The highly-anticipated tilt started all Houston. Giannis Antetokounmpo air-balled his first three, Milwaukee trailed 2-12, then 5-17. Both coaches decided to queue an annoyingly long commercial break with coaching challenges (a whole different topic for which I’ll save the hand-wringing). Through the entirety of the first half, Houston could scrounge up offense on fast breaks and in the half-court while Milwaukee looked steadily at second-tier. The Bucks would storm back on the shoulders of their MVP, putting the game within single digits in the third quarter. They continued trending north, taking a 91-90 lead with roughly 8 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Giannis fouled out with 5 minutes left, but the Bucks held on to claim their first win of the season.
Giannis may have heard some clamoring in the Twitter verse about his jump shot. And after an airball that he missed with authority, his shot appeared significantly improved from everywhere. He struggled to really get going in the first-half, no matter how much he puffed smoke and drove at the lane. Of course, just when Twitter readied their fingers to formulate some claim with gross overreactions to his struggles, he started to do Giannis things. MVP things. He facilitated (once again, he’s a severely undervalued playmaker) and scored at will.
Despite fouling out with 5:18 remaining, Giannis finished a stellar game with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists — a triple-double.
Coach Budenholzer showed his willingness to venture down Milwaukee’s bench for a jolt, which he found a minimum of throughout the first portion of the matchup. But Pat Connaughton scored 10 straight buckets for Milwaukee in the second-quarter with a stint of off-ball heroics and three-point touch. Eric Bledsoe dropped 11 points in just 14 minutes. Ersan Ilyasova also pitched in 13 points. But, aside from them and a banner game from Giannis, Milwaukee as a collective was good not great. In other words, not quite an Eastern Conference favorite.
James Harden, as hard as it was to watch from the standpoint of a traditional-offense kind of guy, was stellar. Not so much from a scoring standpoint, as he only scored 19 points on 2-13 shooting, but he found alley-oops, enough for 14 assists, and controlled Houston’s offense. Clint Capela, who received those perfectly shipped packages from Harden, finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, playing the perfect role of a big in a Mike D’Antoni system. And for those who watched live tonight, you know who comes next. Russell Westbrook looked like the unchained, unfiltered MVP he was on the Thunder, taking over for the Rockets in the fourth quarter. He finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists.
Stat That Stood Out
Khris Middleton was rendered ineffective for the most of the game, scoring only eleven points in his debut. Last season, Middleton scored under five points only nine times. Verdict: Let’s get some more Khris, please.