We’re just nine days into the new NBA season, but the Milwaukee Bucks may finally be starting to figure out this whole “scoring points” thing, eh?
Two days after scoring 117 in a narrow road win in New Orleans, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe and the suddenly-frisky Bucks lit up a shaky Pacer defense at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Thursday night and ultimately pulled away for a comprehensive 125-107 win.
In the headline matchup of the night, Antetokounmpo (27 points on 18 shots, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, +20) outdueled Pacer star Paul George (23 pts, 4 reb, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 2 steals, -16), but let’s not confuse the Bucks’ latest win for a one-man show. Fulfilling the wildest fantasies of Bucks fans everywhere, Parker hit two early threes en route to 27 points, eight boards and a career-best 4/6 effort from deep, and the Bucks also got terrific two-way games from Monroe (16 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists), Malcolm Brogdon (12 points on five shots, 5 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers) and Tony Snell (14 points on nine shots). Ultimately, the Pacers’ newfound preference for playing fast played right into the Bucks’ hands, as Milwaukee shot a scorching 58% from the field, outscored Indy 62-42 in the paint, and drilled a season-best 12 triples (44%) on 27 attempts.
Indy entered the night having won nine of their last 12 games against the Bucks, but it became apparent early on that the new-look Pacers don’t have the same defensive mettle of the Frank Vogel clubs we got used to watching over the past few seasons. Giannis was dishing and Parker was scoring early; Jabari netted seven quick points including a no-hesitation three from the corner, while Giannis was again subbed early and didn’t score his first bucket until the final minute of the first — a monster dunk after Monroe found him cutting down the middle of the lane. That proved to be a theme for the night, as Giannis continually found ways to get past George and the Pacers’ other perimeter defenders for easy finishes at the rim, and Monroe’s passing repeatedly led to easy buckets for Bucks cutters. Still, George’s 10 first half points helped keep the teams even up until the final minute of the second quarter, when the Bucks reeled off a quick 9-3 run capped by Tony Snell’s buzzer-beating three.
Parker got the Bucks off to another fast start in the third, burying his third three and adding a couple more finishes to help the Bucks open up a double-digit lead. Foul trouble forced Myles Turner to the bench early in the period and the Bucks led by as many as 16, though Indy used a 6-0 run against a Giannis-and-Jabari-less bench lineup to close within 90-79 heading into the fourth.
Thankfully, Parker returned to start the decisive quarter and promptly scored five straight points — including his fourth three — before Antetokounmpo also returned and made sure the Bucks were never seriously threatened the rest of the way. The Pacers didn’t have much of an answer for the Bucks’ elbow actions down the stretch, with Milwaukee punctuating the night with Antetokounmpo and Plumlee throwing each other alley-oops off well-designed actions.
First it was Antetokounmpo setting up Plumlee after the Pacers doubled an elbow 4-5 P&R; Giannis gently lobbed the ball rim-wards as Plumlee slipped free to thunder it home. Then a minute later the Bucks got a bit more creative, coming out of a timeout with a HORNS set that saw Dellavedova pass to Plumlee at one elbow, who found Antetokounmpo back-cutting from the the other elbow for an alley-oop (plus a foul) of his own.
Dellavedova revealed after the game that it wasn’t an accident: “That was a drawn-up by play by Coach. It was a great play and a great pass by Plums. We were all pretty excited when it came off.”
But as entertaining as the first 47 minutes might have been, the loudest moments of the night may not have come until the game was well out of reach, as Thon Maker made his regular season home debut in the final minute — and promptly splashed two long pick-and-pop threes.
The Bucks shot 27 threes on Thursday night. That is the sixth most threes the Bucks shot in a game during the Jason Kidd Era. In back-to-back games, the Bucks have shot the most threes they’ve ever shot in a game and the sixth most threes they’ve ever shot in a game under Jason Kidd.
Antetokounmpo and Parker both finished with 27 points. It is just the second time they have gone for 25-plus points on the same night. The first was the Bucks’ home loss to the Thunder last March.
Notable plus-minuses: Antetokounmpo (+20), Plumlee (+18 in 22 minutes), Brogdon (+17 in 24 minutes), Teletovic (-5, the Bucks’ only minus). Related: the Bucks are almost 30 points per 100 possessions better with Giannis on the court vs. off the court.
Bucks with Giannis 110.3 ORTG / 102.6 DRTG / +7.7 Net— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) November 4, 2016
Bucks w/o Giannis: 90.7 ORTG / 112.7 DRTG / -22.0 Net pic.twitter.com/AaEmKOtEAW
The Bucks forced 21 turnovers against the Pacers and scored 34 points off of those turnovers. Paul George had six of the Pacers’ 21 turnovers.
Before Thursday night, Parker had only shot three three pointers in a single game just twice and two threes only 11 times in his career. Not makes, attempts. He doubled his career high in attempts on Thursday night.
The Delly-Snell-Giannis-Jabari-Plumlee lineup has now played 46 minutes of very good basketball together, scoring 107.5 and allowing just 97.8 points per 100 possessions.