When Giannis Antetokounmpo drove towards the basket, he couldn't be stopped.
The Greak Freak led the Bucks with 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting and added 10 rebounds and five assists as Milwaukee dealt the Chicago Bull their third consecutive loss, 106-101 inside a rowdy BMO Harris Bradley Center Tuesday evening.
The Bucks trailed by as many as 11 and shot just 39.6 percent in the first half, but they were only down five at halftime thanks largely to Giannis. After a slow start, Antetokounmpo scored 11 in a 13-4 run that pulled Milwaukee to within two, 37-35. Missing two shots and free throws early, Giannis changed his approach and strictly attacked the rim, scoring all of his points on layups, free-throws and close shots near the rim.
"I was just trying to be aggressive." Antetokounmpo said after the game. "I missed some shots in the beginning, some free throws but the coaches and my teammates wanted me to be aggressive."
Khris Middleton said the Bucks were intent on getting Antetokounmpo involved: "We just played off of him. We just wanted to give him the ball, give him some space and let him make plays for us and himself." While he struggled through a 6/16 shoot night, Middleton added a career-high nine assists and six rebounds.
"That's what we need from him." Greg Monroe said. "He's at his best when he's attacking the rim and getting to the lane. As long as he's consistent with that, he's always putting himself in position to be successful."
A driving floater by Jabari Parker gave the Bucks their first lead at the 9:02 mark in the third quarter, 58-56, and the Bucks eventually built their lead to eight. But Giannis was forced to the bench with four fouls, and after two missed free throws from Parker the Bulls responded with eight unanswered to tie the game back up at 67. Doing much of the damage for Chicago was (who else?) Jimmy Butler, who once again tormented the Bucks with 30 points (9/21 fg), eight rebounds and six assists.
The teams went back and forth from there, with the Bulls extending their lead to 91-83 inside seven minutes. But to the Bucks' credit they never backed down. Parker and Antetokoumpo scored nine straight Bucks points early in the period, with Monroe then taking the baton with seven in a row before Middleton made two huge shots down the stretch. After Monroe's three-point play gave the Bucks a 96-95 lead, Antetokounmpo spotted Middleton open in the corner for a three that made it 99-95, though the Bulls drew within two following Michael Carter-Williams' bailout foul on Butler's corner three point attempt.
Still, the Bucks didn't collapse. After blowing multiple chances to extend the lead, Middleton drove and eventually worked for a tough turnaround on Butler to make it a four-point game with 16 seconds left.
This was probably the best perimeter defense I've seen. And it didn't matter. Wow, Khris Middleton https://t.co/WwzZV3t1yu— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 13, 2016
With Joe Prunty opting not to sub John Henson in for defensive purposes, Monroe rotated to force Butler into missing a tough reverse layup with eight seconds left, effectively sealing the win and sending Bucks fans home happy. Giannis grabbed his tenth rebound off the miss and added his last two points at the free-throw line to make the cushion six.
The Bucks will look to snap a two-game road streak and improve a crummy 5-17 road record when they face the Wizards in D.C. tomorrow.
— Amazingly, the Bucks only committed five turnovers tonight, which is the first time their turnovers were in the single digits since April 5 of last season vs. Toronto.
"That's a great game for us," Giannis said of the limited number.
— Derrick Rose (3/9 shots for 9 points and three assists) exited the game in the second half with what was described as patella tendinitis.
— In the first half, Milwaukee scored 18 points off Chicago turnovers. The Bulls? Only four, which is unsurprising given the Bucks only committed three turnovers. The Bucks finished with 30 points off 17 Chicago turnovers.
— The Bulls made up for their turnover deficit on the boards, outrebounding the Bucks 57-40 overall and 20-14 on the offensive end. Still, all those second chances didn't translate into paint points, as the Bucks dominated that category 62-32.
— Jabari was pulling jumpers from the perimeter early and often. He took five of Milwaukee's first 13 shots and four of them were jumpers. In general, he took more tonight than he usually does and finished with 16 points on 8/14 shooting. More of this, please.
— The Bucks are so predictable when they drive to the paint sometimes. Chicago isn't the easiest team to drive on obviously since they're third in the league in blocks, but so many of their rejections were timed perfectly and embarrassing for the Bucks. They blocked eight tonight, but six of them came in the first half.
— Giannis' aggressive 11-point tear in the second came in the following ways: layup, layup, free-throw, finger-roll, layup, free-throw, free-throw. Two of his layups were perfectly executed euro-steps with Joakim Noah — who managed to pick up two fouls in the quarter — defending.
— Tony Snell and Butler combined for 24 points in the first half, with each player finishing with 12.
— Pau Gasol has killed the Bucks over the past two years, and his non-scoring numbers tonight were again impressive -- 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. But the Bucks did well containing him in pick-and-roll and held him to just 10 points overall on 4/12 shooting -- the last three points coming at the fourth quarter buzzer with the Bucks up eight.
— The Bucks could've easily lost this game because of how they shot at the free-throw line. As a team, they went 17-of-28 after starting 3-of-7.
— O.J. Mayo in his last six: 10-of-37 from the field and 4-of-14 from deep. He's cold and the Bucks need him off the bench with Jerryd Bayless still out a bit.
— Giannis had a handful of jaw-dropping plays, including this one-handed alley-oop from Middleton.
Just throw it up there, Khris...Giannis will take care of the rest https://t.co/CCXDKY4UK3— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) January 13, 2016