It was Noche Latina at the BMO Harris Bradley Center last night, and the beautiful celebration of Hispanic culture was paired with a much needed Milwaukee Bucks win, beating the New York Knicks 120-112.
The game began with a struggling Giannis, the all-too-familiar theme of transition turnovers, and a shot clock violation for good measure. Both Giannis and Bledsoe lost the ball while pushing the pace in the first quarter; despite the sloppiness, the good guys were able to hold on to a 26-22 lead after the first twelve minutes.
Fans were treated to improved shooting from Middleton and Henson in the second period. Henson was throwing up some of the ugliest looking hook shots that I would have been really frustrated about — had they not fallen. Shabazz Muhammad made a brief appearance and scored 6 quick points. Meanwhile, Snell managed to play nearly 14 minutes without scoring a single point. The Bucks took a 10 point lead at the half.
Middleton’s jumper continued to fall in the third quarter, as he went up against Tim Hardaway Jr’s 10 point scoring burst. Mudiay also turned it up a notch, resulting in the Knicks taking a one point lead. Sterling Brown wasn’t about to let the game swing in New York’s favor. He hit two 3 pointers and helped give the Bucks a slight 91-89 lead heading into the fourth, despite being outscored by the Knicks in the quarter.
After only putting up 8 points in the first half, Giannis began to take over in the 4th. He drove to the basket time and time again, at times going up against 4 defenders all surrounding him in the paint. His aggression in the paint lead to numerous trips to the line, where he went 7-9. Despite Mudiay’s best efforts, the Bucks never let the Knicks get too close in the fourth. The Bucks ended up beating a Porzingis-less Knicks team 120-22.
Khris Middleton topped the Bucks’ leaderboard with 30 points on 68.75% shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, thanks to a big second half. John Henson and his hook shot provided 14 points, while Jabari Parker and Tyler Zeller each added 12 of their own.
New York was lead by Tim Hardaway Jr. with 26 points. Emmanuel Mudiay had 19 points, and Troy Williams added 18 of his own.
Giannis Seemed Off
At least, for the first half of the game. In the first quarter alone, he turned the ball over in transition, nearly air balled a free throw, got dunked on by Damyean Dotson, then missed a dunk on the next possession. He missed two free throws in the first half and two in the second half, bringing his total to 14 on 18 attempts. Kanter and company were clobbering Giannis on every drive, making me that much more appreciated of his aggressive attacks. There have been times this season when Giannis has chosen contested midrange jumpers over taking it to the rim. That was not an issue last night. To his credit, a not so productive first half wasn’t going to affect him coming out of halftime. Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half.
The Absence of Snell and Thon
On one hand, we have Tony Snell; Snell managed to play nearly 30 minutes last night without scoring a single basket. He finished with three total field goal attempts, and two three point attempts. Having a starter contribute absolutely zero offense outside of assists is unacceptable. His presence was nearly unnoticeable. Thon Maker, on the other hand, was missing from the action because he was seemingly benched for the second straight game, picking up his second ever DNP-CD. That appears to be a pretty strong message from Prunty: you aren’t playing up to the team’s standards. This benching should be raising red flags for Bucks’ fans. Is Thon not competing in practice? Is he failing to show progress there? What is going on behind the scenes between him and the coaching staff, and his teammates?
Due to the long wait for our guys to be ready for questions postgame, I knew I had time to pop in the Knicks’ locker room first. I intended to ask Michael Beasley a question or two, but his bad shooting night had left him in a bad mood and I wasn’t going to bother him after he immediately put on his headphones (and three big gold chains). Instead, I watched Rebecca Harlow lead the media scrum. During Tim Hardaway Jr’s interview, another reporter asked the shooting guard what he thought of the Bucks’ selling t-shirts of the now infamous dunk Giannis had on (technically over) him. He was not pleased with the question, saying, “You’re bringing up the past. We’re moving on. Next question... we’re done.” He left the locker room immediately, and I heard someone say a very loud expletive after he stepped into the hallway.
I made my way to the Bucks’ locker room after that, and still had time to spare before interviews started. During Middleton’s interview, Eric Nehm asked him how good it felt to have a great shooting performance after his recent struggles. Middleton said that he hasn’t been struggling, which was a bit surprising considering he usually holds himself accountable in his postgame answers. However, he did acknowledge that the team was coasting during the game:
After the game, I asked Khris Middleton if the Knicks taking a one-point lead at 85-84 with 1:16 left in the third quarter let them know it was time to buckle down and close them out. His response: pic.twitter.com/73XOxV0FU1— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 10, 2018
As always, Giannis was the last Buck to be interviewed. Two of his answers are worth sharing; the first being his explanation of his football hike to Eric Bledsoe after winning the tip:
Giannis said he and Bledsoe’s football hike & push-up after winning the tip were inspired by Westbrook and Melo — but they won’t be doing it again pic.twitter.com/FZfPHgoG7y— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) March 10, 2018
After witnessing THJ getting frustated when asked about the t-shirts, I was curious to see what Giannis thought of them. His answer reminds all of us that he is the best human:
Not sure any other NBA player would answer this question the way Giannis did. He showed nothing but respect for THJ when asked what he thought of the dunk t-shirts: pic.twitter.com/YPQzeQDI1n— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) March 10, 2018
Bonus Bucks Bits
- This was Khris Middleton’s seventh 30 point game of the season.
- Giannis recorded his 29th game of the season in which he put up at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Bucks shot 56.2% from the floor, and are now 15-4 when shooting 50% or better as a team this season.
- Jabari continues to be look more and more comfortable, and his shot is falling. Last night he finished with 12 points, which tallied his fifth straight game with double digit scoring.
- I got to sit next to Walt Frazier during dinner pregame and he has the coolest vibe about him. Seeing him in person made me realize just how particular he is about his fashion. He accentuated his large brown plaid pattern suit with endless gold accents: a gold belt, multiple big gold rings, gold watch, gold socks, gold buttons... everything!
- The Bucks did a really nice job with Noche Latina. From the delicious Mexican food spread in the media room, the pregame message from Telemundo, the in-game host Melanie showcasing her Spanish vocabulary, and my favorite part of the night: the halftime show.
- I still haven’t gotten used to the new in-game announcer. He yells extremely loud into the microphone, and pronounces words strangely with weird inflections. My ears hurt.
- It was nice to see Zeller play again after having to sit out the past two games with back and hip soreness caused by a hard fall versus the 76ers on March 4th.
- When Beasley checked in during the first quarter, there were some people in the crowd who gave him a standing ovation. I can honestly say that if I were not working, I would have done the same. Because, Beas.
- The Bucks had a spicy nacho eating contest and it was hilarious: