After things got heated between P.J. Tucker and Kevin Durant in Game 3, tonight's matchup was sure to have plenty of heat.
The Bucks turned up the intensity and physicality on the defensive end to secure a 107-96 win to level the series, with Tucker's defence on Durant setting the tone from the outset.
TAKEAWAYS: Bucks clamp down to level series
Durant led the Nets with 28 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, but Tucker made him work for it when they were matched up, holding him to nine points on 25 percent shooting as his primary defender, per ESPN.
"He keeps making everything tough on KD," Giannis Anteokounmpo said post-game.
"He's vocal. He's a leader. He pushes us to be great. He's definitely a big piece of this organisation and this team. He's going to keep helping us. We definitely need him moving forward."
The best way to keep Durant quiet is getting the ball out of his hands to begin with. Just look at the energy and activity Tucker displays to deny the Nets star, scrambling to the floor to get the steal. These are the type of plays that make a difference in the post-season.
Activity from PJ Tucker has had an impact on Brooklyn's movement. Denies KD here on the handoff, gets his hands on the ball again, gets a strip. Defense keeping Milwaukee in this one. pic.twitter.com/Ze4qJ4Ss8Z- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) June 13, 2021
At 6-foot-11, Durant can basically get his shot off over anyone, with his point of release above the clouds.
On this play, the 6-foot-5 Tucker hassles the Nets star on the catch, getting into his body and forcing him into a tough jumper, keeping his hand up to contest.
P.J. Tucker: elite defender. pic.twitter.com/PeAacp1M97- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 13, 2021
Durant is about as unstoppable an offensive player there is in the league, so he's going to find a way to score, but Tucker's energy and activity wearing him down was crucial in stifling their ball movement.
Matching the Nets' offensive firepower is always going to be tough for the Bucks, but if they can continue to frustrate them defensively, create fastbreak opportunities and make the games a slog, they have every chance to emerge from this series.
With James Harden sidelined with a hamstring strain and Kyrie Irving nursing an ankle injury, Durant's workload only gets bigger ahead of Game 5 if Irving is unable to go. Durant only played two regular season games this season without both of his co-stars and ahead of Game 5, head coach Steve Nash says they'll need more from their role players.
MORE: Kyrie Irving exits Game 4 with ankle sprain
"I thought tonight, we got a little single-minded," Nash said. "Went to Kevin every time, puts a little bit too much pressure on him and it makes us a little predictable, I thought, which puts a lot of burden on him.
"So, we've got plenty of guys that have stepped up in absences this year and done very well. I think we have to rely on each other, play a team game with the ball, and of course we are looking for Kevin as much as we can, but within reason and without confining ourselves and being predictable."
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