The Milwaukee Bucks don’t always like to make it easy on us, but they sure like to make it entertaining, as they put down the Atlanta Hawks for a win. A first quarter that saw both teams shoot sub-40% went to Atlanta, as their 24-21 advantage put Milwaukee behind early. The horrendous shooting continued into the second quarter, with the Bucks ending at just 34.1% from the field en route to trailing 43-41. Milwaukee’s offense finally found a spark in the third, feeding off Atlanta turnovers for eight points and peppering home four 3-pointers to lead 74-61. Milwaukee let Atlanta slip back into this one until it was a tied game with less than five minutes to go, but clutch buckets by Milwaukee’s KEG trio took over and let the Bucks escape with a win.
Three Main Observations
Bit by bit Bari
Jabari, although he missed most of the attempts, looked particularly aggressive in his minutes in the first half. He looked to take Hawks’ players off the dribble with his forceful, close to the ground dribbling cadence and Milwaukee even found him on a moving cut from the 3-point arc. That latter move is my favorite spot to get him the ball, since few players can match his speed and bulk as he bullies in from the perimeter. Sprinkle in a few pull-up jumpers, including a stepback jumper, and you’ve got the beginning stages of having full-scale Bari back. He might’ve fully emerged from his cocoon in the second half too with this disrespectful pummeling of Mike Muscala and John Collins at the rim.
Form a Freakin’ Wall
Atlanta walled off the paint properly in the first half against Giannis. When his outside jumpers didn’t fall early on despite having plenty of space, he looked skiddish to let any more shots fire despite the Zeller-sized cushion between him and the closest Hawks defender. Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe seemed too comfortable launching it up whenever he felt like it, firing quick midrangers and contested 3-pointers until he started passing up open ones later in the first half. As the second half progressed, Bledsoe’s deep ball finally started dropping while Giannis found success pummeling the Hawks at the rim before regaining confidence to knock down a deep midrange jumper late in the third and at least attempt them to start the fourth. Down the stretch, as he has all year, he hit the buckets that mattered.
The Ongoing Tales of Thon
Thon had a peculiar up-and-down game tonight. In the first quarter he balked on a potential trailing three to instead set up a pick-and-roll for Middleton early in the shot clock where he just gummed up the lane. Later, he made some excellent reads to perimeter shooters or at least kept the ball moving around the court, something the Bucks seemed to stress tonight particularly while Jason Terry was on the court. Then, he got fouled and biffed a dunk in transition before a few plays later pulling off a surprising pump fake and drive for reverse layup, precisely the type of play he nearly never accomplishes. He also popped in some threes for good measure. Fans will get most excited about that drive, even if it came against a flat-footed Dedmon and he never looked under control the entire time, but they should really be enthused by his passes (including that swift transition dumpoff for Jabari’s dunk) and firmly planting his feet beyond the arc before knocking them down. It felt fitting he got this make-up for his earlier botched slam too.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Thon Maker was trailing a play early in the first quarter with Khris Middleton on the left wing and Ersan Ilyasova awaiting Thon at the free throw line. Instead of spotting up for a quick above the break three, Thon meandered over to screen for Middleton. Middleton wound up getting a runner out of it, but I wish Thon would get used to that Teletovic trailing play and spot up for a triple rather than rolling into the lane for a potential oop.
Thon followed that up a few plays later after receiving a whip-smart wraparound pass from Giannis beneath the basket by keeping the ball above his head and tossing the ball on a rope to Middleton in the corner for a three that rattled out. Any smart pass by Thon is worth noting, particularly since it’s been absent for much of this year.
Tyler Zeller set the crowd abuzz with a spectacular long midrange jumper. On the end of the bench, John Henson wept for someone else taking his token big man jumper.
Both Sterling Brown and Tony Snell broke up their shooting slump from deep in the first qurater tonight, with their jumpers bookending what was otherwise a rough first quarter for the Bucks.
Apparently Tony Snell likes the home cooking in Milwaukee. At 2/3 from 3pt range, he has his first game with multiple 3's since the Bucks' last home game on Feb. 2. During the 4-game road trip, Snell was 1/12 on 3's.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) February 14, 2018
JET knows he can’t come up with clean takeoffs anymore, so he left it between his legs for Giannis to take it home.
I appreciate Jabari Parker trying to get Tony Snell the ball rather than go against three defenders in the fastbreak, but I’d rather Bari have just tried to attack the clump than let Snell attempt an elongated layup jumping from the left block.
It is ludicrous that Giannis can get this much lift from a standstill stance for a ferocious putback.
Two impressive plays by Eric Bledsoe that didn’t involve the ball in his hands tonight. One, he outleaped and muscled Dedmon for a rebound. Later, he posted a bullying block of John Collins at the rim. Few players his size have the leaping ability or strength to accomplish either of those feats.
Tyler Zeller played a really solid game, knocking down a lob feed from Giannis (thanks for not throwing it to Thon) and generally finding himself in the right spots offensively tonight for basic buckets at the rim. Later, he snuck into the lane along the baseline to catch a feed from a driving Bledsoe for a simple score. He ended with [stat line], a tidy number for his debut in the BMO.