If anyone spots a suspicious “Help Wanted” ad in tomorrow’s paper, there’s a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo bankrolled it, as Milwaukee’s star received almost no help amidst Houston’s 111-92 dominating win over the Bucks.
Houston’s poor 4-20 performance from deep in the first half didn’t stop them from taking a 52-39 lead, and general averages caught up with Milwaukee in the second half as the Rockets poured in 10-24 shooting from deep the latter half. The Bucks made it a game in the early third quarter behind a herculean effort from Giannis, and even pulled within seven in the fourth, but the Rockets nailed threes aplenty to stave off any potential for a Milwaukee comeback.
For most of the night, Giannis seemed like the only capable Buck on the court, finishing with 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal and three blocks. Beyond that, Jabari managed a quiet 15 points on 5-15 shooting, with seven rebounds, two assists and a block but was mostly ineffective the entire night. Michael Beasley got to 14 points due mainly to a fourth quarter scoring barrage, but otherwise every other player on the court played horrendously.
James Harden led Houston with 38 points, six rebounds, eight assists and two blocks (!), while Eric Gordon piled up 25 points on 7-17 shooting from three alone and was a monster +38 on the night. Houston shot only 31.8% from deep (14-44), but Milwaukee was a disastrous 7-28, shooting just 39.8% overall. Milwaukee’s 18 turnovers led to 20 points for the Rockets, and the Bucks just generally looked sloppy unless Giannis was making something happen offensively or defensively.
Milwaukee raced out to a swift lead, with Giannis scoring six points using his supreme body control around the rim to get Milwaukee up 12-4 before Mike D’Antoni called a timeout halfway through the first. The Rockets started putting together a run as Milwaukee’s bench mob trickled in, and after Eric Gordon beat Jabari on a baseline give-and-go with Nene, the Rockets pulled within 21-20. Giannis’ return signaled another run of Bucks’ competency, as he bounded towards the hoop whenever he pleased. He finished with 12 on the quarter, as Milwaukee led 27-22 with Houston 0-8 from three.
Eric Gordon finally hit Houston’s first three of the night after an 0-11 start, and both teams suffered some yips at the rim with Monroe and Dekker unable to finish. Granted, one of Dekker’s slam attempts was stopped at the rim by Giannis with the ball pausing so abruptly it may as well have hit a block of Jell-o. Houston was able to retake the lead on a rolling Capela layup, 34-32 soon after. Giannis left the game, and the Rockets shots finally started falling with a 7-0 run that ended in an Eric Gordon three after pinpoint transition passing by Houston.
Woe would be the optimum word for the Bucks’ second quarter, as a Houston 18-0 run shot their lead to 47-32, with Milwaukee only scratching back due to Giannis drawing a silly foul on a three-pointer as the half expired. A narcoleptic performance placed Milwaukee in a 52-39 hole.
Giannis had 18 points, nine rebounds and an acute avoidance of the apathy every other Bucks player possessed in the first half. Jabari managed six points, four of those coming in the final minute of the second quarter. The team shot just 34% overall, and 1-9 from deep. James Harden led Houston with 16 points and Eric Gordon poured in 12 despite a poor 3-9 from deep to this point. Perhaps the most frustrating portion was Houston’s mere 4-20 performance on threes, but Milwaukee still trailing drastically due to lackluster defense, ineffective offense and 13 turnovers leading to 16 points for Houston.
Milwaukee’s defense gave up five early points to start the third due to some suspect defense from Jabari Parker, earning him an early yank in favor of the benchwarmer Mirza Teletovic. Then, Giannis took the game over by blocking everything at the rim and attacking offensively, putting up 12 points in the first half of the third quarter alone as he nailed a three-pointer to bring it within 62-57.
After Milwaukee sipped some short-lived ambrosia, the Rockets tipped the Bucks’ head back gingerly and poured in a mouthful of Fleischmann’s, drowning Milwaukee in a sea of three-pointers to spur a 13-2 run that returned them to a comfortable 75-59 lead. Milwaukee hit a few shots to end the quarter, but still ended with a whimper trailing 79-65 going into the fourth.
The fourth provided a glimmer of hope in the distance initially, with Milwaukee working back to within seven after a Tony Snell three made it 79-86. Instead of reaching closer, Houston hit back-to-back threes from Trevor Ariza and Harden to make it a 13-point game again. Houston continued unloading their arsenal from outside down the stretch, pouring in six three-pointers in the period. They got to a 108-87 lead after a Beverley three-pointer with three minutes to go, and the Bucks sent in the scrubs for the remainder of an eventual 111-92 loss.
- James Harden’s defensive reputation is suspect at best, but in the first quarter the Rockets pulled a trick from Milwaukee’s playbook by “hiding” Harden on-ball against Jabari to avoid any of those lackadaisical Vines that have floated around twitter many a time. It was an interesting example from another squad of how Milwaukee’s uniquely attempted to hide Jabari’s deficiencies this season.
- Matthew Dellavedova had a first quarter pass where he seemed to slip and slide along the baseline, both feigning a potential foul and simultaneously tossing the ball without looking towards the hoop for an awaiting Jabari Parker to jam it home. Overall his ball movement in the first quarter, with his swift drive and kicks and extra passes, looked more like the crisp passing he flashed to start the year than his performance of late.
- Early in the second quarter, Jason Terry got the ball on the three-point arc in transition with no one within ten feet of him. Instead of just taking the easy shot, he got the ball into the middle of the paint, where it was subsequently dished out to Michael Beasley who bumbled the pass. It ended in a contested long two from Beasley. This team needs to get back to just taking some of those early threes before the defense is set.
- Giannis had three separate blocks or near blocks on Sam Dekker dunk attempts in the first half.
- In the second quarter, John Henson got his trademark bricked jumper out of the way and then attempted a galloping dunk from the free throw line before making it halfway there, running into Montrezl Harrell. He smiled at his folly afterwards. Props to John Henson for teaching me it’s okay to smile even if I mess up repeatedly.
- Milwaukee went 3-21 in the second quarter. The Bucks didn’t win that quarter.
- Jabari Parker had an abominable night defensively. Just to start the second half, Parker didn’t spot Corey Brewer slipping into the paint for an easy layup and then turned his back on a driving Trevor Ariza as several Bucks seemed to holler guttural shouts in his general direction to no avail. He got pulled fairly soon after for Mirza Teletovic, the same player who could barely get off the bench the last few games.
- Giannis’ early third-quarter performance was one of the most dominating stretches from him all year. He refused to let any Rocket score at the rim, did everything on offense from spinning to the hoop for shots to getting the ball out on the break off a rebound (eventually finishing the play) to hitting his first three since he came back from his illness. However, after that stretch got him to 30 points around halfway through the third, he only scored two more points the rest of the game. Milwaukee made it a game in the fourth, and yes Houston hit vertebrate-breaking three-pointers time and again, but he also played too deferential when he was clearly the only effective player all night. Allowing Beasley carte blanche offensively rarely pays off, and that was the case again tonight.
- That being said, the entirety of the Bucks’ roster outside of Giannis tonight were primarily trash.
- Houston died by the three in the first half and somehow still had a 13-point lead at halftime. In the second half they lived by it, shutting down any Milwaukee run almost instantly with a deep dagger. The most notable segment came when Milwaukee got the lead down to seven in the fourth, but Harden and Ariza hit two threes in a row that were absolute killers. Michael Beasley missed a contested three right after, and Harden hit another. Ballgame.
- The total minutes for the former Houston teammates Michael Beasley and Jason Terry tonight: 35.
- Thon Maker, Rashad Vaughn and Miles Plumlee were the only Bucks with positive plus-minuses tonight at +2. Their garbage time appearance inspired a Thon Maker post-up basket and one of the most apathetic defenses from Houston that I’ve ever seen from a garbage time bench squad.
- Giannis had a chasedown block on James harden in the fourth quarter with Milwaukee trailing by 16 and four minutes left. They ended up giving Harden the basket and Giannis was absolutely furious. The fact he cares that deeply is astounding.