No Brook Lopez? No problem, apparently.
Two weeks after riding a dominant Lopez to victory in Milwaukee, the Nets showed they could just as easily turn the trick without their injured big man, holding the Bucks to 38% shooting in a 104-93 win in Brooklyn. Former Buck Shaun Livingston started next to a subdued Deron Williams (9 pts, 4 ast) and led Brooklyn with 20 points (6/11 shooting), while Mirza Teletovic kept the Bucks' defense stretched with five threes on his way to 19 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only obvious bright spot for the Bucks with career-highs of 16 points (5/12 fg, 1/5 threes, 5/6 ft), 10 boards and three blocks, though Larry Sanders also looked solid in his first game in eight weeks with 10 points (4/5 fg, 2/6 ft), 7 boards and two blocks in 22 minutes.
The Nets jumped out to a 24-12 early advantage and were never seriously threatened thereafter, leading by as many as 23 early in the fourth before the Bucks narrowed the final margin in garbage time. The simple truth was that Brooklyn simply out-executed the Bucks on both ends, rotating reasonably well all night and preventing the Bucks from taking advantage of their length advantage down low. It's not to say the Nets dominated inside (40-40 paint points), but their small lineups kept the Bucks stretched offensively with sacrificing anything on the boards (49-43). The Bucks also helped matters with another disjointed performance on both ends, struggling to get anything going early in their sets and always looking a step behind in their defensive rotations. Brandon Knight (4/13 fg, 11 pts, 5 ast, 2 to) and Caron Butler (0/7 fg) seemed to spend most of their respective nights taking bail-out jumpers with the shot-clock expiring, while John Henson struggled to find space or touches.
The loss keeps the Bucks in last place league-wide at 6-23, with a home tilt against Kevin Love and the Timberwolves on tap for tomorrow night.
- The bad news: no one played well other than Giannis. The good news: Giannis is the guy we care most about anyway...so, cool? Though a wayward shooting night from deep made for a subpar shooting night, Giannis was simply dynamite in the open court and had no less than a half dozen plays that left me...well, giddy. There's nothing prettier than seeing Giannis bursting into the open court after a rebound, and eight defensive rebounds meant we had plenty of that tonight. Still, he always seemed in control and showed a good sense for when to attack and when to pull the ball back out. Arguably his most entertaining play came on a rebound-and-push sequence that saw him kick out to the perimeter and then get the ball back baseline, where he quickly threw an around-the-back bounce pass to Sanders who was fouled.
As for how he scored: a baseline cut and lay-in, an explosive drive past KG for a slam (see below), another dunk in transition, a right wing three, and a step-back 10-footer after driving left and running into the brickwall known as Reggie Evans.
- John Henson wasn't ineffective (4/5 fg, 8 pts, 7 rebs in 20 minutes), but a combination of not getting enough touches early and second half foul trouble made for a frustrating night that snapped a five-game streak of 14+ points from the second-year big man.
- Sanders scored his first bucket the way you;d hope to see him score many more: diving to the rim on a P&R, catching the ball three feet from the hoop and quickly rising to finish with bringing the ball down below his head. He seemed to have re-injured his hand after getting called for a charge early in the third, but stayed in the game and it didn't seem to slow him down thereafter.
Defensively he looked better than he did in any of the first three games of the season, holding his ground well against Reggie Evans and Mason Plumlee and challenging everything near the rim. That also translated into six fouls and a seat on the bench midway through the fourth, but overall the signs were mostly encouraging.
- Ersan Ilyasova (2/11 fg, 6 pts, 5 rebs in 22 minutes) looked to have a bit of a hop in his step after sitting out the past week, but the results were as disappointing as ever. He started 0/5 and looked to be rushing his shots early, though Caron Butler was even worse as the second unit's smallball PF (0/7 fg, 0 pts).
- Larry Drew opted not to go big at any point tonight, sticking with a first unit of Henson/Ilyasova and pairing Sanders/Butler off the bench. Miroslav Raduljica came in for Sanders after fouling out in garbage time, but Ekpe Udoh DNP'd. So yeah, still no minutes for the Sanders/Henson combo in the Larry Drew Era.