Change is on the horizon. But it’s not here yet.
A few hours after the Milwaukee Bucks acquired Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns, the club had a game to play. Their new point guard wouldn’t be donning green and cream for this one, so it was the same crew taking the floor tonight in Cleveland that’s been scuffling along the last two weeks. The final result was the same, as well.
The Bucks (4-6) fell 124-119 to the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6) on Tuesday night, dropping their fourth in a row and two games under .500 for the first time this season. Another fireworks display in which the Bucks fall short in, but it was the physical aspect that reared its ugly head again tonight.
In reality, the tone was set for this one in the first two-and-a-half minutes. Cleveland, a team dealing with its own problems of late, made strong emphasis in attacking the rim. So much so, the Bucks were in the penalty with 9:27 to play in the first quarter. John Henson, getting the starting call at center, racked up two of those fouls and quickly took a seat. Thon Maker fared worse, picking up three fouls before the quarter was out. That, paired with the Bucks committing seven turnovers and allowed the Cavs to shoot a not-so-nice 69%, saw Milwaukee down 39-28 after one.
Fortunes reverse in the second quarter, however, as Giannis Antetokounmpo became that man again. After a ten point first quarter which also saw him do this...
...he topped it with a five-for-five second quarter, including this ‘holy crap’ moment that is all too routine nowadays...
The, shall we say ‘efficient’, second quarter by Giannis, as well as Khris Middleton’s 13 points, helped the Bucks pull off a 15-point swing and take a 67-65 lead into halftime. Giannis finished the first half with 21.
The second half seesawed until the five minute mark of the third quarter. The Bucks had restrained their fouls issues until unraveling for three in a twelve second span. With the Cavs up 94-90, John Henson picked up his fifth foul, Giannis his fourth. From that point forward, Cleveland never lost the lead. In fact, four was the closest the Bucks would get.
With the Bucks operating with two centers* (more on this in a bit), Cleveland made it a purpose to attack both Henson and Maker, and succeeded in nearly every way conceivable. While the Cavs went after Henson, they mixed up their approach for Maker, driving on him while also exposing him on the perimeter. Kevin Love reaped the most rewards of this strategy with 32 points and 16 rebounds, a staggering eight of those on the offensive glass. And when Maker was on Lebron, well... yeah...
It was yet another edition of the Bucks needing a second fiddle, but struggling to find it. Middleton had a terrific second quarter and finished with 20, Malcolm Brogdon was second on the team with 22, including four of six from deep. Mirza Teletovic had, for my money, one of his best games with 16 points on four of eight from distance. But it never felt like any of those three were reliable second options behind Giannis, who finished with 40 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Cleveland had consistent contributions from Love, Lebron James (30 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists), and J.R. Smith (20 points).
Time to change things up, wouldn’t you agree?
-The Bucks rolled with Henson and Maker at center the entire night with the exception of a 1:50 stretch early in the fourth quarter when Teletovic took the role. Giannis had played the entire third quarter and needed some level of rest, so Jason Kidd went small with Matthew Dellavedova-Malcolm Brogdon-Khris Middleton-Tony Snell-Mirza Teletovic. This lineup, surprisingly, did okay, only seeing a four-point deficit expand to seven before Giannis checked in (and nearly immediately picked up his fifth foul on a foolish screen attempt). That said, I am more than okay with never seeing that lineup again.
-Early in the second quarter, the Bucks were victimized when DeAndre Liggins checked in and was guarding Dwayne Wade. In the third, the Cavs were pratically setting up lawn chairs when Liggins had the ball, begging him to shoot. He did not.
-Contrary to the thoughts of Marques Johnson, the Bucks were not playing bad because of the Bledsoe trade at the start of the game. They were playing bad because a championship-quality team attacked them at their point of weakness. If this were out of character from the last week-and-a-half, there may be something to this. But the start of this game was old hat.
RANDOM BUCKS BITS
-This isn’t normal...
Giannis is on another level pic.twitter.com/pcjGbUvJKy— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 8, 2017
-I hope you all enjoyed Dellavedova seeing time in the first quarter tonight, because it will likely never happen again.
-In all seriousness, with Delly knowing his role is about to be reduced significantly, an opportunity was there tonight to step up and make minutes more challenging to disperse for Kidd come Friday night. One point; 0-3 from the field with two turnovers in sixteen minutes was his reponse. The pleasure was all ours, Delly.
-Foul discrepancy was massive for the 81st time this season. Bucks lost the foul category 31-16, and shot just 16 free throws to Cleveland’s 38. Kevin Love shot 16 free throws on his own.
-With Bledsoe likely making his first Buck appearance Friday night, I would be interested in seeing that super-small lineup again with him in place of Dellavedova, albeit with one change (CENTER GIANNIS PLZ).
-The Bucks are now 0-4 on national TV, and will be back on national TV on Friday.
-The new season begins in San Antonio.