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The playoff series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets has suddenly gotten interesting. After the Nets raced out to a 2-0 series lead, the Bucks stormed back to even things up. The series has had everything, including injuries, chippy play, and a strange three-word warning to Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks seek series lead against the short-handed Nets

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference second round playoff series at the Fiserv Forum on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After a tough two games on the road, the Bucks have made their way back into the series with the Nets. The Nets lost guard James Harden to a hamstring injury during Game 1 and are now without point guard Kyrie Irving for Game 5. Irving injured his ankle in the second quarter of Game 4. The Nets ruled him out for Tuesday.

As of this writing, Harden was upgraded from doubtful to questionable for Game 5. Without Harden and Irving, the Nets are in serious trouble. Kevin Durant is an elite player, but hasn’t proven he can handle the load by himself. Harden worked out Tuesday morning and showed enough promise to warrant an upgrade. Teammate Joe Harris said the upgrade is promising.

“I think it’s positive,” Joe Harris said, according to The New York Post. “I don’t think they would throw that out there if his health was still in question. That’s the biggest thing at the end of the day that guys are healthy. You don’t ever want to put anybody in a compromised position because the worst thing that could happen is come back too early and then you start back over from where you were at in the beginning.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo given a strange warning by referee Scott Foster

The series has been physical. It’s had some heated moments between Durant and Milwaukee’s P.J. Tucker. The two have literally gone nose-to-nose, while Brooklyn coach Steve Nash cried foul.

“I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times, but that’s the playoffs, Nash said, according to Nets beat writer Alex Schiffer. You have to adapt and adjust. Something definitely in a sense changed from the way the game was played in Brooklyn and here in Milwaukee.”

There was also a bizarre warning issued to Antetokounmpo while he was at the free-throw line. During Game 3, Antetokounmpo failed to shoot his foul shot within 10 seconds. It’s a rule that’s rarely enforced but the referees called it against the Bucks star. The Nets even mocked the Greek Freak by implementing a clock when he stepped to the line. According to The New York Post, the NBA told the team to stop using the clock.

Antetokounmpo earned the same violation during a first-round game with the Miami Heat. Things have gotten so strange for Antetokounmpo at the foul line that referee Scott Foster had to give him a warning as he handed him the ball at the free-throw line. During Game 4, Foster was underneath the basket and passed the ball to Antetokounmpo as he was waiting to take his foul shot. As he threw the ball, Foster yelled, “shoot on time.”

In a strange situation, the Nets are underdogs to the Bucks but still the favorite to win it all


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How does this make any sense? The short-handed Nets are now an underdog in the series against the Bucks but are still the favorite to win the NBA title. Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, explained.

“The philosophy is if they can overcome the injuries in the short term against the Bucks, they will be well-placed long term to win the conference and championship,” Scott told ESPN. “However, if they both are ruled out long term, those futures markets will change. It’s very fluid right now.”

Harden remains the key. If he can get back on the court for Game 5, it puts the Nets in a position to maintain homecourt advantage. It’s a strange series highlighted by a referee telling a two-time MVP to hurry up and shoot the ball.