It wasn’t pretty but the Milwaukee Bucks came through with another divisional victory over the Chicago Bulls - who needed a rookie with only 10 minutes played all year to even make this a respectable contest - before falling 115-101. Milwaukee meandered their way towards a near double digit lead midway through the first, but the Bulls battled back off some Bucks turnovers as it became a 29-26 game after one. Some impressive inside scoring for Chicago kept them in it during the first half, but the Bucks still led 60-56 despite being down 10 on points in the paint. Milwaukee shot their way to a decent lead partway through the third, but a late surge made it just 84-81 Bucks to start the fourth. Milwaukee pulled away in the closing minutes of the game, catapulting towards a decisive final score that made this game seem like more of a blowout than it ever was.
An Exercise in Frustration
As has been the case many times to start this young season, Giannis found himself in foul trouble by the time the fourth quarter started. He exited late in the third following what seemed like a relatively bogus push-off on an inbounds against Thaddeus Young. Multiple times he drove to the rim facing a cavalcade of arms swiping at his digits, with little to no sypmathy from the officials. Meanwhile, even Bud’s persistent peppering of the refs - one of which resulted in a tech - wasn’t enough to change the referee’s opinion of Giannis’ adventures inside. I do not consider myself someone who works himself into much of a lather over Giannis’ whistle, but drawing five offensive fouls is pretty insane for a player of his caliber.
After showing off the cuts on his hands, Antetokounmpo eventually continued in his answer about his whistle.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 19, 2019
"They're going to try to foul. They're going to try to show bodies, try to fall, try to get a charge and trip me..."
Here is what Giannis had to say in full: pic.twitter.com/5p5RHNc9xY
Donte - The Saucy Starter
Someday, I’ll stop the sauce puns, but today is not that day. Donte DiVincenzo followed up his promising performance against the Indiana Pacers with a 15-point, 4-rebound, 4-assist, 3-steal effort. Particularly in the first half, he looked immensely comfortable running the break, knowing when to weave away from the middle so his teammates could sprint down the lane, and precisely when to dish a pass to a cutting Giannis (highlight below). His steals are becoming clockwork and he can deftly make pick-and-roll reads to Giannis in the halfcourt. When his triple is falling, his game is buttery smooth.
What a Difference a Week Makes
Last game, the Bucks made hay against the Bulls inside, outscoring them 70-32 as Giannis crushed their interior defense like a nutcracker. This time around, it was the Bulls taking the inside advantage, 50-46. The disparity isn’t much, but it spoke to the Bucks’ struggles getting going in the paint, particularly Eric Bledsoe who was just 2-11 from the field for eight points. His nearly perfect performance last Thursday buoyed their scoring effort, and this game showed how easily other teams can stay in it when the Bucks second best player is off-kilter the whole night.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Giannis had another airball at the free throw line in the first quarter. Is it illegal to jump from a standstill at the charity stripe and try to dunk it? I think as long as the ball hits the rim first it’s perfectly fine. Might be worth looking into...
Milwaukee’s defense may have seemed somewhat lackadaisical to start the year, but it’s certainly rounded into form of late; here’s one possession that stood out to me. Early in the first, Sterling Brown battered his way around a rim while sticking to Coby White like a fly in a heifer in summer. Then, White was forced to dish off to Zach LaVine, who even after he whipped past Eric Bledsoe, was funneled directly into the outstretched paw of Brook Lopez, a true leviathan at the rim with his length. The idea of non-elite guards trying to break down a defensive trio like that - while Giannis was out no less - must be terrifying to opponents. The Bulls countered by having Gafford work as a weak side roller and tossing balls over the defender at the rim.
I was going to use this bit to call out Connaughton’s bullet passing - quickly becoming one of my sneaky favorite developments this year - but then Sterling Brown delivered this beautiful pass with English into Ersan’s corner pocket:
Donte DiVincenzo made the smart offensive business decision on the break in the second quarter. Coming off stroking a triple, the Bulls didn’t tag bodies in transition, and he held the ball a beat longer as if he may pull up from deep, just long enough to draw eyeballs before slinging to Giannis for a full-extension execution of the rim.
DiVincenzo hit a couple of threes and then got the easiest assist in the book; give it to Giannis and get out of the way! pic.twitter.com/XzpUKLN0zR— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) November 19, 2019
I think a midrange jumper would serve Giannis well, but I’d rather he not get practice reps in against a Flat Stanley like Lauri Markkanen, who he can punish in the paint any possession he wants. Case in point: the second quarter when he bricked an elbow jumper, but several minutes later just bulled over Markkanen for a simple slam.
A series of calls that went against Bud’s squad led to his teapot tipping over in the third quarter soliciting a technical foul. Giannis was called for an offensive foul, then Markkanen stood in like a statue and toppled over with Giannis, to no avail for the Greek Freak. Adding insult to injury, Markkanen followed that up with two Finnish fake jobs on the offensive end to get a duo of trips to the line.
I actually thought Wes Matthews was playing a pretty solid one-on-one defensive game tonight. When Chandler Hutchison is your man, that’s not a grand seal of approval, but you can’t just give the mid-round pick a clear path to the rim as he did in the third and lazily grabbed him from behind.
“Brook Lopez shakes Coby White,” is one of my favorite sentences Paschke uttered in this one.
Bud saw what Daniel Gafford did to Robin Lopez in the first half, giving him the basketball equivalent of a black eye with his rampaging the rim, and opted to go with a Giannis-Ersan frontline to end the third period rather than the usual bench squad lineup. Robin played only six minutes against his former team.
It’s not many times you’ll get a chance to see two different jump balls between a giant and a dwarf quite like the Giannis-Arcidiacano battles we were treated to. Giannis won both.
Did you miss this essential article? Well, then you might’ve missed that Brian just pointed out this play in it that we saw again tonight.
Screen flip frees Giannis for 2 points and 1!— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) November 19, 2019
Daniel Gafford, who had scored exactly zero points to this point in his NBA career, looked like their best player tonight. He dunked everything in sight, and the Bulls best offensive play was, “lob it over Buck, hope Gafford can grab and jam it.” For the most part, he did to the tune of 21 points.