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Milwaukee vs. New York: Bucks Snag Control Late from Knicks for Necessary Win

Without Giannis, Milwaukee manages to beat a Knicks squad missing half its roster

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but a late surge by the Milwaukee Bucks in the fourth quarter helped them overtake the New York Knicks on a night without Giannis, 115-102. A slow-starting first quarter for Milwaukee eventually saw them come to life, finishing the period ahead of New York 31-28. New York clawed back into it during the second quarter, heading into halftime leading 55-53. The third quarter featured Milwaukee doing all it could to keep the Knicks at arms length, taking an 80-77 lead into the fourth. Finally, Milwaukee put some separation between them and the hapless Knicks late in the final quarter, pulling this one out with some late shooting from Eric Bledsoe.

Three Main Observations

Starting Parker

With Giannis out, Jabari got elevated into the starting lineup. One would think this might precipitate him trying to take control, but the first four minutes featured more showcase plays by Tony Snell and John Henson than ‘Bari. I barely remember him getting an offensive touch over that time. Thankfully, that stretch ended with a dunk soon after by Jabari.

Overall though, Parker’s scoring acumen wasn’t the most obvious trait on display tonight, his rebounding was. Throughout his entire Bucks career, he’s snagged more than 12 rebounds only two times. New York’s depleted frontline certainly gave him an advantage, but that allowed him to control the tempo and start running the offense up the court. It didn’t result in an impressive amount of fast break points, but it did give Milwaukee a jolt and helped the prevent killer second chance points.

Porous Paint Defense

Milwaukee’s been giving up one of the largest percentage of shots at the rim in the league, and tonight was no exception. New York ended with 54 points in the paint tonight, but it was particularly egregious considering they were without Enes Kanter, who typically makes hay against the Bucks on the glass and at the rim. Instead, it was a series of Knicks attacking the basket and pulling up for floaters that fell in, or not facing any sort of significant opposition at the rim from any of Milwaukee’s big men. Several times in the first half no one was covering the backside on a play, causing any semblance of penetration to open up an easy kick for the Knicks to an awaiting player who slammed it home. It shouldn’t be surprising after Thursday’s no-show, but Milwaukee’s gotten plenty of help from other teams around them in the playoff standings and seem intent on not showing any of the defensive effort necessary to take advantage. At least they were able to overcome that tonight.

The Bledsoe Sweet Spot

Without Giannis, Milwaukee was in need of their point guard to handle a bit more creation duties. Bledsoe took that opportunity in stride, notching 10 assists for the evening and flying up the court whenever her snagged a rebound. More importantly though, he kept his shooting totals to a minimum on a night when he certainly would’ve been justified jacking it up 15+ plus times. Bledsoe went 7-9 tonight, a number inflated somewhat since he had a nice shooting night from three and midrange. However, Bledsoe seems to be at his best when he’s in the 9-12 shot attempts per game range, allowing him to pick his spots when he barrels toward the basket and draws free throws. His free throw rate since arriving to Milwaukee would be the lowest it’s been in the past six seasons (.320 per Basketball Reference). While Giannis is the man who should own driving to the basket, there’s no reason Eric Bledsoe shouldn’t be optimizing that opportunity more and drawing more fouls at the rim. He isn’t much of a floor spacer, so he should be looking to increase that figure heading into the playoffs.

Bonus Bucks Bits

Count me as a big fan of the Knicks patriotic, fireman unis. That emblem looks sleek in their orange and is gaudy and loud in all the right ways.

Milwaukee started the game off by allowing Trey Burke to get to the rim uncontested, where he promptly almost shot an airball on a finger roll, yet still corralled his own miss and was undeterred en route to putting it back in. If that doesn’t sum up what a game without Giannis is like, I don’t know what does.

Milwaukee was already shorthanded tonight without Sterling Brown, so it hurt all the more when Tony Snell went to the locker room in the first quarter after rolling his ankle. Thankfully, he was okay to return to the game in the second quarter.

Nate Duncan talked about this on his prospect review podcast of the Bucks, but it really would be advantageous to Milwaukee if Jabari upped his rebounding number. Tonight, in the first, he grabbed a defensive board and screamed up the court, commanding all of New York’s attention for a potential dunk before he shipped it out to JET who calmly knocked down a left-wing 3-pointer. With his passing acumen and the attention he draws, his fast breaks after snagging a board should happen more often.

Without Giannis around, and because D.J. Wilson is not allowed on the basketball court I guess, Prunty went with a Thon Maker-Tyler Zeller frontline in the first quarter tonight to give Jabari a respite. Zeller gave solid minutes per usual, although Thon got blown past by rail-thin rookie Luke Kornet on a close-out. Thankfully, the Knicks being without Enes Kanter meant they were equally lacking in frontcourt talent.

I half-expected a Brandon Jennings classic with the fruitful ingredients of crap team, scrub units and a chance for revenge against one of his many former teams. Unfortunately, it was a much more subdued night for BJ11 with eight points, four assists and four rebounds.

A passing exchange between Jarrett Jack and a little fan where they went back and forth before he in-bounded the ball was just delightful. It made me feel just a little bad when Jack was stuffed by the backboard while attempting a reverse layup on the ensuing play.

New York ended the first half with a measly five 3-point attempts, however their paint proficiency meant they still had an advantage after two quarters.

Tony Snell bounced back from his injury scare and also added two blocks to his evening ledger, including one at the rim against Kyle O’Quinn. Granted, O’Quinn isn’t known for his elevation, but Snell was hustling on the defensive end tonight when many of his teammates were not.

Maker may have been a turnstile that Luke Kornet brisked through on closeouts, but at least late in the fourth he recovered enough to get back to Tyler Zeller’s man and deny Isaiah Hicks at the rim.