The Western Conference is tough? HOGWASH.
O.J. Mayo kept the Bucks alive early, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the first quarter. He was the only Buck with a pulse early on, and though some of his shots were off, he kept the team afloat.
The Bucks were also able to keep pace with the hot shooting Kings in the first by being scorching hot from the perimeter, going 10-14 from deep in the first half. That mark was the highest since April of 2013 for threes in a half.
Sacramento remained in the game due in large part to strong performances from their big three. Demarcus Cousins--in his first game back from being out with viral meningitis--put up a monster 27p/11r/5a line, while Rudy Gay (20p/9r/6a) and Ben McLemore (22p/4r) made shots all over the floor. Where Sacramento let the game slip away was when they went to their bench. Cousins, McLemore, and Darren Collison (15p/5a) were effective, but the reserves couldn't do much, helping create a wide enough gap for Milwaukee.
I don't usually like to use +/- because it can be misleading but tonight it was not. Sessions -20 in 22 mins, Landry -18 in 10, Nik -11 in 9— Akis Yerocostas (@Aykis16) December 19, 2014
With only three active big men on the roster, the Bucks were going to need big performances from their back court and reserves in order to pull out the victory. Aside from Mayo, Milwaukee got 20p/5r/4a from Brandon Knight, and 19p/5r from Jared Dudley, 17p/5a/4r from Jerryd Bayless. Kendall Marshall (8p/6a) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (11p) weren't as continually effective, but both made key plays in the second half that helped pad the Bucks cushion, one that they would need to survive all the way until the final buzzer.
-- Though Giannis was healthy enough to start, you could tell he wasn't his usual confident self. His drives weren't as ferocious, so Giannis ended up cutting a lot more off the ball (see below) and operated out of the post more than usual. Both were effective, and it's further evidence of how much his game has grown. It's never not fun to watch.
-- I'm not going to sit here and like Johnny O'Bryant had a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but for a rookie fresh off an injury going against Cousins and company, he held himself together nicely. I wouldn't expect much from him once the front court gets healthier, but I wanted to acknowledge that he did an alright patchwork job tonight. Kudos.
-- The Bucks shot 49 percent to the Kings 57, and were out-rebounded 27-35. Normally, that's a bad recipe for winning games, but Milwaukee made seven more threes and took care of the ball a bit better, turning it over 16 times compared to Sacramento's 21.
-- Backup Center Jared Dudley might have been the Bucks best player tonight. I just wanted to see how that sentence felt when I typed. The result? WEIRD.
--Remember that horrible December the Bucks were supposed to be experiencing? Well, they're 4-5 so far and the more difficult half of the month is behind them. The team is still above .500 as well. Bananas.