With the holiday season rapidly approaching, wish lists are being written and shoppers are on the hunt for the “perfect gift.” Going into Wednesday’s matchup between Milwaukee and Portland, the only thing that I had on my wish list was a Bucks win, with maybe a Giannis 5x5 or a Jabari 40-point game or a trio of Thon step-backs in garbage time.
With a 115-107 victory over the Trailblazers and a 15/12/11 triple-double from Giannis Antetokounmpo, I feel comfortable that we got what we wanted.
The opening quarter was sloppy for the Bucks, and the Blazers started out red-hot (4 straight makes to start the game), opening up a 10-4 lead. However, Milwaukee was able to force their will and find the inside shots that the Bucks have become notorious for taking. Throughout the game, they displayed a sort of resiliency that we’re simply not accustomed to from Milwaukee teams, and were able to actually establish and maintain a lead behind timely makes from bench contributors like Michael Beasley (12 points), Malcolm Brogdon (13 points), and Greg Monroe (15 points). Read on for more and check out our post-game podcast below:
Mistakes were a main theme in the first half, with most of the Bucks’ seven turnovers coming from ill-advised passes in traffic. And while their accuracy had faltered in the late first/early second quarters, the Blazers were able to get tuned in from outside about midway through the second period, particularly Damian Lillard (30 points, 5/8 first-half threes), C.J. McCollum (23 points, 2/3 first-half threes), and Meyers Leonard (9 points, 3/4 first-half threes). As a team, Portland were 12/22 from deep in the first half! For anybody keeping score at home, the Bucks did not keep up; only Brogdon (2/2 from 3) and Delly (1/3 from 3) converted on the Bucks’ 11 long-range attempts. And yes, that is half the number of attempts as their opponents.
Giannis was active from the get-go (first half: 6 pts/7 reb/4 ast/3 blk) and his activity ended up with him on the floor all night, but he became visibly frustrated in the second quarter by continually drawing contact and hearing silence from the referees’ whistles. His early forays into the lane were walled off by multiple Portland defenders more often than not, and he found a surprising a lack of open teammates to dish to, and got himself stuck in no-man’s land as a result. Jabari had more success finding seams to the basket, scoring 13 points on 6/10 shooting (with all six makes coming in the paint).
Coming out of halftime down 58-51, Giannis’ frustration seemed to have subsided, but he quickly was the recipient of a ten-second free throw violation and an offensive foul early in the third quarter. These miscues weren’t critical to the Bucks, but they did put a bit of a damper on what turned out to be a relatively complete game. Whatever he may have been feeling, the third quarter became when Giannis took matters into his own hands and found enough space to drive and suck in the defense, leaving shooters open (4 assists for threes in the period).
Additionally, the Bucks vaunted three-point defense was able to finally take effect in the second half, forcing the Blazers into missed jumpers for much of the game’s remainder (second half: 5/18 from deep for Portland). Three of those makes happened late in the fourth quarter during a 9-0 run that lasted roughly one minute, but a pair of Delly floaters helped balance the scoreboard in the Bucks’ favor. Once both teams were in the bonus, the Bucks were able to maintain their lead with some frantic switches and fortunate foul calls, eventually running out the clock for the victory.
Even above Giannis’ hard-earned triple-double, a big story was Jabari Parker’s steady scoring input; with 27 points on 23 shots, Parker logged one of the quieter 25+ point outings of his young career. Well, maybe not so quiet...
Next game: the Bucks are at home against the Atlanta Hawks at 7:00pm CST on Friday, December 9th.
- Rashad Vaughn suited up and played for Milwaukee tonight in the first half for nine minutes. It was his first significant playing time - outside of garbage time - since playing 14 minutes against Atlanta on November 16th. He didn’t appear in the second half.
- Brogdon’s 3-point shot returned tonight, as he went 3-3 after going 0-4 his last two games.
- After scoring 13 points and playing the whole first quarter, Jabari Parker didn’t appear until 3:07 left in the second.
- Mirza Teletovic didn’t appear in the game tonight.
- Since going 5-7 from three against Orlando, Jabari Parker has gone cold from deep. He’s only 5-22 in his past seven games.
- Despite his third lowest point total of the season with 15, Giannis posted his second triple double of the season and the seventh for his career.
- Jabari Parker did his best Man In Black performance in the first quarter, treating the Blazer’s defense like his own personal, lawless Westworld. He abused Portland’s bigs like they were his play toys by penetrating the lane at will, winding up with 13 points on 6-9 shooting in the first period.
- Giannis has rightly gotten praise for being a terror in transition, but it’s probably obfuscating what a monster Jabari is in his own right. Both of them rank in the top 25 percentile for transition scoring, and among players averaging at least three transition possessions per game, Giannis has the eighth best points per possession. Jabari is tenth.
- Giannis had a great defensive effort in a one-on-one fast break against Maurice Harkless after he intercepted an errant Delly pass in the first quarter. Giannis’ bulk stopped Harkless in his tracks, and he calmly sent the shot packing. Fast break scorers must quiver when they see Giannis awaiting them at the hoop.
- Greg Monroe went full Moose during his stint in the first half. Almost immediately he shoved his rump into Mason Plumlee and scored his typical bevy of post buckets. It’s precisely what the Bucks expect from him on those bench lineups, and there’s a stark difference between his performance and the laissez faire offensive efforts of Miles Plumlee when he was getting run.
- Monroe dished out of a post-up to Malcolm Brogdon, who promptly hit a three early in the second. Those two have shown a preternatural chemistry so far this year, although it’s usually Brogdon finding Monroe amid a forest of defenders beneath the hoop.
- After only three 3-pointers in the first half, Milwaukee hit five three-pointers in the third quarter alone. Most of those came in transition with Giannis or Jabari leaving it for a trailing Dellavedova or Snell who cashed in.
- They called a 10-second violation against Giannis on a free throw attempt early in third quarter. It’s rarely ever called, but that feels like something an annoying bro would call during a pickup game in a Netflix movie to demonstrate he “knows the game”. I think it works better as an unwritten rule than anything that should actually be codified.
- Delly had two clutch runners down the stretch to expand the Bucks lead from 101-99 to 105-99. He flipped in a layup later to get their lead back up to six. He showed a similar willingness to score down the stretch against the Brooklyn Nets last week.
- This felt like Giannis’ worst offensive performance of the year. He never quite got in rhythm after a decent start and he was flummoxed more often than normal on his drives to the rim. Oh, but he still got a casual triple-double on the night.
- Adam Paris