The Bucks returned home after a 3-1 West Coast road trip, which included an earlier win against this Kings squad. Winning games are the team’s top priority (duh), but winning games at home have been a way that the Bucks historically disappoint fans. This win raises Milwaukee up to 6-4 at the BMOHBC on the year, a mark that is still low but has ample opportunity to improve as the season progresses.
More importantly, the Bucks appeared to maintain a schematic change on defense, where players didn’t overload quite as much or as often, and Milwaukee was easily jumping into passing lanes instead of clogging them up...while leaving the weak side exposed. This trend is too early to actually call a trend, but is well worth following.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 33 points (17/22 FTs), 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. Bricked three-pointers aside, he appeared to be dead-set on reversing his perceived lack of early season respect from the refs; in the first half alone, Giannis went 11/14 from the free throw line (the Kings were 9/10 as a team at halftime). Sacramento obviously retooled their defense later in the game to stymie Giannis’ looks at the rim, which severely reduced his opportunities and helped give the Kings the chance to mount a comeback.
Kings doing a really nice job on Antetokounmpo since he re-entered the game here in the fourth quarter. He is working for EVERYTHING.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) December 3, 2017
Saturday night’s home win was also the second consecutive contest where Milwaukee’s top three players produced well simultaneously. Giannis’ stat line often spoils us, but Eric Bledsoe (19 points, 9/10 FTs) and Khris Middleton (25 points, 3/5 on threes) more than pulled their own weight. Off the bench, Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 13 points of his own, all of them coming at the rim or from the line.
The Sacramento defense could not keep up with Milwaukee early, and while they played well on offense it seemed that they lack the firepower to score on the same pace as the Bucks. Whether it was additional energy from the Kings or complacency from the Bucks (maybe both?), an extended 17-4 run late in the fourth quarter (which lasted over six minutes!) brought Sacramento back from a 20-point deficit and made the game far closer than most expected it to be.
Zach Randolph bullied both John Henson and Thon Maker all night to the tune of 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Rookie point guard DeAaron Fox did not back do to the challenge, and came away with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Buddy Hield also added 19 points (4/7 from deep) and 4 assists off the bench.
Stat That Stood Out
Instead of a stat from this game, it’s worth calling out that the Bucks are now 8-3 since making the trade for Eric Bledsoe. Greg Monroe was a beloved member of the team, but the impact Bledsoe has in Milwaukee is as evident as it was immediate. The Bucks are both faster and more controlled on defense, and while the vastly improved play from Henson deserves some of the credit, Bledsoe’s leadership and dedication to communication goes a long way to shoring up Milwaukee’s weaknesses, on both ends of the court.
Milwaukee might not be a 60-win team for the entire season, as their record in the Bledsoe Era would indicate. However, there is ample reason for optimism for the Bucks, as they continue to find ways to win games...even if they’re games they should win.