Much has been made about Brooklyn’s Big Three going against Milwaukee’s long-armed defense in this Eastern Conference semifinal.
But starting with Saturday’s Game 1, Brooklyn will have to have to deal with the highest-scoring offense in the NBA.
Enter Bruce Brown.
The former high school safety has given the Nets much-needed perimeter defense and physicality. And while he’s not likely to be on two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, except for the occasional switch, the guard will be vital in trying to slow down Jrue Holiday and closer Khris Middleton.
“It’s three-level scorers that can do a little bit of everything, get everybody involved. No team’s been better offensively this year, so really we’re just trying to be physical with them and try to limit their game. We know what Giannis can do, we know what they can do, so try to be physical and try to limit their opportunities and make it tough,” said Brown, whose football background brings a toughness element to his game.
“Probably. I was the type of guy that runs to contact and not shy away from it. So probably being down in the trenches.”
Brown averaged 14.3 points on 63.2 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds – with a team-high +64 – in the past four regular-season tilts. And he came into Saturday after averaging 12 points, six boards and two steals in the last two games of the first-round series win over Boston.
The physicality and edge Brown brings is a big reason the Nets were 29-8 when he started this season.
“Bruce was great. He’s been doing that all season. He’s got that fearless mentality and it’s great because he really takes advantage of defenses sort of not giving him enough credit,” said Blake Griffin. And when the Celtics were guilty of that – lackadaisical with their switches, and doubling off Brown – he made them pay.
“Time and time again he got in and finished down low. And then on the defensive end he does a great job. He guarded their guards, guarded Kemba [Walker] when he was playing, guarded Jayson [Tatum] when he was playing. He’s like a utility guy who has basically played every position for us.”
Jeff Green (left plantar fascia strain) was out for Game 1 and is expected to be day-to-day going forward.
Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving come into the Bucks series after combining to average 85.2 ppg vs. Boston, the highest-scoring first round for any trio in history (min. three games played by each player), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brooklyn’s 91.2 percent from the free throw line was the best for a team in a playoff series in NBA history, topping Dallas’ 89.6 in a six-game Western Conference semi vs. the Spurs in 2003.