It took some time to finally gain full control, but the Milwaukee Bucks secured their 34th victory of the season over the Dallas Mavericks, 116-106. Giannis Antetokounmpo took care of the paint while Brook Lopez did work from beyond the arc in the first quarter, giving Milwaukee a 35-26 lead after one. Milwaukee’s fortunes changed in the second, when Dallas started a hot streak that ended with them up 59-57 at halftime on 9-19 (47.4%) shooting from beyond the arc. The Bucks finally found their stroke form deep in the third and put some clamps on the Mavericks, snagging a 92-84 lead after three. Dallas hit some clutch shots to keep Milwaukee’s interest, but the Bucks snagged a victory heading into their three-day break.
Giannis will never stop going in...
The second quarter was not kind to the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Dallas Mavericks nailing every type of 3-pointer in existence. Were it not for Giannis taking the Bucks’ offense into his own efficient hands, it likely could’ve been a steeper hill to climb in the second half. With Deandre Jordan matched up on him, he didn’t relent in his driving to the rim. Time after time, he either drew a foul or contorted his endless limbs to sleekly finish around the stout center. He wound up with the Bucks’ final nine points in the period through his perseverance, frustrating and drawing fouls on Jordan in the process. For a team that didn’t make a 3-pointer in the second, his attacking the rim is what sets this team apart from others that rely so heavily on the deep ball. The Bucks’ offense bogged down, but never sunk completely thanks to Giannis’ ability to force the issue in the paint. He finished this one out going 10-12 from the line too, a nice nod to his attacking nature.
I continue to have a difficult time with Khris Middleton’s season. He’s obviously struggled, but the idea the Bucks could find someone appreciably better to replace him seems far-fetched too. I’m not enamored by the idea of what Milwaukee may have to pay this summer, but who knows what might happen if he continues this tough spell. Memories can be short in the NBA. One minute in today’s game, he’s nailing a pull-up triple like it was nothing. The next, he’s having difficulty creating off the dribble and tosses a ball out of bounds with the shot clock winding down. Then, he’s also incredibly durable, playing damn near the most minutes in the NBA under Jason Kidd’s regime and even coming back into the game today after getting a ball rocked into his dome. However, it still seems like he’s struggling to create offense the way he has in season’s past, whether it’s for his own shot or finding others. He’s never been a supremely talented catalyst, but certainly a serviceable one.
Kevin Arnovitz said something I found interesting on The Lowe Post last week about how Middleton’s a player who enjoys the comfort of knowing where his shots are going to come from. In Bud’s read-and-react system, that can change rapidly. I think we all assumed he might be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the system, but that clearly hasn’t happened yet. Giannis’ adjustment period might still be in progress, but he’s so supremely talented that wasn’t going to affect his bottom line. For Midds, it has. Hopefully, he can find a way to break out of whatever spell this is in time for the playoffs, because the team needs him to be the second or third fiddle he was last year if they want to reach their aspirations.
Brook Breaks the Mold
We all know Brook Lopez’s spectacular season has broken anyone’s prior ideas about what a 7-footer could do from beyond the arc. He demonstrates a preternatural ability to be ready to launch after a pass, which is particularly impressive given his shot pocket is likely quite different from the rest of the Bucks’ wing brigade that launches most of their triples. The fact he can even get the ball above his head to shoot that quickly off the pass or bounce is amazing in-and-of itself, but it was particularly useful today against Deandre Jordan, who seemed disinclined to keep trying to guard Lopez around the arc. Eventually, Carlisle switched Jordan onto Giannis instead. Today, it was Brook’s defensive acumen that felt more impactful though.
Brook Lopez registered three blocks within the first two minutes of today’s game. His presence also gave the Mavs ball handlers plenty of trepidation when they penetrated the paint as well, forcing Doncic and Jalen Brunson into tough floaters in that 3-10 feet area. Overall, he finished with five blocks, but his defensive impact goes well beyond the box score.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Malcolm Brogdon, blessed, intelligent man that he is, gave a very touching address to the crowd before today’s game speaking about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Well said Pres:
Malcolm Brogdon just addressed the crowd ahead of their MLK Day game vs. the Mavs. Reminded everyone that it only takes one person to change the world. Good stuff from Brogdon (as you would expect).— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) January 21, 2019
Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson’s chemistry is becoming a thing folks. In their first possession down the floor, D.J. comfortably shoveled an underhanded pass to Brown who was screaming down the break for an easy lay-in. It looked simple, but that pass can be tough to make when everyone’s flying down the court; nice vision from Wilson.
Deandre Jordan must’ve been shown Lopez film from way back with the Nets, because he started the game letting Brook have whatever he wanted from the outside while staying staunchly in the paint. In his defense, it’s tough to grab cheap rebounds from teammates when you’re guarding around the arc.
I'm not sure DeAndre Jordan read the updated scouting report on Brook Lopez. He's been slow to close out on Lopez four times already resulting in three 3s. pic.twitter.com/aVhxjEQFLl— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) January 21, 2019
Eric Bledsoe knew he had a mismatch against Dwight Powell in the first quarter as he danced with him dribbling around the arc, but his pump-fake up-and-under footwork in the paint was much more impressive to me than crossing the big man up.
Eric Nehm did God’s work today researching this thread:
Some press box researching suggests it was indeed the first time a #77 has fouled a #77 in NBA history.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 21, 2019
The Dunkmaster continues to blow expectations away:
Giannis now has 161 dunks in 1393 minutes — the same number he registered in 2756 minutes last season.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) January 21, 2019
Maxi Kleber, whose name currently stands as the most villainous in the NBA, got a painful dose of dunk here from The Good Guys:
One of the most enjoyable parts of Giannis’ supreme athleticism is when he’s beat defensively yet is still able to recover and block his man at the rim. Bldesoe boasts a similar spectacular athleticism for his position and was able to do just that against Jalen Brunson at the rim in the second quarter. Unfortunately, some low contact resulted in a foul, but darn if it wasn’t emblematic of the impact he can have when he’s locked in on that end.
Khris Middleton hasn’t flashed a ton of pretty passes that I can recall this year, but this one-handed bounce pass sling shot to Giannis sure counts:
Uh, the two charge calls Giannis got in the third quarter must’ve been spotted by the refs from the Saints game yesterday. They were both pretty egregious, although I thought the one Doncic drew at the top of the arc where he just received the ball was more ludicrous. I’ve seen Giannis try to draw that exact same foul before and it doesn’t get called. The Jordan flop wasn’t surprising. You could see he was getting frustrated with fouling Giannis on shots and wanted to try and flip the script with a flop. Boo. A chair propped up against a door has more defensive integrity than this effort.
Giannis viciously runs through DJ's arm as DJ is reaching for the ball and moving his feet. pic.twitter.com/X1GqOQfaMs— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) January 21, 2019
Thon Maker got some spot minutes at the end of the third, and while his impact won’t be on the box score, he frustrated Powell enough to draw an audible F-bomb on the broadcast and elicited two straight technical fouls from Powell leading to his ejection.
Milwaukee letting young guys rack up their first career triple-doubles of late, just so kind of them. In addition to Doncic today, Tomas Satoransky had his first-ever in the Bucks’ loss back on January 11.