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Bucks vs. Nets Final Score: Bucks defeat Nets 103-96 on Bayless' big night

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The Bucks' defense made its first appearance of the 2015-16 season and Jerryd Bayless scored 26 as the Bucks beat the Nets 103-96.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this season, the Bucks were able to hold a team to double digits. Not coincidentally, for the first time this season the Bucks also won a game, defeating the Brooklyn Nets 103-96 on Monday night at the Barclays Center to snap out of their 0-3 start.

The return of the Bucks' defense was significant, but so were the offensive contributions of four Bucks players. Most notably -- and surprisingly -- Jerryd Bayless returned to the Bucks' starting lineup, played a game-high 47 minutes and led the Bucks in scoring with 26 points. Bayless was a career-high 6-of-10 from three-point range and hit some big shots at the start of the fourth quarter to help the Bucks retain their lead.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe both cracked 20 points as well, giving Milwaukee three twenty point scorers for the first time in a game this season. Antetokounmpo scored 21 points and stuffed the rest of the stat sheet by adding eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks, marking the first time he's scored 20 or more points in three straight games. As has been the case all season, Greg Monroe was rock solid, posting an easy double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Still, the Bucks needed some clutch plays on both ends to put the pesky Nets away late. Following a crucial chase-down steal by Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton broke a 96-all tie with a turnaround jumper from the right block to give the Bucks a two point lead with 1:13 remaining. It was a fitting cap on the evening for Middleton, who shook off his recent struggles with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, five rebounds and three assists.

On the other side, the Nets had six players in double figures, but none of them cracking 20 points. It remains to be seen if the improved look of the Bucks defense had more to do with the way the Bucks played or the Nets' general ineptitude as a team, though at this point any sign of life is encouraging.

The Bucks should have another opportunity to show off their defense as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CT. Eyes might not be on their defensive rotations though, as Jabari Parker will make his season debut in the game.

Tidbits:

  • An opposing center scored easily on the game's first play. It was not an encouraging start.
  • There was a possession late in the first quarter where Johnny O'Bryant aggressively called out a defensive rotation to Miles Plumlee. It was really a sight to see.
  • The Bucks seem a lot more willing to take threes in transition early in the shot clock than they were last season.
  • There was a one minute stretch around the eight minute mark of the third quarter where Carter-Williams was doing everything for the Bucks. He had a steal and dunk, followed by a block and an assist on the other end. It was a great sequence for him.
  • The Bucks ran Elbow Get for Antetokounmpo for the second night in a row. Shortly after, the Bucks returned from a timeout (4:30 in Q3) with a lob for him as well. Creative offense is fun.
  • Middleton and Greivis Vasquez each took end of quarter heaves tonight. This is no longer a norm around the league.
  • O'Bryant drew two charges and continued to make good passes on the offensive end. For the third straight game, he had a positive impact.
  • Chris Copeland played tonight, but did so for less than a minute.
  • Carter-Williams sustained a non-contact injury to his ankle with less than 30 seconds left in the game. It appeared as though it could have been quite serious, but Carter-Williams said that he was fine and just slipped on a wet spot.

Thoughts:

  • Antetokounmpo picked up a silly foul while hedging a ball screen very early in this game. At some point this season, he will need to figure out just how terrible those fouls are for his team.
  • We talked about it with Pyper Gibson in our Xs and Os Podcast during the preseason, but one of the challenges of having guys that can't spread the floor with three point shooting is keeping cutters away from each other. There was a great example of that on the late Monroe turnover with Carter-Williams and Antetokounmpo spotting the same opening and cutting to the same spot.
  • There were moments throughout tonight's game where the Bucks looked like the swarming, aggressive unit they were last season on defense. That is encouraging.
  • While his shooting has been a trainwreck (0/8 fg tonight), Vasquez's skip passes are exquisite. He regularly delivers the crosscourt skip to a three point shooter in rhythm and assisted on two Bayless threes that way on the night. He obviously hasn't been hitting any shots this year, but he had eight assists tonight and seems to have great chemistry with Bayless, which should be a great thing for the Bucks' bench mob going forward.
  • Middleton looked closer to his form from last season tonight, especially when he hit a three off the dribble in the third quarter.
  • We mentioned Antetokounmpo's body control on the most recent podcast a couple of times, but only focused on how it has impacted his scoring. That improved body control also makes him a much better distributor, as he can remain under control around the basket and deliver dump-off passes to teammates at the very last second of a drive.
  • Giannis scored 15 in the first half but also missed a number of chippies, particularly after halftime. I'd estimate half of his eight misses were point blank finishes you'd normally expect him to make, which in a weird way is rather encouraging. Antetokounmpo is getting into the paint with such ease that seemingly the only thing that can stop him is his own lack of concentration. His highlights: