In a night where the best team in the NBA came to town, the Bucks were unable to match their offensive weaponry, falling to the visiting Houston Rockets by a score of 110-99.
The first quarter immediately featured the Bucks going small, putting Giannis at the five. They’d have some struggles in moving the ball, as they had numerous shot clock violations and hoisted up some ugly midrange shots. Regardless, they found themselves only down by two at the end of the first, 24-22.
Defensive exploits by the Rockets would expand their lead in the second quarter. Numerous times, they got the switch they wanted on Jabari Parker, which resulted in him in no-man’s land against James Harden. Spoiler: It wasn’t good. Harden would be on fire during that quarter, and closed out the half with a looooong 3-pointer to give Houston a 58-46 halftime advantage.
The third quarter would see the Bucks go on an 11-0 run to slice the Houston lead to just four at one point, but the firepower from the Rockets was too much. You can only keep them off the perimeter for so long, and before you know it, the buzzer sounded and we headed to the fourth with Houston maintaining their double-digit lead, 87-76.
Despite the majority of time spent being down by double digits, the Bucks wouldn’t say quit. They’d come back numerous times, but were never able to get over the hill. The Rockets were just too difficult to overcome. Milwaukee would slash the lead to just four, but that’s all. When it was all said and done, the Rockets escaped town with a 110-99 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would pace the Bucks with 30 points on the night, enough to be the game’s leading scorer. Khris Middleton would pour in 18 to accompany that. Eric Bledsoe and Sterling Brown each added 15 of their own.
For Houston, James Harden was the lead man with 26 points. Eric Gordon was next in line off the bench with 18, and Chris Paul would mix in 16 points. Former Buck Luc Richard Mbah a Moute finished with 11 points on the evening.
I never felt as if the Bucks were going to win this game.
Sure, they may have made it single digits on numerous occasions. But never did I think to myself, Wow, the Bucks are going to complete this comeback. Some of you might call me a bad fan, but I’m sure most of you will agree with me. This team just simply didn’t have the weapons to match up with Houston’s firepower. I mean, my goodness. Everybody is lethal. You think you have everybody covered up but then are late on one rotation, and it results in Trevor Ariza hitting a corner three. This Houston team is super good, and yes, I think they have a chance in a seven-game series against the Warriors.
The Bucks went small ball and it really didn’t matter.
Early on set the tone for this one. Coupled with the facts that Houston is traditionally a small ball team and that the Bucks were in foul trouble, Milwaukee matched their opponents’ style of play and lined up Giannis at the five. It really didn’t have any effect. Houston still scored at ease, and meanwhile, the Bucks look flustered on the offense end. No rhythm existed, and shots were just hoisted up in desperation to avoid shot clock violations. There was also a few possessions where Khris Middleton would dribble down the court, not look at any teammates and just chuck up a contested midrange shot. Oof. Not pretty, folks. If there’s one team you don’t want to have build up a lead on you in this league, it’s Houston (Golden State is also an acceptable answer). You’re not getting out of a hole that easily against them, and when the Bucks’ small ball lineup wasn’t being effective, yikes.
On one positive note, Sterling Brown looked good.
Sure, it was only 15 points, but it was another game against a very solid basketball team where Sterling Brown showed his skill level. The rookie provided a spark off the bench for Milwaukee and played a large role in their comeback efforts. HIs aggression, as always, was off the charts, and it meant something considering he was up against the league’s likely MVP. I don’t know what more you can ask of a rookie, but that’s a pretty good takeaway for Brown.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Following his dismal game in Indianapolis the other night, this was a game I was hoping Middleton would have a bounce back in. He’d fair better than 1-of-7 from the floor for six points this time around, going 6-of-13 for 18 points last night. Still, there were some inconsistencies in his game, particularly his shot rhythm which I briefly discussed earlier. I’ve seen some people bring it up on Twitter, but when he takes those wacky shots without glancing at a teammate is when you really become expressionless. The main example off the top of my head is when the Bucks were down six against Indianapolis the other night with less than two minutes and he put up a one-footer floater. Yeah, not the best shot selection. Let’s hope that improves moving forward.
- With Tyler Zeller still out from his nasty fall against Philadelphia Sunday evening, I was looking forward to see how Thon adjusted to the Houston bigs. Well, we’d never see it, as Maker received his first DNP of the season. In fact, John Henson was the only big on the Milwaukee roster to receive minutes. Marshall Plumlee was listed as active but failed to garner any action as well. As mentioned earlier, this is due to Prunty wanting to match Houston’s efforts in the small ball roster.
- It became clear in the first half that the Rocket’s goal on offense was to expose Jabari — and they did. They would receive isolation from Harden on Parker numerous times throughout the night, and I think it resulted in Harden getting off a clean shot each time. Parker simply didn’t have the proper defensive skills to match up with Harden’s MVP-caliber game.
- With a chunk of minutes left in the third, the Rockets had 38 points in the paint. On the season, they average 41 points in the paint per game. They would finish with 50 last night on 25-of-40 shooting.
- Considering these are must win games for the Bucks and the fact that the Rockets are the best team in the NBA (along with having the leading MVP candidate), I was a little disappointed to see the stands not filled all the way. It continues the Bradley Center of not having a sell out unless the Cavaliers or Warriors are playing.
- As I said earlier, this Houston team is good. When asked if they’re the team to beat in the league, James Harden replied, “Nah. I feel like we’re just out there swaggin’ and hoopin’.” This team has confidence, and I hope with all my heart that both them and the Warriors finish healthy so we can see them duel it out in the Western Conference Finals.