It was Halloween Night at the arena, and Bucks fans were served up quite a scare. In the first quarter, Bucks everything-man Giannis Antetokounmpo took an Aaron Gordon elbow to the head, and Giannis was extremely slow to get up. Usually, the combination of “Giannis” and “elbow” results in this image, but the sight at Fiserv Forum on Saturday night was far more jarring.
Thankfully, the night did not include any more bad news about Giannis’ well-being, though it wasn’t without further ups and downs. Giannis was able to return to the court in the second quarter, but at halftime Mike Budenholzer let him know that the medical staff needed further evaluation...and Giannis was not pleased.
No further reports about Giannis’ status came through until Katie George confirmed that he had returned to the bench and was available to play again. By that time, the Bucks’ lead had ballooned beyond 20 points, and Giannis’ return would not be necessary.
So of course he returned in the fourth quarter anyway. Perhaps Giannis missed the garbage time minutes he used to play during his rookie year? Either way, his insistence on taking the floor served as some proof that Giannis was just fine, thank you. After the game, Giannis recounted (or tried to) his experience of the injury.
Scary stuff indeed, but hopefully Giannis is able to get everything sorted out by Monday’s matchup against the also-undefeated Toronto Raptors.
The Bucks are, as a unit, really freaking good.
Giannis, the team’s clear superstar and legitimate NBA MVP contender, only played 19 minutes in this game because of the Bucks’ medical staff’s diligence. He scored 21 points on 9/12 shooting and pulled down 7 rebounds, making this easily his worst statistical outing of the young season. So what did his teammates do in the absence of their leader?
They balled out. Khris Middleton (18 points, 7 boards, 4 assists), Malcolm Brogdon (16 points), Donte DiVincenzo (15 points), Pat Connaughton (10 points), Ersan Ilyasova (only 2 points, but 10 rebounds and 6 assists), and Brook Lopez (11 points) each played their part in Coach Bud’s system, and they maintained the team’s offensive production while stifling that of Orlando.
The Magic, as a unit, are not.
Orlando entered last night’s game as they’ve entered many games before: in the middle of the standings, and with a collection of interesting players who fit weirdly when put together. Aaron Gordon is one of the most recognizable Orlando players, but mustered only 9 points and 5 boards. Jonathan Isaac is in his sophomore season and had more blocks (3) than points (2). Nikola Vucevic is a hefty Euro with a healthy midrange shot, but his 16 points and 9 rebounds lead the team only by definition.
Mo Bamba looked lost. Evan Fournier looked unimpressive. D.J. Augustin looked like a guy who can hit pull-up threes...and little else. Jonathon Simmons looked slow, and Terrence Ross looked inept. The Magic tipped a bunch of Milwaukee passes, but other than that it’s difficult to discern exactly what they’re actually good at.
Monday is going to be fun.
The Bucks are 6-0. The Raptors are 6-0. The Bucks host the Raptors on Monday. It’s a Highlander situation: there can be only one (undefeated NBA team in October)!
Bonus Bucks Bits
- When are the Greek Freak’s coming out? C’mon, Nike, we can’t let this stand:
- On Saturday nights, we wear gray suits.
- Today in “Mike Budenholzer’s Facial Expressions” news:
Why does Mike Budenholzer always look like he just realized he left his drivers license at home and cant get into the club with his friends? pic.twitter.com/aSXtIaND1z— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 16, 2016
- Giannis might have been frustrated when told he couldn’t play in the second half, but after the game he changed his tune and seems to appreciate his new coach’s approach to his longevity.
"It's important, I know when I'm 40 and I'm retired I'm going to be able to chase my kids...I'm not going to have to look for knees on ebay."— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 28, 2018
Giannis on playing less minutes and tonight's win: pic.twitter.com/24BxfGnllO
- It is exhilarating to see how seriously the Bucks take their opponent, no matter who they are or when they play. In years past, Milwaukee would consistently play up – or down – to the level of their opponent, which was a main contributor to their maddening inconsistency. Now, the expectation is that the Bucks will always try, which was never a guarantee before! The change is noticeable, and it is appreciated.