Kyrie Irving was right about one thing: The Nets are a long way from being among the NBA’s best. And Saturday, the league leaders showed just how far.

The Nets limped to the halfway point of the season, their roster banged up and their confidence beaten up. And it took another hit after a 117-97 loss to the Bucks before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Barclays Center that included former president Bill Clinton.

The Nets dropped their third straight game, and 10th in their past 12. The Bucks (38-6) have been throttling everybody, outscoring foes by a 12.4-point margin that’s on pace for the best in NBA history. Saturday was as ugly as expected.

“Credit to Milwaukee — they’re playing as good as anybody I’ve seen in a while in this league,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who said he feels his floundering team needs a lift, not a kick.

“That’s feel as a coach, understanding … when’s the time to lay the hammer or when’s the time to lay off, when’s the time to pick a team up. I feel like now it’s the need to lift these guys, especially with the tough schedule. It’ll come back. I thought we played really well in Philly. [Saturday] you almost have to hit a perfect game, and we didn’t.”

Far from perfect.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 29 points, drives on Taurean Prince during the Nets' 117-97 blowout loss to the Bucks on Saturday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 29 points, drives on Taurean Prince during the Nets’ 117-97 blowout loss to the Bucks on Saturday night.Corey Sipkin

The shorthanded Nets (18-23) had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had game highs of 29 points and 12 rebounds. Khris Middleton added 20, while the Nets allowed 50.6 percent shooting, trailed by 25 and got routed.

Irving had a team-high 17 points, six assists, six rebounds and four steals, but shot just 6-of-15. Rookie Nic Claxton was one of the few bright spots with a career-high 14 points and six boards while standing in for the injured DeAndre Jordan.

“[Irving] wasn’t making the shot he usually makes, but they did a great job. Brook [Lopez] did a great job being there making a tough finish,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to be a guy that makes 20 shots, but we’ve got to try to make the stop as we can. That’s what we did, and why we were able to get this win so easily.”

And it was easy. The Nets played without Jordan, Joe Harris, Garrett Temple and obviously Kevin Durant, shooting just 33.3 percent and 15-of-49 from deep. Now, after being injury-riddled for the first half of the season, the Nets just want to stay fit for the second.

“Get healthy. That’s really where the most important priority for us is — getting healthy, staying healthy and just seeing where we land. We’re going to put our effort out there, galvanize each other as a group,” said Irving, still confident of the playoffs. “That’s a successful season. That’s still a goal, to make the playoffs.

“It’s not like we’re going to pack it in and just say, ‘Hey, let’s see.’ No, when I say see where we end up, it’s in that 6, 7, 8 spot. Put a realistic goal in front of you and really go after it. … So heading into All-Star break, you want to have these great tests, see what we can learn from them and move forwards. Then after All-Star break, we get everybody back, and I feel like we’ll be in a better place.”

The Nets got outscored 19-10 to close the first despite Antetokounmpo being off the floor.

A Donte DiVincenzo layup made it 30-22 to end the first, and the teams largely played even throughout the second. It was still 51-42 after an Irving basket, but the Nets coughed up the last six points of the half to go into the break down by 15.

That deficit swelled after the half. It hit 24 when Kyle Korver drilled a corner 3 to make it 90-66 with 1:25 left in the third, and hit 25 in a garbage-time fourth.

Atkinson and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had emptied their benches by the time Dragan Bender pushed it to 106-81 with 5:18 to play.