Well it wasn't pretty, but the Bucks held on just enough to eek past the Orlando Magic, giving Milwaukee it's 10th win of the season. WE HAVE ARRIVED AT DOUBLE DIGITS WINS! Take a minute and breathe it in. Feels invigorating, doesn't it?
The Magic had some pretty good performances from Arron Afflalo (21p on 9-15 shooting), E'Twaun Moore (17p on 6-12 shooting), Nikola Vucevic (19p/9r) and yes, Tobias Harris (16p/9r) that kept them clawing back every time Milwaukee stretched the lead out near double digits, but ultimately couldn't put the comeback together. For the Bucks, a last-second survival will go down as a team success, but the victory can be mostly accredited to three players.
Caron Butler: 21 points, 7-15 shooting (7-13 behind the arc), 7 rebounds
Butler was bobblehead night hot in the first half, drilling six threes leading to 18 first half points. It was the most threes in a half by a Bucks player since Carlos Delfino went 6-for-7 against the Clippers on Valentine's Day three years ago. The flurry of threes stretched Milwaukee's lead to ten before Orlando widdled it down to six. Butler likes to get up his shots, but when they are coming from behind the line instead of a toenail inside of it, you can live with his shot selection a little bit more, especially if the shots are going in.
Butler also was a serviceable body defensively against Tobias Harris for most of the game, though Harris eventually was too bruising for anyone to handle. Still, seeing Butler take on the challenge and hold his own against another small ball four is encouraging, considering that is where Butler is probably going to be most valuable in his twilight years, whether it is with Milwaukee or another club.
Nate Wolters: 15 points, 6-13 shooting, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 SUPER HUGE THREE
Naters really gonna Nate, man. Wolters again showed a respectable amount of savvy in finding other guys in decent spots or keeping the offense from getting stuck in a certain pattern. Where Wolters really stood tonight though out was in his last shot of the game.
With under a minute to go and the game tied, Brandon Knight got stuck near the left wing and quickly dished it off to Wolters, who was standing behind the arc at the top of the key. As the shot clock was reaching its end, Wolters hoisted up a 25-footer and buried it, much to the crowd's delight. As Wolters and coach Larry Drew acknowledged after the game, Nate probably wouldn't have taken that shot, out of the fear that it wasn't a good enough look in the offense. Over the past few weeks though, Wolters has been more willing to let it fly and has done so with much more confidence. Without Drew giving Wolters a chance to play consistently as of late, that confidence would not have been there and the result tonight could have been much more different and arguably much more painful. Thank goodness we don't have to explore that timeline, though.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
In the fourth quarter, the Bucks desperately needed one other player to step forward to keep a disappointing loss at bay. Butler had done his scoring for the night (as well as Brandon Knight, who had 18p) and Wolters had kept the ship mostly steady throughout the middle portion of the game, but the Bucks needed one more player to step up, and Giannis did just that.
Giannis had a nice alley-oop on a pass from Gary Neal and offered up another one to John Henson, but his impact was mostly felt below the rim this time. He used all of his insane physical tools to create chaos on both ends. When he wasn't using his stretchy arms to disturb passing lanes or adjust the trajectory of the Magic's shots, he was using them to reach behind the defender's body to make a pass to an open player under the basket easier. Any time an Orlando wing would dribble into traffic, he would be there jousting for it. He didn't have as many flashy plays as he normally does, but seeing Giannis create havoc all over the floor and having a much more complete impact is much more encouraging than multiple dunks.
The Bucks continue their season-long six game homestand this week. They'll host the Denver Nuggets on Thursday and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. Thursday afternoon is also the trade deadline, in case you have forgotten for some reason. We shall see if there are any new names to throw into these recaps then.