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Milwaukee vs. Cleveland: Bucks Hold On, 119-116

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Chilling play from Giannis down the stretch earns the well-needed victory

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In a rollercoaster of a game (I guess you could say all Bucks games are like that), the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in a nail-biting 119-116 victory at the Bradley Center. They tried their best to blow it, but for the sanity of Bucks fans, thank goodness they didn’t.

It wasn’t an ideal start for the Bucks as Cleveland immediately blew the doors off and stormed to a 15-4 lead just minutes into the contest. Thankfully, Milwaukee was able to jumpstart itself and make it competitive heading into the second quarter down by just four. The second period saw the Bucks ignite themselves and pull ahead, highlighted with an 11-0 run. It would be enough to grant a 69-58 lead for the hometown team going into intermission.

That lead would see itself expand thanks to a strong showing in the third quarter. Milwaukee cruised into the final 12 minutes of action with a 15 point advantage, 98-93. However, with the arrival of the fourth quarter came problems. And what would Bucks basketball be without some chewing of the fingernails due to unneeded anxiety? It eventually transpired into the Bucks coughing up the lead in the closing minutes, but thankfully, they were able to pull it back and close things out with a victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading point getter for the Bucks, stamping his night with a 27 point performance. Eric Bledsoe was just behind him with 26 points. Three others rounded off the scoring efforts by reaching double digits (K. Middleton with 18, J. Henson with 15, and M. Brogdon with 16 off the bench).

For the Cavaliers, LeBron James was his normal self. He posted 39 points on the night, a majority of which was accrued from a 6-of-11 performance from the 3-point line.

Three Observations

FOULS.

Milwaukee’s fouling down the stretch was enough to drive any Bucks fan insane. Foul after foul plagued their large lead, allowing the Cavs to inch their way back into the competition and then eventually re-take the lead. You’d like to see this team have more composure of the situation in late-game scenarios and rely on their defense to close games out without sending the opposition to the line for free points. Also, what would a premier matchup be without a Jason Kidd head-scratcher? This one came in the closing seconds when he instructed Khris Middleton to intentionally miss his second free throw. He followed it up by saying he was worried about the four point play. He said he was concerned about Cleveland getting it half court, launching a 3-pointer, and being fouled in the process. He believed that by having Middleton miss the free throw, the elapsed time would prevent any wacky scenario from happening. I’ll let you folks react to that as you see fit.

It’s so great to see Giannis get this win.

One of the many things that makes sports so special is the will to win. That will was on full display from Giannis Antetokounmpo last night, as the Greek Freak put it all out on the floor in the final minutes. Following his and-one to seal the deal, his eruption of emotion resembled Mt. Vesuvius. Also, no, YOU were the one who started crying when you saw his postgame Instagram post:

What a kid. What did Milwaukee ever do to get him? (Answer: Suffer years of heartbreak that resulted in the basketball gods delivering Giannis upon us and for that, we thank them with all our heart)

The Giannis/LeBron matchup was everything advertised.

No fake news here, folks. This one lived up to the hype. We now know why the aliens have been contacting Earth — to try and take these two back to their galaxies. Well, we’re not going down without a fight. Seeing them guard each other is such a treat, and it’s only a matter of time before these two teams meet in the later rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. But LeBron, the rivalry can do without this...

That was definitely uncalled for. Oh, Jason Kidd was also asked about what he thought about these two greats going up against each other. He said that’s for us to write about, so keep an eye out for that content (haha).

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • From the first opening tip to the waning seconds, I had to remind myself that Christmas is in five days and that no, it is not April. It felt like a playoff atmosphere in the Bradley Center last night. Everyone was standing, Bango was throwing shirts into the crowd every break in the action, and every timeout, Joe the PA Guy was screaming into the microphone non-stop to get the crowd pumped up. It’s only a matter of time before this is actually a playoff atmosphere and I cannot wait.
  • Though you’d love to see them close it out without inducing any stress, you have to tip your cap to this Bucks team and their ability to get the job done. We’ve been so accustomed to seeing this team get in a similar situation and folding. Not this time. While it definitely wasn’t the most ideal situation, you’ll take a win against a hot Cavaliers team any day of the week.
  • I believe it was Eric Nehm who coined the “Tough Shot Express” for Khris Middleton, and that was in full-effect last night. K-Midd ended up with 18 points, and a majority of those shots came with a hand in the face. His ability to get these shots off in tight spaces really is incredible, and for the Bucks sake, it helps tremendously. Setting a pick beyond the perimeter opens up his arsenal and allows him to fire at will. Of all the plays the Bucks run, that might be my favorite to watch unfold. Middleton’s stroke is just so pure.
  • This bullet point was initially written up in the third quarter or so and was going to discuss how well the Bucks played when Giannis and LeBron were on the bench (WELL, THIS WAS FINE UNTIL THE CAVS WENT ON A 24-2 RUN WITH LEBRON RIDING THE PINE IN THE FOURTH). Yeah, definitely something that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. Frustrating, and yeah, of course it happens to the Bucks. But hey, they persevered and got the W, so I guess we can’t complain too much (we can).
  • I enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball.
  • Eric Bledsoe’s athleticism and grit never fail to impress me. He mentioned it in his postgame availability a few weeks ago where he labeled himself as having a “pit bull mentality (pit bulls are still good dogs).” I’m still in awe of how he flew to the rim for that put-back dunk. Wowza. This trade has been one of the Bucks’ best acquisitions in the last decade, and who knows where it’s going to take the team.
  • Tonight marked the return of a few players for Milwaukee. Matthew Dellavedova started the game, and that went pretty much how many of you thought it would go. However, he did hit a pair of 3-pointers. But that block by LeBron, ooooof. Meanwhile, Tony Snell continues to have that knack of hitting the clutch three in all quarters of the game. His ability to pour them in was definitely missed by the Bucks in his absence, and it’s quite the relief to have him back out on the floor.
  • It was relieving to see Kyle Korver not stick yet another dagger through the Bucks. We’ve grown so accustomed to that happening, and it nearly did several times last night. Miraculously, all of his last-effort heaves from deep rattled out and the Bucks were able to escape without any damage being inflicted from him.
  • LeBron was held to just one rebound on the night. He didn’t get that board until the closing minutes, so put that one in the back of your head. We might not see that happen for quite a while.