Good teams win games they are supposed to win. Compared to the Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks have the better team, best player on the court, and a more favorable franchise outlook. For one Sunday afternoon the Bucks did not look bored playing a team they were better than on paper. The end result of a more focused effort was a 117-106 victory at Phillips Arena.
The Bucks darted out to a 12 point, first quarter lead in large part to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored the team’s first nine points and became every Atlanta fan’s favorite player in the process. The team in green kept the momentum going into the halftime break up 61-48 and shooting 50-percent from three-point land. Khris Middleton had himself a resurrection in the third quarter and the Bucks increased their lead to 19 entering the fourth. After absorbing a late Atlanta run, the Bucks closed out a winnable road game relatively panic free, which is a refreshing twist of fate.
Three Main Observations
During the Fox Sports Wisconsin pre-game, Marques Johnson said that the Bucks need to, “Share the sugar!” Well it looks like Johnson flexed some foresight muscle because the Bucks shared more sugar than an overly friendly neighbor. The team converted on 44 total field goals, 30 of which they had a player record an assist on. That 30 assist mark is six more than the Bucks’ previous season high of 24 against the Charlotte Hornets last Monday night. At the halftime break, Rashad Vaughn touched on ball movement being a focus in practice leading up to the afternoon contest. With the Hawks being a perimeter heavy team, the rapid perimeter passes exposed some slow defensive rotations and lead to open looks from beyond the arc.
As noted above, Khris Middleton is leaving Atlanta with some palpable personal momentum after a less-than-stellar start to his 2017-18 campaign. Khash’s start to the game was all too familiar from previous ones. He found himself stuck within the offensive flow and either forced a tight pass or an awkward shot. He ended the first half on 2/11 shooting. Thankfully, that was the last we would see of that variation of Middleton. If Middleton’s second half was an NBA Jam game, “He’s on fire,” would have been repeated over the Phillips Arena PA non-stop. Double-deuce dropped 14 points in the third quarter and converted 7/8 field goals, including 3/3 on three-point shots. The version of Middleton we all know and love showed up for a half and will be welcomed with arms wide open on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Two hours before game time it was discovered that Greg Monroe would be sitting out the day’s action with left calf soreness:
Arrived at Philips Arena to learn Bucks C Greg Monroe is OUT this afternoon with left calf soreness. Will ask Jason Kidd about it pregame.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) October 29, 2017
So with Moose’s minutes up for grabs, it made sense to expect Thon Maker and John Henson to be the beneficiaries of the Monroe-sized void. Thon and John both clocked in season highs for minutes in a game with Maker tallying 20 and Henson 27, respectively. Thon did not turn in his best performance, only collecting three points and five rebounds. Henson, on the other hand, continued to build on his previous positive appearances. J-Hook had himself a stat sheet stuffing day with 12 points, eight rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. If Henson can continue to show signs of a capable bench game, then life without Monroe next year might not be too bad.
John Henson stepped up for the Bucks with Greg Monroe out. Here's what Jason Kidd had to say about Henson and the C position going forward: pic.twitter.com/sKw467BPTw— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) October 29, 2017
Hmm, I see. Well it looks like Henson will have to continue to show out for the next weeks as we will be treated to an early sneak peek of the post-Monroe era.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Malcolm Brogdon, an Atlanta-area native, had himself a homecoming with a quiet 16 point performance while also posting a 40-percent hit rate from three. However, the big story on his homecoming was what his mom cooked him for dinner this weekend: jerk chicken, white rice, and broccoli. [Homer Simpson drooling sound]
What were the odds on Rashad Vaughn being the first player to come off the bench today? What were the odds on him converting on two-thirds of his three-point attempts? Vaughn teased his potential during his 20 minutes of court time and despite a stellar shooting performance, was pretty iffy on the defensive end - stop being a tease ‘Shad.
The “no fastballs” defense was on display this afternoon. Several Atlanta pass attempts had to be readjusted just before they were fired off. The presence of a lanky Buck defender sticking a limb in the passing lane was enough to cause a moment of rushed decision making from the Hawk on the receiving end.
There were four men seated behind Atlanta head coach, Mike Budenholzer, and all four of them had on chains that kept getting more impressive as the camera panned on down the line of seats. I wish I had a modicum of their abilities to pull off a chain look.
The highlighter yellow on the Hawks’ court and jersey is not good. The University of Oregon and Baylor University ran the highlighter color scheme to death a handful of years ago. Bold move by the Atlanta front office to try and bring a look that is only popular with middle schoolers back.
Cricket tacos are available at Philips Arena concession stands. Unfortunately they sold out before we were graced with Marques Johnson having to eat one on camera. Yay or nay on the cricket tacos?
Speaking of Marques Johnson, Giannis set the franchise record for most points through the Bucks’ first six games in a season. The previous title holder was Johnson himself. The 22 year old just keeps on passing Buck legends and re-writing franchise record books.
DeAndre Liggins did not see the court at all today after tabulating 15+ minutes in each of the last three games. Liggins’ brand of defense was never really needed as the Bucks lead from start to finish. Perhaps an extra rest day is in order if he is going to be tasked with guarding one of the three All-Stars that the Thunder will trot out on Tuesday night.
Speaking of minutes, both Giannis and Khris saw 38 minutes of action today. In a game that was never really in doubt, even with Atlanta’s late surge, those numbers seem a bit too high in only the sixth game of the season. That will be something to note whenever the next blow out game occurs with the Bucks on top.