The Milwaukee Bucks desperately needed a win. Fortunately, Giannis Antetokounmpo wouldn’t allow them to lose.
After a slow start, Antetokounmpo turned a sleepy Monday night into his own personal highlight reel, scoring 21 points to go with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and three blocks in 39 minutes — giving the Bucks just enough to hold off a plucky Magic team that hung around until the final minute of Milwaukee’s 93-89 win. Jabari Parker added 22 points, three assists and three steals including a career-best five threes, with Michael Beasley delivering an early spark on his way to 14 points. While both teams struggled from deep and the field, the Bucks
were gifted forced 24 turnovers and Giannis raced the Bucks to a commanding 27-12 edge in transition. Serge Ibaka led Orlando with 21 points on 11 shots to go with eight boards and three blocks, Evan Fournier added 18 points on 13 shots, and Elfrid Payton got the better of Matthew Dellavedova for much of the night with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Check out the post-game pod below:
The Bucks started the game with the urgency of a woozy sea turtle, repeatedly hitting the snooze button as Payton and the Magic rammed a 14-2 run down their throats before Jason Kidd opted to give Giannis and Jabari a quick hook — presumably to remind them a game was being played.
And it worked. Beasley took little time warming up off the bench, getting a friendly bounce on his first shot and following it up with a couple of aggressive takes from the mid-post. Having gotten their wake-up call, Jabari and Giannis checked back in a few minutes later with the lead 26-14, and by the time Parker dumped it off for a Giannis dunk in the final minute of the quarter the lead had been trimmed to 27-20.
The second quarter saw a re-energized Giannis and Jabari continuing to pile pressure on the Magic, combining for five steals as the Magic’s sloppiness — 18 first half turnovers! — fueled a 16-7 Bucks edge in transition. Playing with the kind of tempo they lacked entirely at the start of the game, Antetokounmpo hit eight free throws in the quarter and found Parker for a layup at the buzzer to help the Bucks race back to a 49-44 halftime edge. Also making an appearance: Mr. Greg Monroe! After a rusty start, he took a charge and added a block and a steal before slamming home his first field goal in transition.
Alas, halftime seemed to sap the Bucks’ momentum — momentarily — as Ibaka keyed a quick 7-0 run to start the period. Not to worry, though, as Parker drilled three (THREE!) straight threes before Giannis gyro-stepped for another hoop to make it 60-55 and force Frank Vogel into a timeout. Whatever Vogel said must have worked: Payton and Fournier continued to torment the Bucks off the bounce, Bismack Biyombo repeatedly found himself all alone at the rim, and the Magic reeled off a 12-2 run after Beasley replaced Antetokounmpo to take a 74-69 lead into the decisive stanza.
So what do the Bucks do when they need a fourth quarter boost? Go small, young man. Giannis returned alongside Teletovic and Beasley to spark a 16-2 run to start the fourth, including a slick around-the-back dish for a Telly layup and another to Teletovic for a patented pull-up three.
Unfortunately, the Bucks’ lack of size began to translate into second chance opportunities, and the Magic stormed back to tie the game at 85 before Matthew Dellavedova — having been badly outplayed by Payton most of the night — delivered two huge plays. First, Giannis found him wide open for a tiebreaking three, and moments later Delly returned the favor with a pick-and-roll pocket pass for a dunk to give the Bucks additional breathing room. Milwaukee struggled to close the Magic out, however, and Orlando could have had a late chance to tie if Ibaka hadn’t fouled Parker on a late-clock desperation three with 17 seconds left. Parker could only make one of three, but he atoned moments later when he doubled and swiped the ball from Ibaka at the top, going the length of the court for the game-clinching dunk.
Not exactly the kind of resounding victory you’d hope the Bucks could muster against a decidedly meh Magic team, but it was perhaps a predictable follow-up to a scintillating Warriors game in front of a packed house on Saturday. Then again, considering the three-game losing streak they carried into the night, the Bucks will take what they can get -- especially with a three-day Thanksgiving break before they host the 8-5 Raptors on Friday.