +160
Milwaukee Bucks -4
Brooklyn Nets +4
217 total points
The Moneyline on the Bucks started at -145 but has since moved all the way to -190 with the outlook of Kyrie Irving not being able to play the game. The -190 makes the pick more lean, but we're backing Milwaukee to win.
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