By Kristian Cuaresma
Roughly one year later, NetsGC again finds itself in the thick of an intense playoff race. The main difference this time is the team is in control of its own destiny, making this week’s season finale matchup against Bucks Gaming a classic ‘must-get.’
Brooklyn is coming off its second bye week of the season, which couldn’t have come at a better time. While General Manager and Head Coach OG KING CURT has continuously reminded followers the team hasn’t looked past anyone, many analysts felt NetsGC’s games against Toronto and Gen.G were easy victories to be had. Unfortunately for NetsGC, the last week of July quickly turned into a nightmare, with the team getting swept by the new-look Raptors Uprising and having to deal with Choc’s one game suspension ahead of its matchup against the Gen.G Tigers.
With the hopes of comfortably easing into the playoffs now a thing of the past, NetsGC will instead prepare for a Bucks Gaming team looking to play spoiler.
Bucks Gaming Expected Lineup
PF: Big Perm
While this will be the first regular season matchup between the two teams, it will not be their first meeting after a previous matchup in THE TIPOFF. Brooklyn’s high point of that tournament came when it put up 101 points on the scoreboard against Milwaukee.
Conveniently, the struggles both teams experienced in May are still relevant today. Bucks Gaming looked disjointed on both sides of the ball, and it only got worse after the tournament. Milwaukee had the unfortunate distinction of being the lone winless team in the entire league, a label it couldn’t shake off until Week Five against Mavs Gaming. The team eventually shipped off its starting shooting guard Arooks in exchange for a package involving a 2022 first round pick and later, Milwaukee would send Lotty back to his Season Three team in Utah, in return for a haul that included a 2022 second round pick.
Player to Watch
Expose – 13.9 points, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 50% FG, 53% 3P
Despite a promising rookie season with Hornets Venom GT, Expose now finds himself on his third team in less than two years. While expectations were clearly not met in Utah, Expose still presents difficulties for opposing defenses when his confidence is high. With six games under his belt as a member of Bucks Gaming, it’ll be important for the sophomore to finish the year strong as he looks ahead to his own future. Using the small sample size at our disposal, Expose is currently shooting at a better clip than his predecessor.
Expose: 14.5 points, 0.8 steals, 49% FG, 54% 3P
Arooks: 13.2 points, 0.5 steals, 46% FG, 44% 3P
If Expose continues to get more comfortable and provide relief for his backcourt partner Regg – whether it’s on catch and shoot opportunities or creating his own looks – that could complicate things for NetsGC. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to get reps as the team’s new point guard.
Bridge to Victory
Bucks Gaming has had a disastrous season, and no one may be more disappointed than the team’s point guard (or perhaps shooting guard?) – and reigning ‘Rookie of the Year’ – Regg. There aren’t many players in the league who can match Choc’s dynamic ability to both score and pass the ball, but Regg has the talent to do so. Selected just three picks apart in the 2020 draft, the Choc and Regg comparisons will always exist, and the latest chapter in their duel will be on full display in this matchup.
In addition to slowing down Regg, NetsGC will likely be mindful of preventing Bucks Gaming center – and now lockdown – Plondo from finding a rhythm. Both he and Regg are the only two to have played in each of Milwaukee’s 26 regular season games. Through four of Bucks Gaming’s wins, Plondo is averaging 19.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks at center. At lockdown, he’s averaging 12.0 points, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks on 71 percent shooting.
A strong start in Game One will be key for NetsGC with making it clear that this won’t be a shootout.