So yeah, maybe the Bucks aren't ''too good'' after all.
The game was sloppy from the get go, as both the Bucks and Nets managed to put forth their most average performances on the same night. Neither team seemed ready or capable of grabbing control of the game in the first half, trading mini-runs in the first 24 minutes of action. As I'm typing this, I'm trying to think back to anything noteworthy from the first half and I'm coming up empty. I am sorry.
As the second half wore on, it appeared that Brooklyn was going to have just enough to be able to sneak out of Milwaukee with a win. The Nets started to make their shots late, led by Marcus Thornton's 25 points off the bench. The newly acquired combo guard had just enough energy to cause problems for Milwaukee's meh defense, leading to a lot of open shot opportunities for him down the stretch. The Bucks actually struggled with rotations most of the night, and when they finally started hitting their open shots it gave them the traction needed to pull away to the victory. Also helping Brooklyn pull away was Andray Blatche (yes, Andray Blatche), who had 19p/13r, while going 9-9 from the line. Not the usual suspects when you talk about the Nets, but somebody had to step up.
No player on the Bucks had more than 16 points or more than five assists. I think it's safe to say that there wasn't much of a rhythm on that end of the court tonight. Also consider that 18 turnovers (leading to 21 points for Brooklyn) generally doesn't help that cause, either. Bleh.
One player that did seem to have his offense clicking a little bit was Khris Middleton, who put up a pretty Khris Middleton-y stat line of 16p/4r on 8-12 shooting. It was interesting to see how Middleton got his points tonight, considering that he only took one three. He's not an ankle-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but he'll make just one subtle move that will free him enough to get that quick release fired off. Speaking of that release, there hasn't been a Bucks player since Michael Redd whose shot I've believed would go in more than Middleton, so that's cool. But that's not breaking news. I'm sorry. Not much happened tonight. Moving on.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a pretty okay 12p/3r/3a/3s performance. Those numbers may make it seem like his night was nothing special, but it had a little more sparkle than you'd think. Giannis had his standard cool block and dunk, but it was especially encouraging to see him have a little more sense of urgency in the half court when he got the ball. He still struggles to finish off his cool moves that get him separation (which is fine, because he is still so very raw), but there was a bit more ''attack-first'' in Giannis than usual and it paid off with nine free throw attempts. I can dig it.
Ramon Sessions also had 16 points, 11 of which came from 11 free throw attempts from the charity stripe. Quick math reveals that Sessions made 100% of his free throws (sorry for getting nerdy there). John Hammond wasn't kidding around when he was raving about Sessions' free throw rate. Dang.
Even though the Nets were without Kevin Garnett tonight, they still outscored the Bucks 42-32 in the paint. With Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh already out and John Henson in a bit of an unproductive streak, that left Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Adrien, and Ersan Ilyasova to man the middle. BARF (no disrespect to Adrien. I am terrified of him, but..). Also, that raises the question: what happened to Miroslav Raduljica? Last time I checked he is all of these things: tall, burly, heavily-tattooed, frightening, capable of giving you spot minutes, capable of fouling people while your other big men are catching their breath. Those seem like serviceable traits for a team that clearly needs some more depth up front at the moment. Maybe I'm wrong, but does anyone else think that's a little odd?
Former Buck and potential investor Junior Bridgeman was honored by the team tonight during a break in the fourth quarter. Among some other thanks he dished out, Bridgeman saved a special thanks for Herb Kohl, "who is going to keep this team in Milwaukee." That got a big roar from the crowd, which honestly was the most exciting part of the night.
The Bucks will continue to honor players of the past on Monday when they host the Jazz. They plan to pay tribute to a fellow named Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Maybe you've heard of him. Name sounds a little familiar.