Milwaukee’s first appearance on TNT at home in over a decade last night went exceedingly well with the Bucks coming away 108-97 winners. Surely it is sweet when the team gets a win over a rival, but it was that much sweeter given just how dominant the Bucks looked (in front of a national audience) for a large majority of the game. And the best part? There’s a second helping of Bucks-Bulls action tonight, this time 90 miles due south in Chicago.
After hitting an icy patch, the Bucks have hacked their way back to a .500 record, and that bad taste from consecutive losses to the Raptors, Hawks, and Wizards lessened just a bit with the losing streak on hold. If the Bucks can win again this evening, they’ll have a bit of momentum heading into a weekend of rest until the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town next Tuesday.
If the stars are supposed to shine brightest under the lights, then it should come as no shock that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were willing and able to step to the fore. Combined, they accounted for 53.7% of Milwaukee’s points (58/108) and 51.7% of the rebounds (15/29). They both roared from the very start of the game, hitting seemingly every jumper attempted through the initial six minutes, and they would often swap play making duties between one another thereafter.
Giannis was his usual across-the-board impacting self, but it was Jabari’s 11/19 shooting night (including a three for five mark from distance) that really opened up the offense. He was no slouch on defense, consistnetly nimble in transition and got to the foul line aplenty. His three of seven line in free throws was disappointing, but the calls he’s getting are promising if he can execute.
The other guy worth talking about? Mirza Teletovic and his continuing contribution off the bench. With Michael Beasley out, the offensive load fell on Teletovic’s shoulders, and he delivered with 13 points and three crucial long-range makes. If the starters need more rest heading into tonight, having the almost guaranteed scoring (or threat thereof) from Mirza should help tide things over.
On the injury front, the Bucks will be without Khris Middleton and Michael Beasley, who continues to suffer from foot trouble.
They may have come up short last night, but to doubt the ability of Chicago to suddenly strike is to be caught playing with fire. Jimmy Butler had an uncharacteristically inefficient evening, Rajon Rondo was clearly shaking off injury rust (and still had eight assists), and Dwyane Wade was able to post an impressive plus/minus of -28.
A main concern will still continue to be how well Chicago rebounds, especially offensively, even though Milwaukee was able to win that battle by a margin of seven last night. While a lot of the offensive usage goes through their guards, the Bucks are still quite prone to giving up a lot of attempts near the basket. Players like Taj Gibson are purpose-built to take advantage of those mismatches, and his 18.7% usage rate is the highest of any big on the roster. He backed that up last night with a 19 point, four rebound performance that limited John Henson (who was his primary matchup in the paint) to a neutral zero plus/minus.
If you can keep the non-stars from scoring in bunches, however, you’ve got a pretty good chance at surviving the evening, as seen last night. Being lulled into comfort is an inherent danger, but the amount of energy expended by Chicago’s starters last night should help buoy Milwaukee’s odds.
Now that I’ve written all of that, don’t be shocked when the likes of Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott light Milwaukee up all evening long.
In regards to injuries, it is Michael Carter-Williams who will continue to be sat with a knee injury, otherwise the Bulls have all hands on deck.