For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 33 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, five steals and a block to provide Bucks fans with some semblance of joy in an otherwise drab affair. Michael Beasley sent in 22 points of his own — 16 in the first half — but the rest of the Bucks’ roster seemed to still be in all-star break mode.
The Jazz’s rising stars just cut and diced Milwaukee throughout the night, led by Gordon Hayward who finished with 29 points and a handful of highlight reel dunks. Four other Utah players made their presence felt with double-digit performances (Derrick Favors, 19; Rudy Gobert, 15; George Hill, 19; Dante Exum, 12). Utah pummeled Milwaukee in the paint, 52-34 on the night, with a rinse-and-repeat assault on Milwaukee’s inability to handle Utah’s bigs in the pick-and-roll all night.
Milwaukee stormed out of the gates immediately, headlined by Giannis and Michael Beasley. The Greek Freak was playing as if he was still down in the Bayou, grabbing five points (including a silky smooth spin move and a nifty put-back dunk), four boards and a steal in the first 3:13 of the action. Beasley then poured in six points of his own, adding up to an 11-3 Bucks start.
Unfortunately, Utah elected to call a timeout. This was bad news for the Bucks, who could only watch as the Jazz responsed with a 20-4 run that effectively set the tone for the remainder of the night.
Remember the last game against Utah? The one where they hit 22,848 corner 3-pointers? Yeah, that one. Thankfully, the Bucks didn’t allow a single one in the first 12 minutes, but instead gave up a bunch of dunks and layups in the land down under the hoop, helping the Jazz storm out to a 36-27 lead after one. While Utah’s first corner 3-pointer of the night came at the 8:29 mark in the second quarter, most of the damage derived from quick cutting passes that resulted in layups and Gordon Hayward being Gordon Hayward (an alley-oop and a poster on Giannis). The Bucks appeared to be sleepwalking through much of the first half, letting opponents streak right by them for a layup at will (Rashad Vaughn vs. Dante Exum was just one occurrence of this). In the first 24 minutes of play, Utah outscored Milwaukee 32-20 in the paint.
Utah’s size was just too much for the Bucks. Beasley noted Rudy Gobert and the other players on the court as the changing tide in the league.
“It’s the new NBA man,” said Beasley. “These guys are like 9-feet. Like, these guys are legit 9-feet. Thon Maker, Giannis, Rudy Gobert. They can move, that’s the worst part. They’re not just jumping straight up and down.”
Much of the first half just lacked any aggression from the Bucks end. The leading scorer was Beasley with 16 points, and it didn’t come with a bang. What started off as a Giannis frenzy dwindled down, as the Jazz quickly solved their opening quarter issues. At one point, there was a lineup of Delly-Terry-Snell-Beasley-Henson. Outside of Beas, it just was — uneventful.
Mix that in with the top-5 defensive rating of the Utah Jazz and it wasn’t too pretty. Quin Snyder is doing something special with this team, folks. Their defensive schemes toyed with the Bucks throughout the second quarter, deflecting and intercepting passes on what seemed like every other possession. It was enough for them to build up a 13 point lead going into halftime, 59-46.
The Bucks would roll out with the same starting lineup that began the game in Maker-Delly-Beasley-Snell-Antetokounmpo to begin the second half. After Thon drilled a 3-pointer, he picked up two quick fouls, giving him four on the night just minutes into the third. And on the other end Milwaukee just couldn’t brew up a recipe that prevented Utah from putting the ball in the hoop. Not even eight consecutive points (and eventually a 17 point quarter) from Giannis was enough. The Bucks defense was just outmatched, especially when Gordon Hayward eased past Maker and hammered down a MASSIVE dunk (one that caused the Jazz beat writer fall out of his chair).
Despite all of the turmoil, the Bucks had the ball in their hands to end the third and a chance to cut the lead to single digits, but a Khris Middleton layup attempt was swatted away.
Things didn’t get any better in the fourth, with the lead just ballooning even further as the Jazz flirted with a 20-point lead multiple times. Tonight seemed to act as the first real night since Jabari’s injury in which his scoring contributions were sorely missed. Outside of Beas and Giannis, there just wasn’t any sparks that could provide a run to slash into the Utah lead. The game finally ended with the score at 109-95, but it felt as if this one was over all the way back in the first quarter.
- The Bucks were coming off a game that featured three players to score at least 20 points (G. Antetokounmpo, 30; G. Monroe, 25; K. Middleton, 20). Tonight, two players put forth 20-point burgers (Giannis and Beasley). Outside of those two, it was just a “meh” night in the scoring category.
- In their matchup on the first of the month, Rudy Gobert tore the Bucks apart limb for limb, posting a monster double-double with 26 points and 14 boards. Tonight, the Stifle Tower notched another double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Derrick Favors was also a liability for the Bucks down low, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds.
- Quin Snyder seems like the ultimate football guy basketball coach. Like, if he were ever to get sick, it’d be because his players are trying to stress him out due to their poor play.
- Khris Middleton scored 20 points for the first time this season in Brooklyn prior to the All-Star break. That type of performance wasn’t written in the stars tonight. Instead, it was apparent that he’s still working on getting acclimated to the on-court flow from the get-go. The elongated break after just working into game shape probably didn’t help.
- I still don’t understand why the professional basketball team from Utah is named the Jazz. It should be the New Orleans Jazz. Like, it doesn’t make any sense. If you can name a famous jazz musician from Utah without looking it up, mention it in the comments and I’ll Venmo you $5 (probably not because I won’t believe you).
- Giannis seemed to have trouble at times defending Gordon Hayward. It just never seemed as if it was a solid matchup, as Hayward would drive by him at ease, resulting in Giannis panicking and forcing an and-one situation. The Bucks would adjust their gameplan in regards to the Utah All-Star, optioning Tony Snell to guard him midway through the second quarter, along with Michael Beasley receiving some minutes on him.
- With an appearance in tonight’s game, Jason Terry became the oldest Buck ever to dress for a game. I don’t know if that’s something we should be proud or disappointed about. You make the call.