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Nets demolish Bucks in Game 2 with defense (and offense, of course)

Kevin Durant in Nets-Bucks Game 2

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 07: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets takes a shot as P.J. Tucker #17 and Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks defend in the third quarter during game two of the Eastern Conference second round series at Barclays Center on June 07, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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The Nets lost a third of their historic scoring trio when James Harden suffered a hamstring injury.

So, they turned into a suffocating defense… while maintaining their elite offense.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points and led a spirited defensive effort in Brooklyn’s 125-86 Game 2 win over the Bucks on Monday – the most lopsided game of the postseason so far.

The Nets lead the second-round series 2-0. Teams that won the first two games of a best-of-seven at home have won the series 94% of the time. Though that’s “just” 87% when the teams’ seeds are within one, No. 2 seed Brooklyn has gained a massive advantage over No. 3 seed Milwaukee.

Really, the Nets’ championship odds look stronger than ever. Though Harden’s status is a major question, so is Brooklyn’s defense. But tonight was so encouraging.

Durant, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown (who started for Harden) and Nicolas Claxton walled off the basket with a hyperactivity that also allowed the Nets to contest jumpers. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18 points on 8-of-15 shooting with three turnovers) was particularly foiled by the game plan.

On the other side, Durant (12-of-18 shooting) was unguardable. Kyrie Irving added 22 points. Those stars can compensate for Harden’s absence. That’s the beauty of having three elite scorers.

Brooklyn led by at least 17 the final three quarters and by as many as 49.

Beyond just outplaying the Bucks, the Nets were red hot shooting. They made half of their 42 3-point attempts, making the game look even less competitive than it was.

That said, Milwaukee cut into lead in garbage time. The 39-point final margin might actually be representative.

This is the type of loss that calls into question the Bucks’ whole plan for building around Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’re the NBA’s fifth-oldest playoff team (weighted for playing time), and they already traded a huge haul of future picks for Jrue Holiday. If they’re still so far off, how will they bridge the gap?

Mike Budenholzer’s east is only getting hotter.