They say a series never starts until the home team loses. But this one feels over.
For one side Monday night, the excellence was stunning. For the other, the stench was toxic.
The Nets didn’t need James Harden to pummel the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 on Monday, 125-86, dominating with the type of performance that put every team — no matter the conference — on notice:
The path to Larry O’Brien should go through Brooklyn.
Kevin Durant was again spectacular, dropping 32 point in 33 minutes on 12-of-18 shooting. If he continues throughout the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine a greater recovery from Achilles surgery. He punctuated Monday’s performance by crossing up Giannis Antetokounmpo and blowing past the former Defensive Player of the Year for an up-and-under lay-up at the end of the third quarter. Then Durant sat for the entire fourth quarter because Brooklyn’s lead hit obscene levels.
Despite the remarkable return from the Achilles tear, Durant didn’t want to look back.
“I’m just looking forward,” he said.
Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, was a mess. He managed just 18 points while forced into uncomfortable shots and positions. He was joined in struggling by teammate Khris Middleton (17 points, 7-for-20 shooting, five turnovers), who has looked overwhelmed and anxious in the opening two games.
Harden was in street clothes on the Nets bench and could rest comfortably. Since he sustained the hamstring injury in the opening seconds of Game 1, the Nets have steamrolled the Bucks over eight quarters at Barclays Center.
Saturday was at least competitive until the end of the third quarter. Game 2 felt over after the opening tip.
The Nets led by as many as 27 points in the first half. They shot 50% from beyond the arc, hitting a remarkable 21 treys. Kyrie Irving added 22 points in 34 minutes on 9-of-17 shooting. Joe Harris and Landry Shamet hit a combined six 3-pointers. Even Brooklyn’s bench dominated garbage time.
It was never close. The Nets never trailed. It was a clinic.
Game 3 is Thursday in Milwaukee and the Nets don’t need to change a thing. But Durant wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“I think we still have a long ways to go,” he said. “(The Bucks) is an amazing team. We know they’re going to come back. We just did what we were supposed to do and win at home.”
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