When the Nets play the Milwaukee Bucks and Jason Kidd, it is interesting to think what might have been if Kidd stayed in Brooklyn.
When the Nets hired Kidd two years ago to become their Head Coach, they took a gamble on him just days after he retired as a player. He was given a team that was thought to be a contender for an NBA championship.
After a rough start, he found his groove and the Nets went on a second-half surge that saw them live up to their potential. Even though they lost in five games to the Miami Heat, there was great hope that, with a year of coaching experience under his belt, that the Nets would be even better in 2014-15.
In late June 2014, Kidd stunned the basketball world by leaving the Nets for the Milwaukee Bucks, and changing the fortunes of two teams in the process.
Last season, Kidd led the Bucks to the playoffs with a dynamic, young team featuring Giannis Antetokuonmpo and Jabari Parker that ran the up-tempo offense that he ran as a player to success throughout his career.
The Nets also made the playoffs, but it was a struggle that took until the last day of the season, as they got in with just 38 wins and a lot breaking their way.
Heading into this season, the Nets are facing a very tough time, as they have essentially cleaned house and started a rebuilding process.
The Bucks could be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, having added center Greg Monroe, one of the most coveted free agents in the offseason. They also will have Michael Carter-Williams, whom they acquired from Philadelphia at last year’s trade deadline, for a full season.
Both teams entered Monday night’s game with 0-3 records, which was expected of the Nets, but kind of a surprise for the Bucks, although it’s justified considering Parker is still rehabbing from the left knee injury he suffered at the end of last season.
This was a pretty evenly matched game, with the score tied at 33 at the end of the first. Milwaukee outscored the Nets 26-15 in the second, and the Nets returned the favor in the third, putting up 32 to Milwaukee’s 21 to make it 80-all entering the fourth.
In the fourth, Bojan Bogdanovic had seven points and Shane Larkin had six.
The biggest thing to happen to the Nets down the stretch was when Brook Lopez was whistled for his fifth foul on the offensive end with 4:44 left and the game tied at 92.
It was a tough call that could have gone either way, and Lopez said of it afterwards, “I don’t know really what they saw in that fifth one. I don’t know if you guys can tell me. I felt I pushed into the screen, but I don’t know. I don’t want to get fined. You’re the media, you must have some opinion.”
Lopez continued, “I didn’t understand the call. Like you said, it was a tough situation late in the game. I’d been decently physical all night, and I don’t know. I don’t want to say too much, but we played hard down the stretch. We kept going. Our team stuck together, and we gave ourselves a great shot.”
With Lopez out of there, the Nets’ offense lost their biggest weapon, and it showed. Though Bogdanovic made free throws and Larkin made a driving bank shot right after Lopez went to the bench, they then turned to Joe Johnson, who missed a long jumper and a three, and Milwaukee took the lead.
Lopez returned with just 19.6 seconds left, and the game all but over, as Milwaukee led 101-96. He said of returning so late in the game, “It’s a tough call. I thought the team was doing pretty well, you know. We were making plays; it’s tough. Going in too early, I might have picked up another foul, messed things up – so they went with that, and I was fine with that.”
Milwaukee went on to win 103-96 for their first victory of the season.
Jerryd Bayless led the way for the Bucks with 26 points on 8-for-15 form the field, and 6-for-10 on threes, with three rebounds and two assists.
Kidd said of Bayless, “I told him that there was a good chance he could play a lot tonight. We’re, in some ways, shorthanded so someone is going to clock a lot of minutes; foul trouble and stuff like that could take place. But Bayless was big, he didn’t hesitate tonight. He was great, he didn’t hesitate and he shot the ball when he was open.”
Greg Monroe had 23 points, on 10-for-14 from the field, and 13 rebounds for a double-double. Kidd said of Monroe, “We feel comfortable with him with the ball. We also feel comfortable that he is going to make the right play and it doesn’t always lead to him shooting the ball. The one turnover he had late in the game was the right play. He was trying to get someone on the back cut, Michael Carter-Williams was open, but the ball got deflected. I don’t get mad at those plays when they’re trying to share the ball with one another.”
Monroe said of how big it is for the Bucks to get their first win of the season, “Huge. We got a good win for sure, but the way we won, it kind of showed a little toughness from the team. Especially coming into the game losing the first three, but going through adversity in this game and fighting through it, it was definitely a good win for us.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of the game, “Well, that was a hard-fought game.We came out really strong, 33-33 in the first quarter. Then we scored 15 in the second quarter, we came out in the third quarter, we had a good third quarter and we scored 16 points in the fourth. Our defense was a little better in the fourth than it was in the second. I thought that Brook (Lopez) gaining his fifth foul changed the dynamics of the game because (Greg) Monroe hurt us a little bit. We scratched and clawed. It was a game we could’ve had, but again the 25 points off of turnovers was huge, and our points in the paint – I mean we were 16-for-37, I think, at halftime. We were horrendous at halftime. I can’t even remember what it was, but 7-for-21 I think it was. We got better in a lot of areas. We got better from the first game to the last game to now. We just got to continue to get better. As I told the team, we need a win so that we can get some confidence and go forward.”