Bucks final score: Giannis sparks Bucks past Celtics, 92-85

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

With the prospect of a 12th straight loss staring them in the face, the Bucks' youngsters stepped up big time. So maybe we can enjoy this one?

Box Score

It was the night Bucks fans had been hoping for: Giannis plays, Giannis stars, Bucks win.

OK, maybe that last part doesn't matter much to many Milwaukee fans at this point, but when a win comes on the backs of the Bucks' youngsters? Well, it's hard not to enjoy.

Antetokounmpo's energetic play on both ends (10 pts, 4/6 fg, 2/2 threes, 7 rebs, 4 ast, 1 blk in 28 minutes) sparked a second quarter Bucks rally, but he was hardly the only Buck to have it going in Milwaukee's streak-busting 92-85 home win over the Celtics Saturday night.  Brandon Knight did everything (20 pts on 7/14 fg, 3/3 threes, 3/4 ft, 9 reb, 8 ast, 3 to), O.J. Mayo could barely miss (22 points on 9/14 shooting), and the starting combination of John Henson and Ekpe Udoh totaled 22 points, 23 rebounds and five blocks.

It wasn't a perfect performance for the Bucks, but it was easily the best overall effort we've seen in about three weeks, as Milwaukee rebounded, ran and played the sort of unselfish baskeball that they talked about all preseason. Even with Jared Sullinger dominating inside with 21 points and 14 boards, the Bucks hustled their way to a 49-41 edge on the boards and totaled 28 assists on their 36 made field goals, with their 16-4 edge in fast break points a teling part of the story.

And no one was as electric on the break as Antetokounmpo, who ended up looking great even when he made a mistake. A few minutes after drilling a pull-up three with the shot-clock running down, Giannis got himself into traffic and turned the ball over. You know, a rookie move. But all that did was set up this:

O

Oh, and then this happened:

Basically it was the most fun thing to happen to the Bucks all season, which I suppose made it fitting that the game wasn't broadcast in Milwaukee (cue sad trombone).

After Boston had surged to a 31-23 lead, it was Giannis, Knight, and Mayo who sparked an 18-2 second quarter run, with Knight ripping two more threes to close the half and give Milwaukee a 47-41 lead at the break.

Knight and Mayo would each find Henson for easy buckets to start the third, but it was Antetokounmpo who helped the Bucks maintain their lead with another three and a baseline flush off a nice Zaza Pachulia feed late in the period.

Leading 70-63 after three, the Bucks started the fourth with a 10-0 run punctuated by Gary Neal's cherry-picked 8-foot jumper with 7:24 left, an altogether weird play that saw Neal turn down a potentially challenged drive to the rim in favor of an odd-angle short jumper. Gary Neal, y'all.

Still, the Celtics didn't roll over despite an overall uneven effort on both ends. Jeff Green drilled two threes and Jordan Crawford attacked Luke Ridnour relentlessly to help Boston get back to within single digits, but the Bucks sealed it with a Knight three and a nice pick-and-roll that saw Knight find Udoh for a wide-open 15-footer.

Observations

  • Boston's lack of shot-blocking inside meant Henson had ample opportunities to score around the hoop all night, and he probably should have done better than his 6/13 shooting line. Still, no complaints about his season-high 13 boards or three blocks. He's now blocked a shot in 10 straight games with multiple blocks in eight of them, though oddly enough this was his first double-double of the season.
  • Udoh and Henson entered the game with a -17.4 pts/100 scoring differential in 105 minutes playing together this season, but Drew opted to start them together anyway and was rewarded with plus nights from both of them. The starting decision also made some sense given both Sullinger (1/5 from three) and Bass can stretch the floor, though the frontcourt was more of a three-man rotation with Ersan Ilyasova sitting out with a sore hamstring. Udoh scored 7 of his 9 points in the fourth playing with Pachulia, allowing Drew to give Henson an extended rest. Weird note: the meek-rebounding Udoh now has more double-digit rebound games this season than (2-1).
  • This was something of an archetype game for Knight, so let's hope it becomes a regular occurrence rather than just a once-a-month tease. As we saw in Charlotte, Knight made a point of pushing tempo and shot the ball confidently from the perimeter.  Unlike last night, he also had teammates scoring on the opposite ends of his passes. Mayo's lights-out shooting no doubt gave him a couple charitable assists, but he also set up Henson for at least three easy buckets (including one alley oop). Which reminds me: his willingness to pass really hasn't been an issue in a Bucks uniform--his problem has been making shots and not coughing the ball up at an alarming rate. If all those things happen he might end up a quality player afterall.
  • One adorable thing about Giannis: everything matters to him so much. Every time his teammates did anything right he seemed genuinely excited.

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