NBA

NBA Game of the Week: Nets need Simmons to shine, Bucks look to continue perfect start

By Sports Desk October 25, 2022

The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets both have big ambitions but have experienced contrasting fortunes to start the new NBA season.

Milwaukee tasted victory in the opening two games of the season as the Bucks plot their path to regaining the title they won in 2021.

Brooklyn dreamed of reaching such heights when they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019 before then landing James Harden in a trade in 2020.

But Harden has since departed, Ben Simmons coming the other way in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last season, and the Nets' current big three have been unable to prevent a 1-2 start.

Durant and Irving both racked up 37 points in their defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, however, and they will look to continue that kind of form to threaten an upset against one of the preseason favourites.

Should the Nets come through what promises to be a compelling encounter in Milwaukee, it may signal better days ahead for a franchise who have as yet not reaped the benefits of their collection of superstar talent.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Brook Lopez

Lopez, the former first-round pick of the Nets, is already having a critical defensive impact for the Bucks this season.

He leads the NBA with 3.5 blocked shots per game and has a defensive rating of 94.6 that is bettered only by Antetokounmpo across the Bucks' first two games.

Milwaukee will likely require Lopez to continue his strong start if the Bucks are to contain Durant and Irving.

Brooklyn Nets – Ben Simmons

Simmons has quickly become something of a punchline for the Nets in three games this season.

He fouled out in 23 minutes in the loss to the Grizzlies, marking the second time he has done so this term.

Contributing little on the offensive end, Simmons is averaging 5.7 points per game while an average plus-minus of minus-15 is the worst on the team.

Going forward, Simmons will need to provide much better support to Durant and Irving on both ends of the floor for the Nets to be contenders, and there is no better game in which to start offering that assistance.

KEY BATTLES – Giannis and KD's early blockbuster

There are more granular elements of a game that often prove decisive, but sometimes it just comes down to a battle of two superstars.

That appears likely to be the case here as Antetokounmpo and Durant go head-to-head with both already excelling on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.5 points per game compared to Durant's 32.0. The key difference that has led to their two teams' contrasting records is the superior support Antetokounmpo has received, but if both are on song then this promises to be a bewitching contest.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Bucks have won five of their last six against the Nets, though Brooklyn did claim a road win last season, prevailing 126-123 behind a 38-point effort from Irving.

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