Must-Win In Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Bucks splurged this offseason to avoid the exact situation they’re in now, trading three first-round picks (and swapped two) for Jrue Holiday and signing Giannis Antetokounmpo to a supermax extension. That strategy needs to pan out tonight.

Overview: Despite losing James Harden in the first minute of Game 1, the Nets have dominated on both sides of the ball with a winning margin of 23.5 points. Giannis is averaging 26 points on 61% shooting, but 21 of his shots have come from 8+ feet out — falling right into Brooklyn’s gameplan.

Keys: Milwaukee simply must find a way to stop the Nets. Given Brooklyn’s 49.5% FG, the Bucks are inbounding the ball under the basket instead of playing the downhill, fast-paced style that presents open-floor opportunities for Giannis. They’re averaging only 11.5 fastbreak points — they had 14.5 in the regular season (4th).

X-Factor: Khris Middleton. Giannis is getting most of the flak, but Middleton is the second star on this team, and he’s shooting 30.2% from the field. If he doesn’t get cooking, the Bucks will need to collectively open the paint for Giannis by hitting more threes — and they’re 24.6% from deep.

If the Bucks lose, coach Mike Budenholzer’s job might be on the line.

Nets at Bucks (-4), 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)