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Bucks vs. Rockets Final Score: Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Parker go off vs. Houston, 128-121

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Winning games is cool, but the young guys having great nights is way cooler.

30 points. 5 steals. 4 assists.

18 points. 17 rebounds. 11 assists. 4 steals. 2 blocks.

36 points. 5 assists. 4 rebounds. 2 steals.

Those were the stat lines for Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jabari Parker on Monday night against the Rockets. The Bucks ended up winning the game 128-121, but that doesn't seem all that important when the Bucks three best young players put up such impressive numbers.

"It was fun to have a taste of the future," Antetokounmpo said postgame. Indeed, it was.

Jabari Parker helped jumpstart the Bucks early, canning two jumpers on his way to scoring six of the Bucks' first eight points on the night. He ended the first quarter with 14 points as the Bucks took a 32-26 lead after one quarter. Despite scoring 33 points in the second quarter (and making plenty of highlights), the Bucks went into halftime leading by just one, 65-64, as the Rockets scored 38 points in the period. Trevor Ariza scored 13 of his 20 points in the second quarter to lead the way for Houston.

The Rockets ran out to a seven point lead midway through the third quarter behind a scoring barrage from Dwight Howard and James Harden, but the Bucks were able to answer with a 16-6 run of their own to take a three point lead with seven seconds left in the quarter. The run was led by a few easy buckets from Parker and highlighted by a pretty bounce pass from Middleton to Greg Monroe after Middleton grabbed an offensive rebound. Harden was able to beat the third quarter buzzer with a three to tie the game at 92 heading into the game's final period.

Throughout the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bucks maintained a lead, but just couldn't close out the Rockets as they hit bucket after bucket to answer the Bucks' scoring. After a Josh Smith three with 5:15 left in the game to cut the Bucks lead to 112-111, the answers stopped for a few minutes. From that point, the Bucks rattled off a 13-1 run, which ended with back-to-back threes from Jerryd Bayless on Antetokounmpo assists and the Bucks leading 125-112 with 2:29 left. The two assists gave Antetokounmpo 11 assists on the night and with his triple-double wrapped up, it looked like the Bucks would be able to coast to a victory.

That was not the case. Four consecutive Bucks turnovers allowed the Rockets get back into the game as they chipped the Bucks' lead down to just 125-121 with 20 seconds left and possession of the ball. The Bucks managed to force a five second violation on the inbounds play and finished off the Rockets from the line, eventually winning 128-121. Now, go back up to the top of the page and look at those stat lines again.

Tidbits

  • Parker scored ten points in the first five minutes of the game.
  • Jerryd Bayless returned to action after missing the last five games, entering for Mayo with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
  • Rashad Vaughn hit all three shots he took in the second quarter and scored seven points in slightly over seven minutes of action.
  • Miles Plumlee missed two dunks Monday night. They both would have been spectacular highlights, but unfortunately, neither one went through the rim.
  • The Rockets dared Antetokounmpo to shoot 18 footers off the dribble from the middle of the floor all night. He hit three of them.
  • Middleton was 15-of-15 from the free throw line. Antetokounmpo was just 4-of-11 from the line.
  • Since the All-Star break, Giannis is averaging 17.3 points, 12 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Jabari: 22.8 points and eight rebounds.
  • Giannis is the first Bucks player since Sam Cassell (2002-2003) to record two triple-doubles in a single season.
  • Parker's 36 points are a new career high. It is the third time he has recorded a career high in points in the last ten days.
  • In each of his last four games, Giannis has seven or more assists.
  • The Bucks scored a season-high in points with 128.

Thoughts

  • The "bad" jumpers have returned for Jabari Parker! At the start of the season, Frank, Steve, and I discussed Parker's desire to take pull-up, step-back jumpers after barely attacking the rim. By definition, those are bad shots as they don't give Parker a chance at getting to the rim and tend to be low efficiency shots, but I adore them as they tend to look cool and elite scorers often have the ability to hit low efficency shots at an above average. So, keep on chucking, Jabari!
  • I'm not sure how the Rockets do it, but they make every game they play look like your local pickup game. Bad shooters jacking up threes. Generally sloppy play. Lots of quick possessions. Poor transition defense.
  • If you really want to block Greg Monroe's shot, you will almost certainly look foolish at some point in the game because Monroe will hit you with an endless supply of pump fakes and step through moves.
  • ESPN Milwaukee's Pratik Pratel brought it up, but Antetokounmpo has started attracting a second defender and patiently waiting for cutters. Most of the time this manifests itself in him picking up his dribble and leaning backwards with two defenders attempting to pressure him. With his length, he can often just throw a pass over the top of the defense to a cutter.
  • Early in the second half, the Bucks ran a pick and roll with Parker and Miles Plumlee. Parker delivered a pretty little pocket pass that led to two Plumlee free throws. Parker hasn't been put into pick and rolls as the ballhandler a whole lot this season. It will be interesting to see if the Bucks start to do that more often in the next month.
  • Throughout the game, the Rockets sent a second defender at Antetokounmpo as he was bringing the ball up the floor to get the ball out of his hands. I have no idea why.
  • Antetokounmpo is improving constantly as a passer, but he is still inaccurate with the location of his passes, at times. Not inaccurate enough for a turnover, but often inaccurate enough to take a teammate out of rhythm on their shot.
  • Monroe picked up his fifth foul with 10:40 left in the fourth quarter. He did not return to the game. It was interesting.