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Milwaukee vs Charlotte: Small Ball, Big Win

Bucks prevent the Hornets from stealing holiday cheer in Milwaukee’s thrilling last home game before Christmas.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In a game of back and forth — the lead was tied 11 times and changed 13 times — the Milwaukee Bucks managed to prevent the Charlotte Hornets from being the Grinch(es) who stole the last home game before Christmas. The Big Three put up 78 points with a a collection of clutch plays in the final stretch to secure the 109-104 win.

The first quarter started with a quick scoring burst from Eric Bledsoe, who had 7 points in the first three minutes. Much to the delight of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, we got first quarter Sterling Brown minutes. He played for seven minutes and contributed 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 steal (*whispers* and 2 fouls). The Bucks took a 26-23 lead at the end of the first, and didn’t come out on top again of a quarter again until the end of the game.

The surprise of the second quarter was Thon Maker’s contribution of 4 points. He hit a 16 foot jumper and slammed down an alley-oop from Matthew Dellavedova. The back and forth between the teams continued until the Hornets managed to pull away right before halftime, thanks to 20 first half points from Kemba Walker.

The third quarter is when things really started to get crazy. Three minutes into the quarter, the Bucks had managed to cut the Hornets lead to two points before giving up back to back threes, leading to a swift timeout by Kidd. With the momentum swinging towards the Hornets and the Bucks defense appearing to completely die, a wild Sean Kilpatrick appeared and immediately hit a corner three.

Kilpatrick’s first bucket as a Buck lead to a beautiful sequence of events which included a Brogdon three, a block on Marvin Williams resulting in a Hornets turnover, and a driving layup by Giannis. From that point forward, the crowd was all in. With a couple of threes from Middleton, domination in the paint by Giannis, and the speed of Bledsoe drives, the Bucks were able to come out on top.

Middleton lead the team with 28 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. He was followed closely by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. Bledsoe spread across the stat sheet, putting up 24 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. The team as a whole ended up shooting 47.1% from the field.

Charlotte was lead by Walker’s 32 points, while the two former Bucks, the great Johnny O’Bryant III and former ROY Michael Carter-Williams both put up 3 points. The Hornets shot 44.3% from the field and 46.2% from three (compared to Milwaukee’s 27.6% from behind the arc).

Three Observations

The use of small ball

It was arguably the lineup that included Sean Kilpatrick that shifted the game into Milwaukee’s favor. The small lineup was just too quick for Charlotte to cover. Postgame, Marvin Williams was asked about guarding the small ball lineup. His response summarized things nicely:

They threw two different lineups out there that kind of changed the game for them. I think at one point, they had like five guards out there. They came in and brought a lot of energy. They had a lot of shooting and playmaking out there ... I feel like when they put the tiny lineup out there that it really got them back into the game.

At home point during this lineup, Middleton was playing the 5. Matt Velazquez asked Kidd about it, and whether he would use the same lineup moving forward. Kidd’s response made me chuckle a bit:

I hope we never have to use it again. It was just trying to find a way to get a spark. Khris isn’t a 5. You play your best players in a situation, and we were trying to get Giannis’s minutes down. Understanding that they were small, we felt that we just needed to figure out how to get a spark, and that group did.

Minute Management of Giannis

As of today, Giannis leads the league in minutes played per game at 38 minutes. Let me repeat that again: The Greek Freak plays more minutes per game than any other player, including LeBron James. As mentioned above, Kidd has recently been trying to get Antetokounmpo’s minutes down. Last night, he played 36 minutes. There was a hilarious exchange postgame between Giannis and reporter Gery Woelfel.

Gery was asking Giannis how he feels about his minutes, and the fact that he leads the league in minutes per game. Giannis appeared surprised, and said he didn’t realize he was playing more minutes than Lebron. Being completely facetious, Giannis said that he and Kidd fight every day about his minute allocation. “Give me more minutes, give me more minutes! I want to play 48 minutes!” Giannis said. “But no, Kidd said no! You can only play 45 minutes.” It was hilarious and his sense of humor really shined through.

Rebounding

With Dwight Howard exiting the game with a dislocated finger after just 4 minutes, the Bucks really lucked out on the glass. Both teams finished with the same number of total rebounds: 47. The only difference was the split between offensive and defensive boards. The Bucks grabbed 6 offensive rebounds and 37 defensive rebounds, while the Hornets secured 9 offensive and 34 defensive rebounds.

It will be very interesting to see the rebounding discrepancy tonight. Howard’s availability for tonight’s game isn’t currently known. If he plays, it will be something to watch rail thin John Henson and Thon Maker fight a body twice their size.

Bucks Bonus Bits

  • I sat in the media section in front of the Clutch Crew, formerly known as the Cream City Clash, formerly known as Sector 7, formerly known as Squad 6. Between them and the rest of the fans sitting two feet away to my right, it was certainly an experience. A very, very, very loud experience.
  • The Bucks have scored over 100 points in 14 straight games. This is their longest streak since the 1986-1987 season.
  • Milwaukee committed a season-low 8 turnovers.
  • Eric Bledsoe had his first double-double of the year, thanks to his season-high 10 assists.
  • Sean Kilpatrick, the former member of Bucks’ Summer League team, turned into an instant fan favorite. He entered the game to roaring cheers, followed by many chants made especially for him. The energy he brought to the team and the crowd was great.
  • The crowd gave a huge round of applause to former Badger, Frank Kaminsky. Meanwhile, the crowd didn’t so much as blink at return of JOB or MCW. The lack of any reaction or recognition was a bit funny to me.
  • Michael Carter-Williams’ return reminded me of something I do not miss: his tendency to whine to the refs a lot. At one point, MCW was livid, and it appeared (from my angle) that he was running down at a ref on the sideline. Turns out he was just running down the ball (right next to the ref) to commit a frustration foul.
  • It seems for every good play Thon has, a worse play follows. He will have a good defensive presence and contest a shot, then lose his man on the next possession and give up an offensive rebound.