Even with his team underwhelming, Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to make his third season in the NBA a special one.
Antetokounmpo nearly notched triple-double No. 6 of the season in a 109-80 blowout to the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday evening, but ultimately the young and shorthanded Bucks were no match for the reigning Eastern Conference champions. He finished the game with 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, nearly tying him for second on the Bucks all-time list for triple-doubles in a season with Paul Pressey.
However, the Cavaliers easily exploited the Bucks' horrendous 3-point defense, throwing the ball across court like samurais and waiting until the right look opened up. They hit 18 triples as a team against the Bucks, tying a season-high and recording the most Milwaukee has allowed an opponent to hit in a game this season (the previous high was 17 in New Orleans against the Pelicans on Jan. 26).
J.R. Smith led the Cavs' charge with seven triples by himself — one shy of his season-high for attempts made in a game — and amazingly, he scored all 21 of his points in the first half and from beyond the arc.
"We couldn't recover after that," Antetokounmpo said of Smith's hot streak, "but we just kept fighting through it and kept playing. It was a bad loss for us."
Kevin Love added three triples and finished the game with 17 points, with 15 coming in the first quarter.
"You have to get in the right spot to start and if you don't, a team like this or San Antonio who moves the ball can make you look bad." Head coach Jason Kidd said of Cleveland's ability to find open shooters. "That's what they did tonight."
"They're the best team in the East," Kidd said, "so you have to give them credit for their play."
The Cavs' biggest lead was 31 points as they shot well over 50% from the field most of the game and assisted on 30 baskets. LeBron James didn't need to do much and still had nine of those 30 assists on top of scoring 17 points on just nine shots.
"We've got to play harder," Kidd said, "you've got to be ready to compete. If not, you're going to get destroyed and that's what happened tonight."
To accompany Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker scored 19 points and Johnny O'Bryant added 12. O'Bryant started the game in place of Khris Middleton, who missed his second contest in a row due to a thigh injury.
Kidd said after the game that he is unsure whether or not Middleton will join the team on Milwaukee's upcoming three-game road trip on the East Coast.
— Smith broke the Cavs' single-season record for 3-pointers made in a season right when the game started. He needed three entering Tuesday's game and hit four in the first quarter alone.
— O'Bryant dunked four times against the Cavs.
Johnny O'Bryant had 4 dunks in 778 minutes this season before tonight. He has 4 dunks in 19 minutes tonight.— Alex Boeder (@alexboeder) April 6, 2016
— Rashad Vaughn attempted 10 3-pointers and only hit two of them. He finished the game 4-of-17 from the field and played 45 minutes.
— The Cavs have hit 18 triples two other times in a game this season, with the most-recent performance coming on March 13 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
— Cleveland is 18-1 this season when LeBron has at least nine dimes in a game.