It sure looked like the tryptophan finally kicked in for the Milwaukee Bucks. A game that felt like the representation of your uncle unbuttoning his belt at the end of a holiday weekend, Milwaukee emerged from a bland 104-96 contest with a much needed win in Orlando over the struggling Magic. Check out our podcast and recap below:
John Henson returned to the starting lineup tonight, and — thankfully for rational discourse’s sake — came through for Jason Kidd with a season-high 20 points and seven rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied a ho-hum 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks while Jabari Parker, looking a little passive all night, had nine points and seven rebounds but contributed a few nice assists in the second half (four total).
Milwaukee rarely coughed up the lead all night, sporting a vast assortment of contributors to counteract Evan Fournier’s strong outing for Orlando with 27 points, six boards and seven assists. Serge Ibaka added 19 points and Nikola Vucevic — coming off the bench for only the sixth time in his Magic career — tossed in 17 points and 16 rebounds. The perpetually-misused Aaron Gordon returned to the starting lineup and went 0-for-12 from the field. Look for an overwhelming amount of “Make Aaron Gordon Great Again” articles, coming soon to an NBA blogosphere near you.
Orlando tried to make it close in the final minutes, but to no avail. Milwaukee shot a respectable 47% on the night as Orlando went just 7-28 from three and 41% overall, but turned it over just seven times after 24 turnovers in Milwaukee on Monday.
Hopefully to liven his spirits, Milwaukee tried to get John Henson going early on with several post feeds leading to his mildly respectable hook shot. The Bucks opened up a 9-6 lead after trailing 6-0 off the tip. A Giannis spin cycle on Aaron Gordon and putback kept Milwaukee ahead 13-11. Nikola Vucevic entered midway through for Orlando, prompting an early entry from Milwaukee’s own bench big, Greg Monroe. Their mini tete-a-tete ended with Monroe winning the first quarter scoring war six to four. Giannis relieved Parker around the 3:30 mark, immediately scoring off a nice give-and-go with Monroe and later feeding Brogdon for two threes in transition, giving the rookie an unexpected 10 points on 4-7 shooting in the quarter. Giannis wound up with eight points and D.J. Augustin paced the Magic with nine as Milwaukee led 36-29 after one.
Henson continued his string of competency in the second, connecting on a Delly alley-oop and hook shot to maintain Milwaukee’s lead 40-35. Elfrid Payton kept Orlando in it early, with a few easy lay-ins against the Buck’s soft interior. The heretofore invisible Jabari Parker started flashing his passing a bit, throwing an in-rhythm dish to Snell on the wing who went in for a bucket. He followed that up with an over the top lob to Henson - a pass that seems to head out of bounds too often for Paker - who finished and put Milwaukee up 49-41. The half ended with what else: a chivalrous scoring duel between Fournier and Michael Beasley, who sprinkled in his typical spread of post-up hi-jinx with six straight points. Fournier ended the half with 14 points, and scored or assisted on the Magic’s last 11 points of the half. Milwaukee went in leading 58-52 with Henson (12 points), Giannis (eight) and Brogdon (10) helping the Bucks shoot a wholly unsustainable 55 percent compared to Orlando’s 43.
The third quarter was a sleepy one for the Bucks. They started off lethargically on offense, playing loose with the ball as Orlando tied the game at 60 prompting a timeout from Jason Kidd. Parker answered back with a three pointer and John Henson scored a dunk after cleaning up some garbage under the hoop. Not one to be outdone, Frank Vogel called his own timeout after the Bucks went on a 9-2 run. Evan Fournier responded by looking like the only player interested in competing, scoring off easy curls and drives to the bucket to get Orlando within three at 74-71. Giannis rubbed the sleep from his eyes and nailed a wet 28-foot jumper, followed swiftly by a dunk shot off a backdoor cut and the quarter ended with Milwaukee up 79-72.
In lieu of going small, Milwaukee opened the fourth with the oft-maligned Brogdon-Terry-Beasley-Telly-Moose lineup. They didn’t hemorrhage points and at least maintained the Bucks lead until Jabari was able to re-enter around the eight minute mark with the score 86-83 after a couple Payton free throws. Milwaukee rattled off seven points on a Teletovic three, Henson oop and deep Delly jumper as they extended the lead to 93-86. Orlando answered another Henson dunk with four points of their own as Giannis came back in with four minutes left and Milwaukee up 95-90. Orlando made a few small pushes in the final minutes, but never got close enough to make it competitive. Milwaukee wins, 104-98.
- Adam Paris
- John Henson started, despite receiving a DNP-CD Friday night against the Raptors. Jason Kidd said pregame that it the variability in the big man rotation has to do with matchups more than anything.
- Greg Monroe played real minutes again tonight! His rotational minutes were similar to that of Friday night’s (and much of the regular season), coming in around the halfway point of the first and third quarters. The halfcourt offense was oftentimes run through him in the first, where he basically at Nikola Vucevic for dinner.
- Frank Vogel went to a lineup of Elfrid Payton, CJ Watson, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Bismack Biyombo for the first 6 minutes of the second quarter. It (somehow) survived, managing to bully their way into the paint in lieu of shooting.
- Giannis came out with three minutes left in the half for Michael Beasley. It’s hard to tell if he was benched for his pointless frustration foul, or it was a staggering pattern (as he also came back in with 3 minutes left in the first).
- It then took Giannis until 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter to get back in later (where Jason Kidd finally called a timeout to do so). Needless to say, Jason Kidd did not start this fourth with the “center-less” lineup we’ve grown accustomed to in recent games.
- Malcom Brogdon’s three point stroke seems to be coming along, and his confidence is increasing in it. In the first quarter, he hit his third and fourth three pointers off Giannis assists in a row, both without any hesitation. I guess he heard the Nate Wolters comps..?
- It’s halves like tonight’s first where Jabari hurts you so much just by being on the floor. He throws a monkeywrench into every other defensive possession, and is invisible on offense when he’s not bulldozing out of control into the paint for a turnover. It reminded me a lot of last year’s pre-All Star Break Jabari, though his second half playmaking was a nice surprise.
- When Middleton went down, he left a void of someone the team can fall back on when the offense goes stale. Michael Beasley has filled that role in a significant amount of games this year, and it’s becoming more and more consistent. Sure.
- A couple of times, Giannis would stare down his man in isolation, do nothing after a good chunk of shot clock, dump it off to a teammate, and then immediately demand the ball back. Uh, why did you give it up in the first place, and what’s going to change this time?
- Tonight was one of those nights where John Henson hit a few shots early, and was engaged and active throughout the game. I’m inclined to think this was the best non-Monroe center game for the Bucks this year. Unfortunately, history tells us he’s not likely to repeat this play on a consistent basis. Or, who knows, maybe he’ll get another DNP-CD Tuesday against Cleveland.
- In related news, this big man situation is pretty much as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. I’m praying every night to the almighty Trader John that he finds a suitor soon for literally any one of them.
- Brett Abramcyzk