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Milwaukee vs. Washington: Bucks Close One Out In The Capital Against Wizards

A strong push by Bledsoe and Giannis late gives Milwaukee a refreshing win

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If you still needed to wash your mouth of last night’s bitter loss to the Raptors, tonight’s 110-103 win by the Milwaukee Bucks over the Washington Wizards hopefully did it. At the end of one, Milwaukee trailed by just eight, 32-24, partially due to the Wizards’ blazing 61.9% shooting percentage to start. The Bucks narrowed the gap as the second quarter came to a close, eventually tying the game at 53 heading into halftime after a 14-4 run in the final four minutes of the half. Unfortunately that momentum didn’t translate into the third quarter, as the Bucks went into the fourth trailing by three points, 85-82. The game narrowed as it reached its conclusion, but Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo came up big down the stretch with clutch buckets on four successive possessions to give the Bucks a 105-101 lead. That result would carry over to the end as the Bucks came away with a win after a Giannis jumper and Tony Snell block.

Three Main Observations

Milwaukee’s first half didn’t feature a plethora of spectacular play, but as the quarter wound down Eric Bledsoe started pushing the pace, getting quick layups and forcing the Bucks to attempt rapid shots. My particular favorite of the first half was him dishing to a trailing Khris Middleton who didn’t hesitate, despite a hand in his face, for a quick three that went nothing but net. I’d love to see more transition rapid fires by Milwaukee’s sharpshooter. Perhaps more importantly, that stretch helped the Bucks finally get themselves going as they closed the gap against the Wizards. It set an important tone and tied up the game after a relatively staid first half to that point.

Tonight’s Bucks’ offense was pretty brutal to watch. While the overall offensive rating wasn’t bad (112.7), their was a distinct lack of movement and preference for standstill shots all evening was infuriating at times. That was probably best exemplified by a play in the fourth when Eric Bledsoe stutter-stepped on the arc for around 10 seconds as nothing happened on the other side before Malcolm Brogdon flashed to the paint and nailed a reverse layup. That may seem like a poor analogy for a night when it looked atrocious, but the point is that while the process may’ve been sloppy, the results got it done. That was particularly so in the clutch, when a combination of Bledsoe, Giannis and a beautiful block by Tony Snell sealed this one for Milwaukee.

This is entirely unrelated to tonight’s game, but is a worthwhile inclusion considering he didn’t get any run tonight. Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Milwaukee Bucks will waive DeAndre Liggins before the deadline that would guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. This way, Milwaukee could theoretically sign someone else to a contract for the remainder of the year, including one of their 10-day guys like Joel Bolomboy or Sean Kilpatrick, but it frees up the roster a bit. Not to mention it frees fans from the shackles of having to watch a defensive-oriented guard whose flair for the dramatic defensively seemed more bark than bite the entire year. On offense, he was about as useful as a stone golem. We’ll see what Milwaukee does from here with that spot.

Bonus Bucks Bits

Jason Kidd opted to start Malcolm Brogdon tonight in place of Tony Snell. Snell faced a similar benching in November when Kidd was looking for a way to jump start their bench production. Brogdon missed three early wide-open corner threes where Snell likely would’ve been camped out. Snell paid it off tonight by getting the call to close out the game late and blocking Bradley Beal on a 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds.

The first points of tonight’s evening for Milwaukee came on a John Henson corner jumper. It’s not often you can say a Henson jump shot puts the Bucks on the board initially. It’s also not often you can say a Henson jumper goes in.

With the insertion of Brogdon to the starting lineup, Milwaukee’s substitution pattern altered obviously, most acutely with their three stars though. While Giannis has typically been leaving around four minutes into the game or so for Brogdon, tonight Thon Maker and Tony Snell went in for Brogdon and Henson respectively around eight minutes in. Kidd tried to steal a few more minutes with his three stars out there together, which feels like an odd choice when trying to stagger properly, but when your star players have gotten significant time off due to two blowouts in a row, I guess he felt Middleton and Giannis could get back to their top two per-game minute averages in the league. They finished at 42 and 41 minutes respectively.

There was a near Giannis to Thon alley-oop in transition early in the second quarter marred by both Thon not being able to reach the hoop quick enough and a Wizards foul. It would’ve been a delightfully tall connection, and one highlighting Giannis’ preternatural skill at reading where his teammates are in transition. It was also a bad decision considering how automatic Giannis is in those situations.

Even if they didn’t hit too many (3-13), the Bucks must’ve gotten the message in the first half that they should be rifling it from deep far more than their paltry 17 last night. Unfortunately, several wide open looks in the corner rattled out, but it’s the attempts that count in this instance. Their 22 count at the end of the night isn’t too encouraging either, but at least it’s not ghastly.

Milwaukee’s third quarter offense again looked forced, rigid and unimaginative. The same issues that plagued them for the first part of the game reared their ugly head again, with difficult drives into traffic and forcing the issue. Their best stretches mirrored their run at the second quarter’s conclusion, when they looked for something early or rapidly in transition. Eric Bledsoe again was a catalyst, with a (probably) ill-advised deep jumper that was annoyingly ruled a long two, followed by a turbo drive for a layup.

There have been several grenade style lob passes from Bucks players of late including Delly and Giannis to teammates for oops or open threes. Tonight, John Henson tried the same thing from the 3-point arc as Giannis looped to the hoop for an oop. Unfortunately, it didn’t look quite as pretty, although Giannis corralled it and the possession eventually ended with a Middleton three.

Delly absolutely went full pesky Delly tonight in the fourth quarter against Mike Scott. On one possession Scott got the better of him in the post while Delly shoved his chest into him, but the other time Delly linked arms with Scott and got him to angrily rip the Aussie to the court forcing an offensive foul. Delly later armbarred Bradley Beal when he tried to drive to the hoop causing a scuffle on the court. He was kicked out with a flagrant two call. The Wizards remain the most temperamentally angsty team in the NBA.