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Milwaukee vs. Cleveland: Bucks Accelerate Past Cavaliers, 129-112

With the win, Milwaukee is now 2-1 on the young season

NBA: Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In their first divisional matchup of the season, the Bucks would prevail vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers at Fiserv Forum, 129-112. They’re now 2-1 on the young campaign.

To start things off, Milwaukee seemed to still be stuck in the same neutral position that they were in during the second half Saturday vs. Miami. Sluggish passing, a lack of strong finishes, and an overall sense of lackadaisical play defined the first quarter. While Eric Bledsoe initially began strong, a stint of missed layups seemed to set the tone of the opening period for the rest of the squad. Adding in the fact that the Cavaliers seemed to be making everything within three feet of the rim didn’t help out much either. Moving into the second quarter, Cleveland clung to a one-point lead, 31-30.

Milwaukee’s quality of play picked up significantly during the second quarter, probably due to Budenholzer telling the team to pull their heads out of their you-know-what’s. At one point, they’d embark on a 21-8 run, enough to pull ahead by double-digits. Pat Connaughton would provide the spark that’d help ignite the Bucks, coming off the bench and contributing with 14 points. Brook Lopez would pour in 10 points, and Giannis/Middleton would each mix in seven apiece. At halftime, the Bucks maintained a 59-52 lead.

The third quarter would continue the rejuvenation provided by the Bench Mob, highlighted by the tandem of George Hill and Pat Connaughton. Both would come in and instantly provide a jolt, something that’d propel the Bucks forward in a fantastic way. Milwaukee would hold a double-digit advantage for much of the quarter, and provided themselves a 91-80 lead moving into the fourth. From there, they wouldn’t relinquish much more and would end up coasting to a 129-112 victory.

Khris Middleton would be the leading scorer for the Bucks, wrapping up his evening with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo would be held to just 14 points, but made his presence felt in other facets of his talent, tallying 10 rebounds and seven assists. George Hill would come off the bench with 19 points and Pat Connaughton contributed with 17 of his own.

For the Cavaliers, Collin Sexton finished at the top of the score sheet with 18 points. Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson would both etch 17 points.

Three Observations

So, it was obvious that Budenholzer wanted something to be done about the fouls.

And indeed, something was done. Coming into last night, the Bucks had 59 personal fouls in their opening two games. Considering how well they were at not committing fouls last season, everyone knew that something was up — including Mike Budenholzer. Yesterday, the team had just 15 — a significantly less margin. Postgame, everyone echoed the sentiment that they knew it was something to improve on and that it was a key element to the gameplan that Bud implemented. It’s rewarding to see the team clean up the mess that they’ve created, but it’ll be interesting to see if it continues in what will surely be a tough atmosphere tomorrow night in Boston.

The Bench Mob is back!

After how hefty the contributions were from the Bench Mob last season, you knew it wouldn’t be long before they’d make their appearance in 2019. Well, Pat Connaughton and George Hill didn’t waste any time. Connaughton would have himself a very active first half, which included 14 points that provided a well-needed jolt that the starters unfortunately had lacked to provide. In the third quarter, Hill’s play off the bench in both scoring and facilitating the basketball created separation from Cleveland, and from that point on, the Bucks didn’t look back.

The starters still seemed sluggish, but it’s not time to hit the panic button yet, IMO.

Nearly every Bucks fan was getting slightly agitated during the first half, as once again, it appeared that Milwaukee was playing with their food and playing uninspired basketball. The starters seemed off, players were missing gimme layups, and an overall sense of laziness seemed to plague the court. Thankfully, things would eventually turn around when the bench made an impact. In his postgame availability, George Hill was asked how close he feels the team is from putting a full game together, to which he responded that they’re a long way away. He was then asked if that’s exciting or disheartening. He answered exciting, mentioning that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. An interesting tidbit, for sure.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • After starting the season with consecutive double-digit performances (13 points vs. Houston, 14 vs. Miami), Ersan would make it three in a row to start the year, totaling 11 last night. (CORRECTION: Whoops, not sure where 11 came from. Ersan actually had 3 points last night.) He’d also have a great play where he intercepted a lob downcourt in the second half. Give him a helmet and pair him next to Jaire Alexander, baby!
  • I absolutely loved how into it the crowd was. A packed house against the Cleveland Cavaliers on a Monday night? Sign me up! It never gets old seeing a full house, even if it’s against a lowly divisional foe.
  • I had COMPLETELY forgotten that John Beilein was hired by the Cavaliers — which meant that when I did remember it, I was nearly just as flabbergasted as I was when the news initially broke. It didn’t hit me until Bucks PR handed out availabilities of the coaches and I saw...John Beilein. For a second, I thought I was in Madison covering a Badger basketball game! That’s definitely going to take some getting used to.
  • Eric Bledsoe definitely seemed off. I counted at least three missed opportunities on layups by him, ones that he definitely should’ve connected on. Hopefully he shakes out of it soon and gets back on the right track, as it’s definitely something you don’t want to see continue.
  • Last, but definitely not least, I’ve started a new tradition at games I cover this year:

Stay tuned, as this thread should be pretty fun to follow.