And on December 26th, the Milwaukee Bucks matched their win total from last season.
The 15th victory in 30 games was undoubtedly the most impressive, as the Bucks pummeled the Atlanta Hawks for the final three quartes en route to a 30-point victory. The margin of victory itself is one thing, but when you consider that the Hawks were second in the Eastern Conference with a 21-7 record--and were riding a five-game wining streak against playoff power players--the result is even more incredible.
Both teams traded baskets for a little while before Milwaukee's shooting advantage from the perimeter (8-19 from three compared to Atlanta's 4-23) began to create significant separation. The Bucks outscored the Hawks 83-55 in the final three quarters.
Though paced by the ever-steady Paul Millsap (22p/11r), the Hawks got very little support from their best players. Jeff Teague had 12p/4a and Kyle Korver had three points on just 1-8 shooting. For the most part, Atlanta had decent looks, but the Bucks' efforts to chase them off the line, paired with a widespread cold shooting night crippled their offense.
It was a much different story for the Bucks, who were led by Jared Dudley (24p/4r/4s), who made history tonight with his scoring shooting performance. When Dudley wasn't busy adding to his perfect night, Jerryd Bayless (12p/4a), Brandon Knight (16p/5r/2s), or O.J. Mayo (11p/5r) were knocking down jumpers or busting out in transition for easy layups. Those four players combined for 63 of the Bucks 107 points on 23-36 (63 percent) shooting.
-- This was the biggest Bucks victory in Atlanta since Valentine's Day of 1971. That was the same year they won their only NBA title.
--The addition of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup appeared to pay off. Both units looked to have a much better flow and pace to them, and both guards seemed to play well off each other. It's not the most ideal pairing--especially defensively--but tonight this rotation worked beautifully. We'll see how it holds up tomorrow and going forward.
-- Though their rim protection on defense leaves much, if not ALL OF THE ROOM for improvement, the Bucks starting frontcourt of Johnny O'Bryant and Zaza Pachulia were quietly enjoyable, combining for 26p/12r. The bulky, elbow jump-shooting teammates helped Milwaukee keep up with Atlanta's quick shooting start early on, and their work on the glass kept Atlanta from many second chance points while allowing the more mobile Bucks to get out in transition. It was an encouraging performance, given that the team was short-handed up front with Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders missing tonight's game.
-- Both Giannis Antetokounmpo (duh) and Dudley (WUT) threw down some cool dunks tonight. And while Giannis never really got his offense going otherwise (2/10 fg, 7 pts), he added seven boards, five assists and two blocks.
(Note: One of these dunks is not that impressive, but we're just going to keep making you watch it anyhow, because it is amazing. Good luck figuring out which one it is).
-- John Henson returned to the rotation after missing the previous 14 games with a left foot injury. He looked rusty, but was able to use his length to disrupt passing lanes and make Hawks players think twice about attacking the rim. It was good just to see Henson back on a basketball court, honestly. Additionally, he looks rather comfortable running with the second unit, so that's nice.
-- If you think there is a better four-quarter stretch of Bucks basketball from this season out there, I'd love to see it. Most impressive win of the season hands down, right?
Both of these teams fly to Milwaukee tonight for Round 2 of BAWKS basketball Saturday night. Can the Bucks pull off the back-to-back upset?