Brandon Knight played his best game yet (26 pts, 14 ast, 8 rebs), John Henson was back and causing problems on both ends, Giannis Antetokounmpo started and got his customary dozen points...and the Bucks lost in overtime.
This is all becoming rather familiar, isn't it?
After the the Bucks jumped out to an early double-digit lead, the Bobcats rallied with a dominating second quarter and kept it close throughout the second half and overtime, and ultimately there was just a bit too much Kemba Walker (25 pts on 22 shots, 10 ast, 9 rebs) and Al Jefferson (26 pts on 23 shots, 9 rebs) for the Bucks to handle. O.J. Mayo splashed a clutch three with one second remaining in regulation to force the extra session, and it appeared Khris Middleton had done it again when Antetokounmpo threw a lovely cross-court feed for a catch-and-shoot buzzer-beater from Middleton in the corner.
One problem: the Bucks were down three and both of Middleton's feet were clearly on the line. Oops.
Still, you can chalk this up as another win in the development department--admittedly more enjoyable to us than the guys in the locker room--in a game that was surprisingly entertaining. The two least-efficient offenses in the league combined for 59 assists and just 20 turnovers and both were well above their season averages with efficiencies of 108.7 and 107.7 pts/100.
Knight inspired a 14-0 first quarter run with five points and three assists as the Bucks held the Bobcats to 25% shooting and led 33-17 after the first. Henson came off the bench and immediately started swatting everything in his vicinity (14 pts, 6/14 fg, 9 reb, 6 blk), and it was a strangely clean game, too: Henson's travel at the end of the quarter was the first turnover for either team.
Alas, the Bucks' dominance didn't last long. Former Buck/Eternal Buck-killer Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolled his way to eight points in the first three minutes of the second, and triples from Josh McRoberts (twice), Ben Gordon and Anthony Tolliver cut the Bucks lead to 54-52 at the intermission. Jefferson was also making his presence known, as neither Raduljica nor Henson could stop him from racking up 15 points in the half.
Charlotte's momentum was dulled by the intermission, though, as neither team could create any meaningful separation in the second half. Giannis scored seven quick points early in the third--an open spot-up three, a baseline cut-and-slam from Knight and another dunk after catching deep and pump-faking past Cody Zeller--but the Bucks never led by more than five, as Knight (11 points, 4 ast in the period) and Walker (10 points) went blow-for-blow in the period.
The fourth was a similar story, though this time it was the Bucks playing from behind and needing big shots to keep it close. Henson worked his way inside repeatedly (9 points) to help the Bucks claim a 94-91 lead, his last bucket a gorgeous alley-oop slam from Giannis with 5:18 left. But Charlotte responded with an 8-0 run and appeared headed for the win before Knight's floater cut the lead to 99-96 with 51 seconds left and Mayo gave the Bucks life by hoisting up the tying three after Middleton's attempt had come out for a long rebound.
- After scoring 110+ points precisely zero times their first 25 games, the Bucks have now done it three games in a row. Their offensive efficiency in those games: 107.7, 119.7 and 108.0, all well north of their 98.7 pts/100 average. Much of that starts with Knight, whose three game run of 28 assists vs. just two turnovers is a far cry from the guy whose career-best 36-point game against the Knicks last week was marred by a whopping eight turnovers. It's not clear if any of this is sustainable, but the Bucks desperately need Knight to be an effective high-usage guy, especially with a starting five that no longer includes O.J. Mayo. We need a much bigger sample to know if Knight has turned the corner, but he's showing signs that he might be up for the challenge.
- Maybe Giannis is just more comfortable coming off the bench? Antetokounmpo started 0/3 from the field for the second time in as many games: an airballed, contested spot-up three early, a nice transition move that proved too tricky to finish, and an open right-side three that back-ironed off.
So naturally Giannis should have been a bit gun-shy when he came back in, right? Yeah, not so much. A couple minutes after returning in the second quarter, Giannis caught the ball at the top of the key, took a couple dribbles to back up behind the three point line, sized up Josh McRoberts, and let fly a contested three that went in. Probably not the kind of shot you'd suggest he take to break out of a slump, but it's a shot you absolutely love seeing him have the confidence to shoot and bury.
- Neither Henson nor Raduljica could do too much against Jefferson in isolation, but they didn't have any help and at least kept Jefferson honest. That was especially true down the stretch, as Henson held his own down low against one of the league's best post scorers. After having his way with the Bucks for three periods, Jefferson went 1/6 from the field with just three points in the fourth quarter and OT. Henson's results against Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller inside were also good, swatting them a collective three times in the first period.