After a frustrating loss to the Cavaliers the night before, the Bucks rebounded with an electric 113-110 victory over the visiting Portland Trailblazers (my ears are still ringing as I’m typing this).
Things started off as if the Bucks had a mini hangover from the night before, with Portland quickly building up a lead that they would separate further in the second quarter. A 9-2 run after Khris Middleton re-entered the game served as a small ignition, with Milwaukee cutting the lead to just two at one point in the second quarter. The Bucks would come back due to an emergence from Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon and take a small lead at the half.
From there, the back and forth continued, but in the end, last night will be known as The Giannis Antetokounmpo Game. As you may have heard by now, he sketched a new career high with 44 points. Saturday night marked a new milestone in Giannis’ career, and it was a special night all around. It was made into an emotional moment when this was sitting in his locker postgame:
Giannis tells the media:— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 22, 2017
“I’m going to take a shower. Don’t touch my ball.” pic.twitter.com/vxMuomZF7u
Khris Middleton finally made his presence known this season with 18 points as sprinkles on the top to Giannis’ 44 points. Tony Snell had 17 of his own and Malcolm Brogdon poured in 13 points. The duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum had 26 points apiece for Portland.
Obviously, all of my observations could be about Giannis. However, I’m going to discuss three other things I noticed, just for the sake of something different.
Mirza Teletovic showed his worth tonight.
Sure, it was only nine points, but #SaturdayNightMirza accomplished what the Bucks want him (and pay for him) to do. Early on in the first half, he sank a pair of 3-pointers that sparked a rally for the Bucks. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve wanted Mirza to shoot the basketball. Usually, whenever he catches a pass, I scream internally for him not to shoot. Thankfully, he found a groove early on and provided a jump start to the Bucks when one needed to be applied.
The defense seemed to pick itself up when John Henson was in the game.
Similar to Teletovic, John Henson provided an integral component to this game. Man, was he all over the floor. If the Bucks needed somebody to come off a rotation and swat a shot from a driving Damian Lillard, Henson was there. If there was a missed a 3-pointer, John Henson was there to tip it back out to the perimeter and restart the offense. And then he hit that baseline jumper! For a guy who has been torn apart for the contract he has (and rightfully so), it was nice to see a productive game from the veteran Buck in a key situation.
Jason Kidd went to DeAndre Liggins early on and it was the right move.
DeAndre Liggins came off the pine early on and boy, did it pay off. He didn’t have any points, but his RPM still registered as a +10, thanks in large part to his defense. He was thrown into the deep end immediately in his first action as a Buck by having to guard Lillard and McCollum, but he wasn’t rattled one bit. Jason Kidd referred to using him over Vaughn as a “lottery,” so consider this a home run. With his efficient play, especially on defense, watch for the man out of Kentucky to receive more playing time in the future.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- After starting the season with a pair of absences, Khris Middleton made his presence felt tonight. 18 points wasn’t the exact star fire we want Giannis to be accompanied with, but for tonight, it got the job done. He seemed to be in his similar habitat despite not connecting from deep. However, that says a lot. Khris Middleton scoring 18 points despite not putting in a 3-pointer is a positive thing, and he was able to get to the free throw line as well (6-of-6 from the charity stripe on the night). Let’s hope that moving forward, this game will serve as a crucial development in regards to keeping his strong play afloat.
- There was an air horn that was driving me nuts the ENTIRE GAME. I don’t know how security couldn’t find the culprit. I’m looking forward to hearing that in my sleep tonight. (UPDATE: Halfway through the game, I became aware of the buzzer being broken, which is why the airhorn was being used. Still, I heard it throughout my dreams during the night).
- I asked Jason Kidd about Malcolm Brogdon at his postgame press conference. The reigning Rookie of the Year hasn’t missed a beat to begin the 2017-18 season, picking up right where he left off. I asked Kidd if there was any progressions he’s seen him make early on this season. He responded by breaking down his importance on offense not only as just a scorer, but as a facilitator and a quarterback on the floor. He praised his improved vision and ability to really slow down the game, and boy did it show in the highlights. He notices his demeanor being strengthened at the point guard position and I think every Bucks fan can agree with that assessment.
- Tony Snell also proved to be a crucial part of the victory. All 17 of his points seemed to come in a timely fashion, especially his 3-pointers. One thing I’ve noticed about Snell is that whenever he connects from the perimeter, a match is lit in the BC. It always seems to get the crowd going. There never seems to be a dull 3-pointer with him. He plays a quintessential ingredient to this team and last night showed why.
- Remember when there were complaints about the Bucks not having efficient spacing? Well, we’ve come a long way from then. One of the key reasons behind this notion is the fact that Thon serves as an X-factor out there, even if he’s not putting the ball in the hoop.
- Marques Johnson is a treasure:
- Last but not least, that game ball in Giannis’ locker was the cherry on the top to a special night. It was so special to see. Milwaukee is so lucky to have this kid.