Sometimes it sucks that a standard basketball game has to be two halves.
Milwaukee came out and grabbed an early lead, playing like they had put Friday night's blowout loss behind them. They were very active on defense and were able to turn that into quick offense, outscoring the Wizards 16-3 in fast break points. Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmp had combined for 22 points on 13 shots. Larry Sanders had three blocks and was looking a bit like the LARRY SANDERS! of old (salutes included).
The Bucks saw their lead grow to as much as 15 in the first half and, though it shrunk down to five as a result of a sloppy finish to the half, it still seemed like they were in a good spot.
Well, you see, that wasn't the case.
Milwaukee missed their first 10 shots of the second half while the Wizards got busy going on a 16-2 run. Washington packed the paint much better and starting crashing and abusing the Bucks on the glass, to the tune of 20 offensive rebounds. Though Nene didn't play in the second half with a foot injury, Washington was able to still dominate inside, getting consistent contributions from Marcin Gortat (10p/13r) and Kris Humphries (12p/9r). When they weren't punishing the Bucks on the glass (53 rebounds to Milwaukee's 36), they got clutch basket after clutch basket from Paul Pierce, who finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
Milwaukee's shooting percentage dropped from 47.6 in the first half to 38.1 in the second, as they were outscored by Washington 64-48. Whatever flow the offense had going in the first half had disappeared, and Milwaukee could not get stops or keep Washington out of the paint, allowing for a 29-10 advantage for the Wizards in second chance points. Though they were able to make somewhat of a charge late in the game, Milwaukee was never able to get the game close enough to make it serious, and alas, they are now back to .500.
-- Though Washington seemed able to dominate just about anyone inside, it seemed odd that Jason Kidd stuck with a small ball lineup for as long as he did. You could argue that he was going with his best shooting lineup to get back into the game, but the bigger problem was on the other end of the court. I'm not one to gripe about Player X playing over Player Y that much, but it's hard to justify playing Jared Dudley or Khris Middleton over Giannis when both size and defense were at a premium.
-- After playing sparingly in Toronto, Giannis was back in the starting lineup. Though Paul Pierce did a decent job at making his drives to the basket difficult, Giannis still finished with a career-high 20 points, five assists, 4 rebounds, and three steals. Some of his drives were closed off so he had to settle for a few more jumpers, but he still went 6-11 from the field and went 8-8 from the free throw line. It wasn't his flashiest performance, but 20 points is no joke. RELEASE THE DOVES!
-- Jabari Parker had a quiet six points on 3-11 shooting. Obviously you'd like to see him contribute a bit more, but overall this week was very encouraging for the rookie.
-- A spot continues to be reserved in these recaps for Ersan Ilyasova, who had a productive 13p/5r line. He's not blowing anyone's mind out there, but his value is at least staying consistent, if not improving ever so slowly.
-- Brandon Knight's raw numbers of 27p/6a/5r are impressive, but when you look at the contexahhhhhh yes we all should be quite familiar with this narrative by now.
-- The season is still so very young, but Khris Middleton is shooting 29.6 percent from three, and his shooting numbers are down across the board from last season. It's not exactly how people expected Middleton to perform in a contract year (or maybe, for financial reasons, they did?), but it's not a good sign when one of your designated shooters can't make shots. There's still plenty of time to turn things around, but you begin to wonder how much longer the Bucks can afford to keep him in the starting lineup if the struggles continue.
After another four game in five night stretch, the Bucks have a few days off before they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.