It was a story we’ve gotten rapidly used to this season: The Bucks started off slow, the offense looked calcified, the defense even moreso, and took awhile to turn around. A 21 point halftime lead made the Bucks look insurmountable. Then the third quarter started and... they didn’t completely implode?
That’s right, the trend of giving up gigantic leads held off for at least one night as the Bucks secured a 123-91 win.
We should jump right to what made this dominant first half different from those of the past couple of games: Eric Bledsoe was driving and Sterling Brown/Donte DiVincenzo’s activity level unclogged a slow-rolling offense. Bledsoe got the call to lead the sub unit and looked his usual aggressive self on both ends. The arrival of Brown and DiVincenzo also gave Milwaukee’s approach an extra dash of energy with both proving consistently willing to aggressively drive into defenses scheming around wherever Giannis was standing.
Bled finished with 18 points/6 rebounds/5 assists, Sterling 9 points/11 rebounds/2 assists (+26!), and Donte 14 points (4/7 from three)/3 rebounds/2 assists (+34!!!) in statement games for each.
All Milwaukee had to do was hang tough in the now notorious third quarter; and they did just that, allowing only +4 points in Orlando’s favor. A lackadaisical start to the fourth would guarantee yet another grudge match, but the Bucks didn’t let up in energy or execution in a serious palate cleanser.
For Orlando their top performer was Evan Fournier who had a strong first quarter, but slowed down considerably to finish with 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Their fast start and third quarter were threatening, but outside of a few bursts Milwaukee never felt truly in danger.
Stat That Stood Out
That’s the run the Bucks put on the Magic in an 11 minute stretch in the first half. When this team got rolling, it really got rolling in punishing a weak Orlando offense and punishing the propensity of the opponent to key almost exclusively on Giannis defensively.