There was something Titanic-esque about the Milwaukee Bucks’s 118-105 win over the Chicago Bulls tonight: Much like that infamous ship, the Bucks tried to salvage a sinking season by ineffectually moving the starters’ deck chairs around. However, the bench crew was able to pick up the slack and keep the boat afloat for at least one more evening. A new set of starters sans Giannis Antetokounmpo proved as susceptible to slow starts, letting the Bulls jump ahead early to a 34-24 lead after one. On the back of faltering play from Chicago and a string of ball-movement-heavy offense from Milwaukee, things would equalize by halftime at 61-61.
The second half would go a bit more smoothly than the first with the Bucks even getting a made jumpshot from Thon Maker, helping propel them to a 90-82 lead heading into the final frame. From there on out, the Bucks kept the Bulls at arms length before having to weather a last-minute barrage for a much-needed road win against one of the NBA's lowliest teams.
Surprisingly, it was the bench mob led by Tony Snell and Shabazz Muhammad who would help keep the Bucks stabilized while the Bulls were firing away. The Bulls had to have known they were in trouble when John Henson was swishing home threes:
It wasn't only Henson getting in on the scoring. Brandon Jennings would provide 16 pts, 5 asts, and 4 rebounds in a slew of meaningful minutes with Eric Bledsoe in foul trouble throughout the game. Shabazz Muhammad would score in critical bunches in the second and third quarters and Tony Snell couldn't miss off the bench, tossing in 18 points and a perfect 6-for-6 night of his own.
The bad news? Three starters broke through double-digit scoring, but the whole unit slumped to a 17-of-47 shooting performance. That's normally a recipe for disaster in the NBA, even against an erratic team like Chicago. Their young guys, led by a 20 point and five rebound night from Denzel Valentine would come dangerously close to dispatching to a Bucks team without Giannis there to do some heavy-duty bailing.
There's still time to fix the heavy list on this ship, and for one night at least, the Bucks avoiding careening directly into a season-crippling iceberg.
Stat That Stood Out
21 - That number is none other than Shabazz Muhammad's point total this evening: unsurprisingly his highest since joining the Bucks. I wouldn't exactly describe any of his baskets as “pretty”, per se - he actually had a propensity for taking one-legged faders from eight feet out in heavy traffic - but when only two of your starters break double-digits, a random 21 point, five rebound, three assist, and two steal night comes in handy.
Here's hoping the Bucks never have to rely on another Shabazz Muhammad Game for the rest of time.