Hooray! Win number 15, y'all! We did.....something! Time to hit the streets to party!
The Bucks kept the slim chance of not being the worst team in the league (with the best lottery odds) alive for one more night, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final minutes in their penultimate home game, 119-116.
With Kyrie Irving ineffective for most of the night, the Cavs needed to rely on multiple guys to keep the offense chugging along, and were able to get that from Dion Waiters (23p/4a/5s) and Tristan Thompson (18p/10r) early on. After picking up two very early fouls, Waiters hit the bench and looked to be headed for a night that was heavily influenced by his attitude more than his talent. Fortunately for the Cavs, Tristan Thompson was feasting down low on Zaza Pachulia, who was subsequently yanked in favor of John Henson. When Waiters returned, he channeled his frustration into some seriously productive basketball, as he tallied up a handful of buckets that, paired with fantastic ball movement and execution from the rest of the Cavs, helped stretch the lead to as many as 14 late in the first half.
On the other end of the court, the Bucks were flying around, and it was actually quite exciting to watch. Henson came in and was knocking down shots (which is always encouraging), but the main source of excitement came from the man on the 10-day contract. Chris Wright isn't much of a shooter, but MY GOD can he dunk. Wright threw down three exciting slams in the first half, two on the back end of alley-oops such as this beauty (below, courtesy of our pal KL Chouinard from Bucksketball). Wright finished with 14 points on the night, with most of those coming in his best half of his pro career.
In the second half, the Bucks found themselves back in the ballgame for a few reasons. For one, their usual suspects starting to contribute more regularly. Brandon Knight (24p/4a/4r) and Ramon Sessions (20p/7a) led the Bucks in scoring AGAIN and were AGAIN followed closely by Khris Middleton (17p, 7-11 shooting), Zaza Pachulia (16p/8r/4a), and John Henson (15p/6r).
The other (and more prominent) reason Milwaukee stuck around and wound up coming away with the win was because Cleveland, for some reason, abandoned the offense that had them playing so smoothly early on. After being up seven at the half, Milwaukee outscored Cleveland 57-47 in the second half, with Cleveland's offense slowly reducing itself into ''hey, let's see what Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters can do as quickly into the shot clock as possible." The shift in performance isn't terribly surprising though, because the Cavs whole season has basically gone this way. Oh well, not our problem, RIGHT?!?
- Larry Drew said before the game that he still viewed Giannis as a point forward, and it was on display early in the game. Giannis initiated the second unit's offense for much of the first half, and though he didn't do much (read: zero assists, 0/3 fg), it was interesting to see him placed in an experimental position and and looking more aggressive than he has for much of the last few weeks--ie not always dribbling sideways or backing the ball out. It's likely a good thing that the point forward craze has slowed down a considerable amount, but it's still nice to see the Bucks at least get some film on Giannis in different scenarios while the season winds down. It can't hurt, right?
- As I said earlier, a Bucks loss and a Sixers win shrinks the Bucks' lead to just two games with only three more contests remaining. It still is pretty unlikely that Philly creeps into the Bucks cozy little space they've made for themselves, but the lock on the door is still unlocked for another night. Bucks fans wouldn't have it any other way, right? You enjoy struggling to sleep through the night, RIGHT?!? This is all good fun and not at all STRESSFUL, RIGHT GANG?!?!?
- Speaking of the home stretch, the Bucks will close out the season with road games in Washington (Saturday) and Toronto (Monday) before returning home to take on Atlanta to wrap up the season. It surely has been a brutal one, but the end is near. I just wanted to take a quick minute here and thank you guys for reading these recaps all season. Hopefully they've been pretty enjoyable to read. It's been a treat writing them for you.