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Milwaukee vs. Boston: Meh Game in the Mecca Dooms Bucks

The beautiful throwback uniforms and court were just missing a quality Bucks performance to go with them

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes history is best left buried, and while the aesthetics of last night’s game were sublime, the outcome was not as the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics 96-89. Milwaukee couldn’t capitalize on seven first quarter turnovers by Boston, trailing 28-23 after one quarter, although they ended the period with Giannis’ second attempt on Aron Baynes’ basketball life already this season. The Bucks managed to take the lead in the second quarter, heading into halftime up 44-43 and outshooting Boston 43.9% to 36.8%. Boston leaped out to a hearty fourth quarter lead behind several deep ones from Marcus Smart and buckets from Terry Rozier, but Milwaukee chipped away on back-to-back Tony Snell 3-pointers off feeds from Giannis. Even two more Giannis 3-pointers weren’t enough though, as Kyrie Irving danced his way through defenders to finish off the Bucks.

Three Main Observations

Malcolm Brogdon’s return to the court was a welcome one for Milwaukee. He may’ve been Milwaukee’s best player in the first half, hastily stroking 3-pointers and delivering a shifty bounce pass between two defenders to a cutting Giannis. He showed grit gliding to the rim and finesse finishing. It speaks volumes about Milwaukee’s point guard depth that he played 36 minutes tonight coming off an injury and it didn’t feel like he played nearly enough. He did receive a delicate bouncer from his estranged court companion, Greg Monroe, for a finish at the rim too. It’s been unfortunate to see those two not matched up nearly enough this year.

Thon Maker helped unlock Giannis early in the third quarter by leaking out to the perimeter with Theis defending him. Maker would slip out and set a pick or feign like he was for the primary ball handler while Giannis started to seep deeper into the paint or settle at the free throw line. Meanwhile, Thon then shot over beyond the 3-point arc opposite the ball handler as Giannis’ man (Horford) was forced to switch onto Thon to avoid an open, quick three. Suddenly, Giannis is deep in the paint with the mismatch against Theis, ready and willing to go to work against the inferior defender. If Thon’s able to improve his passing and make smooth entry dishes to Giannis, that could be one potent combination getting Giannis where he can overpower fools.

Milwaukee felt strangely empty without having a full slate of Tony Snell tonight. The presence of Dellavedova for significant minutes wasn’t unexpected, but Deandre Liggins (for all his defensive capability) sure seems invisible on the court. He offers little to no offensive assistance to this team, and Snell’s 3-pointers in the fourth only underscored his own importance on that end of the floor. Milwaukee’s guard depth seems at least one competent man short, and that only worsened tonight with Snell’s foul trouble.

Bonus Bucks Bits

Tony Snell was called for a flagrant 1 foul in the first quarter for landing in Jayson Tatum’s foot area after contesting a shot. I hadn’t realized that was a rule change for this year, not to mention the fact it seemed like a bunk call against Tony. In other crappy call news, Deandre Liggins was called for a technical after staring at Terry Rozier on the ground following a vicious block.

Khris Middleton started tonight off hairy, shoveling tough shots at the rim and generally forcing stuff against his mismatch with Kyrie Irving. Irving even managed to flatten one of his shots back onto the court. Middleton put on blinders, but managed to show a little more of his nonchalant patience as the quarter ran on, sinking several easy hits while leading the bench crew. Unfortunately, just three 3-point attempts and another relatively ineffective game as second banana continued to define Middleton’s season to this point.

Boston’s diminutive fleet of guards forced Milwaukee’s bench brigade into some odd defensive matchups, as Giannis was dwarfing Terry Rozier around the floor while Mirza Teletovic tried to trade blows with Horford in the post. That doesn’t play to Giannis’ advantage, as he clearly has the athleticism to recover and make plays at the rim, but has never been adept at stopping perimeter players from swooping past him. That played out late in the fourth when Boston repratedly switched Irving onto Giannis who roasted him a few times.

Matthew Dellavedova ran a post-up in the paint in the second quarter before hurling up a grotesque hook. Please keep that on ice from now on..

Giannis had probably his worst half of the season so far in tonight’s first half, with just 11 points on 4-9 shooting. Milwaukee looked disjointed most of that half, particularly with Boston packing the paint like Irishmen in a bar on St. Patty’s day. Still, Milwaukee managed to score half its overall points that half in the paint, an impressive feat given the cavalcade of Celtics before them and notching only two fast break points.

There was a point early in the second half broadcast when Reggie Miller’s mic was the only one on and it was quite enjoyable to hear his weird observations and exclamations intercut with complete silence.

Giannis opened the second half able to get cross matches against Theis on the offensive end of the court three separate times and immediately took advantage, one time in transition and the other two on jumpers. Horford played admirable defense on Giannis in the first half, so he must’ve been licking his chops to see the German trying to shadow him.

Maker handled Kyrie on a switch as Irving shimmied into the lane off a pick. Maker matched him step-for-step and forced a miss at the rim. Impressive stuff for the big, particularly against a jitterbug dribbler with circus shot finishing ability.

Giannis got a little overzealous in the fourth quarter, fouling Marcus Smart with just 0.2 seconds left on the shot clock sending him to the line. This came right after Middleton had bailed the Celtics out with a foul too. Poor decisions by two of the Bucks’ leaders.

Giannis made two 3-pointers in the waning minutes as the Bucks had their last gasp in the Mecca. It didn’t end up mattering, but I’ll take any Giannis 3-pointer that I can.