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Recap: Bench Brings Bucks a Boost

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Defense and the deep shot powered the Bucks past the Pacers

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Indiana Pacers 116-100 behind a season-high 17 three-pointers and a hefty heap of scoring off their bench, ending a depressing week on a high note.

After setting a new career-high in points last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo followed up with another great performance, barely missing a triple-double, with 20 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, while going 12-14 from the free throw line and manipulating the Pacers porous defense at will.

Three players off the bench, Greg Monroe, Malcolm Brogdon and Mirza Teletovic, scored in double figures to carry the Bucks and maintain an early lead throughout the game. Teletovic found his shooting stroke, 5-9 from three, for 19 points. Monroe battled inside all game against his doppelganger, Al Jefferson, and did his best against the more limber Myles Turner to the tune of 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a +21 on the night. Brogdon also had 17 points playing a team-high 36 minutes and hit five free throws on a night the Bucks made a living at the line, going 29-37.

Luckily, last night’s defensive breakdown against the Lakers didn’t linger. Despite a few breakdowns, the Bucks looked lively and locked in for most of the game on the defensive end. The dynamic duo of the headband-adorned Tony Snell and the get-(down)-under-your-skin Matthew Dellavedova bothered Paul George all night. George scored 13 points, five in garbage time, and only took three free throws.

Starting point guard Jeff Teague was held to just two points, also scored with under a minute to go, on two shots. Rearing its ugly head was C.J. Miles and his 6-11 mark from the three-point line to lead the Pacers with 23 points. Sophomore matchup nightmare Myles Turner was too big for starter Thon Maker to stop in the lane and too quick for Monroe to stifle on the perimeter. Turner ended with 18 points on 10-11 shooting from the free throw line.

The Bucks came out with a revamped starting lineup after starting Dellavedova, Snell, Antetokounmpo, Beasley and Maker. Despite the Pacers quick ball movement exploiting the Bucks scrambling defense for two early corner three pointers from C.J. Miles, the Bucks offense held serve with Snell knocking down two early threes as well. Drawing the attention he deserves from the Pacers defense, Giannis assumed a facilitator role, notching assists on a Snell kickout and a dumpoff to Monroe. The Bucks replicated the Wizards game plan from Friday by attacking the offensive glass and getting seven second-chance points in the first 10 minutes.

Monroe’s post game was firing on all cylinders with a great baseline spin against fellow bruiser Jefferson for a reverse lay in, and Teletovic knocked down a three on the Bucks last possession on a Giannis dribble handoff. However, Brogdon fouled Rodney Stuckey on his last-second heave, awarding him three successful free throws. A 20-6 Bucks run in the first quarter had them up seven, 29-22, after the first quarter.

The Bosnian Blur, Mirza Teletovic, stayed hot from the perimeter knocking down two more three pointers, one after an awkward pump fake and the other after wrestling the ball from Monroe’s unwilling hands, and drawing a savvy foul on a three point shot too. Great effort and smart movement led to solid defensive possessions from the Bucks bench to extend their lead with Giannis on the bench.

Going with an interesting three-guard lineup featuring Brogdon, Dellavedova, Vaughn, Beasley and Monroe, the offensive forged onward with Vaughn moving and cutting to the hoop and Monroe doing his usual work down low. In an archaic offensively-potent/defensively-porous battle between big-bodied Monroe and Jefferson, a whirlwind of pivots and spins on both ends got Jefferson multiple layups at the rim.

The Pacers weren’t dead yet, as the Bucks made a couple mistakes and turnovers, allowing two Miles three pointers, but Maker brought an offensive spark getting a pass in the lane from Beasley for a dunk and hit a corner three with two Pacers running out to meet him. Turner got the better of Maker on the defensive end after a couple incorrect reads, but Maker showed some feisty grappling on the perimeter on Turner before he fouled him on the drive. Trips to the free throw line and another Maker three from the wing kept the Bucks ahead as the midwest teams traded buckets.

Outscoring the Pacers in the first two quarters sent the Bucks into halftime up 62-52 thanks to a 53% three-point percentage on 8-15 shooting and an overwhelming contribution from the bench with Monroe and Teletovic scoring 13 and 11 respectively. Giannis parlayed his aggressive offensive game into six assists, exploit Indiana’s defensive aggression, and four trips to the free throw line accounting for seven of his nine first half points.

Intelligent play, fewer defensive breakdowns and only two turnovers in the first half helped the Bucks outpace Indiana who survived on Mile’s four three-pointers and Turner’s shifty inside-outside game to keep them afloat.

After multiple buckets from Lavoy Allen and another Miles three, the lead was gashed by an Indiana 10-0 run. However, the Bucks answered with a 9-0 run of their own by locking in on both ends. Dellavedova hit a confident three, Monroe dished to a cutting Beasley for a dunk and Giannis slammed a transition dunk home taking off just inside the free throw line for a Space Jam-esque outstretched dunk.

Turner’s athleticism and relentless attacking continued to befuddle the Bucks and Monroe on defense earning trips to the line on inside putbacks and a thunderous dunk attempt.

Scoring on five straight possessions led to an offensive explosion from the Bucks. Snell knocked one down on a Giannis dribble hand off and hit another one on a patented trailing three with the defense laying off him. After a Brogdon floater Teletovic continued his hot night with two threes of his own, but a deep heat check missed badly as the off-balanced Bosnian banged one off the rim before going into the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead.

Both teams racked up early fouls and the Bucks offense stagnated to start the fourth quarter, but Monroe backed up an impressive defensive stint on Jefferson with a slick jumper of his own. Dellavedova guarded George, the Pacers star having a quiet game up to that point with Delly and Snell both making life tough on the all-star, to start the quarter before he picked up his fourth foul guarding Giannis.

Slashing to the rim and using subtle hesitations and ball fakes on quick drives got Ellis to the rim in an attempted revenge game. Giannis answered with an overhead soccer inbound pass from the wing to a wide open Brogdon in the corner, wide open thanks to Giannis’s magnetism and a Monroe cut down the lane.

That was just the start of the late-fourth long distance Bucks barrage. Maker hit a corner three on a Dellavedova drive and kick, Delly popped on a Giannis screen and hit another confident three and then Brogdon knocked down the Bucks 17th three of the night on a pass from the drive, spin and kick from Giannis, extending the Bucks lead to 18.

The Bucks maintained their lead down the stretch with Giannis dribbling out possessions as the clock got under two minutes, also drawing George’s sixth foul to end any chance the Pacers had of coming back. Holding onto and never relinquishing their lead, the Bucks defeated the Pacers improving to 2-0 in the season series.

Thoughts:

  • John Henson did not play tonight, but still looked to be having the time of his life on the bench, as John is wont to do when he doesn’t have to deal with the responsibilities of actually doing his job. The Monroe-Maker tandem played really well tonight giving the Bucks a day/night cycle at the five position. Maker’s floor stretching was big, going 3-5 from three, and Monroe’s inside game and facilitating from the elbow was the impetus for successful bench units and some Lady Gaga-drone level movement around him. Both centers also cut and rolled to the rim successfully all night to manipulate the defense, draw defenders and open up looks from deep.
  • Rashad Vaughn played a solid 25 minutes tonight, notching two very impressive bucket-saving blocks and defending quite well the rest of the night. He only scored two points, but was active and aggressive on the offensive end. With Parker out and Middleton still recovering, the Bucks handling of the mostly unimpressive Vaughn is something to watch. Middleton was out tonight to rest and Jason Terry didn’t see the court so Vaughn was called upon. He may have earned himself a few more minutes.
  • The Bucks two newest players, Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert, didn’t see the court tonight again.
  • Both teams shot 47.9% on 35-73 shooting on the night. That’s just more evidence that shooting more threes can be the difference in any game. The Pacers receive the same “shoot more threes” sentiment from fans, and tonight the Bucks shot and made more, 17-31 compared to the Pacers 10-22 mark.
  • The individual defensive performances stand out tonight. Delly locked down Teague early in the game when Snell was guarding George, and Brogdon took over the assignment later in the game. Besides shutting down his scoring the Bucks forced George to commit 5 turnovers tonight as well.

The Pacers play great at home and have the third best record in the league over the past two months or so. Going into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and pulling out a win was not only much needed, but impressive as well. The Bucks now have to keep up this intensity and smart, mistake-free basketball moving forward with the All-Star Game right around the corner.