How fitting is it that Milwaukee Bucks clinched a playoff spot over Jason Kidd's old employer, the Brooklyn Nets? The Bucks officially locked up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday with a 96-73 matinee win over the Nets that gave them their 40th victory of the season. Brooklyn didn't shoot the ball well for the majority of Sunday's game, which wasn't enough to keep pace with the Bucks who made close to 50 percent of their baskets.
Every shot made in the first quarter for Brooklyn came inside the paint (9-for-13) while they missed all eight of their jump shots from the field. The Bucks on the other end made 57 percent of their shots on top of recording nine assists on nine made baskets to lead by two after one. The most they led by in the half was five.
Both teams were pretty horrid shooting in the second, though. Brooklyn and Milwaukee each only converted on less than 30 percent of their shots. The Nets went 7-for-26 in the quarter while the Bucks went just 7-for-25. That cold time frame for Milwaukee still allowed 10 lead changes and a 35 percent shooting team to be down just 43-41 at halftime.
John Henson played really well off the bench by blocking two shots (as well as disrupting many others at the rim) in just under 10 minutes of first half action. He helped keep big man Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young to zero points in entire second quarter after they both combined for 12 after the first.
Two early fouls in the first kept Giannis out from the middle of the first until the middle of the second, but he brought back the same energy he started the game with when he got back in. Giannis scored six points at the half, but went 3-for-9 and had some close shots at the rim fall out. Still, his aggressiveness on the court and in his body language were once again displayed Sunday. Michael Carter-Williams also looked good early, only missing one shot (six points), dishing out three assists and not turning the ball over in the half. Khris Middleton led all scorers with 10 points.
Milwaukee made their move in the third, blowing the game open behind the exploits of Ersan Ilyasova and Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova scored six of eight straight Bucks points to start the second half, extending Milwaukee's lead to double digits early in the third. A triple and fast-break inside basket off a dish from Giannis in transition gave Ilyasova 11 points midway through the quarter, as the Bucks made their lead 61-47. Another big third quarter for the Bucks help made the difference, as the Nets were outscored 30-18 in the period. Brooklyn hit 35 percent from the field and made just 6-of-17 shots, meanwhile the Bucks were a red-hot 13-of-18.
The same trend for the Bucks started at the beginning of the fourth, as they scored nine straight points this time around, making their lead 82-59. This time around O.J. Mayo played the catalyst role, dropping 10 in the quarter, although he did finish the game with six turnovers. Plays like a Henson alley-oop from Giannis and an Antetokounmpo and-one ignited the BMO Harris Bradley crowd, which witnessed the Bucks seal their return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
The Nets have a matchup tomorrow in Chicago against the Bulls, and Lionel Hollins elected to rest his starters once the game got out of hand. You can't blame him for that.
-- It was great to see Giannis not get bothered by foul trouble and just continue to drive and make plays for his teammates. His body language throughout today's game (as well as the one in New York) was just so passionate and all you can do is just admire it. The confidence in his jump shot has gotten so much better, too. He's not hesitant to come off a screen and pull-up, or take a shot on his own. It's just great progress to witness.
-- This game was fairly competitive in the first half but was a completely different story in the second. The Bucks have outscored their opponent in the third by a large margin for a second-straight game, and have killed opponents 59-34 in those two games. Granted, they were against New York and Brooklyn, but that's still pretty impressive.
-- Remember those eight points Lopez scored in the first quarter? Yeah, he only scored four points the rest of the way. The Bucks did a great job contesting his inside looks and forcing him to take outside shots. Lopez averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game against the Bucks this season. Nothing came easy inside.
-- This was funny: Fans in attendance of tonight's victory chanted: "Thanks for Jason!" in the fourth quarter.