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Milwaukee vs. New Orleans: No Giannis? No Problem!

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get these things out of the way: the Milwaukee Bucks whalloped the New Orleans Pelicans last night, 127-112. Giannis Antetokounmpo was held out with right quad soreness, and his team really didn’t need him in this one. The temperature was cold but the first quarter got off to a hot start; Khris Middleton scored 7 in the opening three minutes as the Bucks nearly doubled-up the Pelicans before Alvin Gentry took his team’s first time out. Still, the Bucks hit their first four three point attempts, including Eric Bledsoe going 3-3 from behind the arc, and Milwaukee built an early lead against the Pellies. The flurry of threes continued (7/12 in the first quarter) and the initial period ended with a 35-20 advantage for the Bucks.

Things tightened for a moment in the second quarter, after a pair of Josh Hart threes and a Jaxson Hayes alley-oop. But with these Bucks, “tightening up” equates to a double-digit lead falling down to single-digits, which was quickly reinflated thanks to an 11-0 run. From there...it didn’t really change all that much, as Milwaukee led 69-46 at halftime. The most interesting storyline by this point was Giannis’ dedication to supporting his teammates, even in (extremely slick-looking) civvies:

In the second half...y’all, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying that close of attention. The Bucks took a 105-86 lead into the fourth quarter by simply playing their game, and I took to Twitter to talk about the Bucks’ national profile.

It got a little closer in the fourth, but not close enough to actually cause any worry. That’s sixteen straight wins, and on to the next one...

Three Bucks

Eric Bledsoe (29 points on 13 shots, 5-6 on threes, 6 assists, 2 steals)

While Khris Middleton (24 points, 5 boards, 4 assists) deserves a mention, Bledsoe’s efficiency was a welcome sight on a night where the Bucks’ rotation was upended. The BledShow did an excellent job choosing his spots on a night where his shot was falling, and he regularly bent the defense in ways that opened up looks for his teammates.

Ersan Ilyasova (18 points on 10 shots, 9 rebounds)

You want to talk efficient performances to make up for missing Giannis? Look no further than his fill-in as a starter; Ersanity was a regular resident near the rim (while still hitting two of his 3 threes) for quick layups and wonky putbacks. More and more, his once-maligned contract looks like a bigger bargain, and his non-guaranteed third year for next season feels unlikely to be utilized.

George Hill (13 points on 7 shots, 3 assists, 3 steals)

Wait, no, this was the efficient performance for the Bucks that keep them in full control of the game from wire to wire. Hill is indeed a wise veteran and has a reputation for being injury prone, but even at 33 years old he flashed the quickness that makes him so impactful on the second unit. With the ball, without the ball, at the rim, behind the arc, it doesn’t matter: George Hill is the adult in the room and is a huge positive influence on the Bucks while he’s on the court.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Guys, this game started SO. LATE. for a regular Central Time Zone matchup. The ESPN broadcast for Clippers-Raptors went long (of course), so we didn’t start this 8:30pm tip until 8:47pm.
  • Brandon Ingram, New Orleans’ current best player and an early contender for the Most Improved Player award, got mighty frustrated halfway through the first quarter after getting called for his third personal foul. Ingram was...upset. Without speculating, it was clear that he had some choice words for the officials and he flung the ball back in their direction with disdain. This might normally be cause for issuing a technical foul but instead earned him...a delay of game warning.
  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • With no Giannis, the power forward rotation was staffed by Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. Kudos to Mike Budenholzer; the Bucks did not miss a beat.
  • It took roughly 0.3 seconds on his first offensive possession for Robin Lopez to find himself with the ball in his hands and decide he was going for a righty hook shot. (He made it.) The same thing happened to open the fourth quarter. (He made that one, too.)
  • Donte DiVincenzo gets an absurd amount of height when jumping for defensive rebounds. His functional athleticism really shows up on the boards, as well as in opponents’ passing lanes.
  • Jrue Holiday (who’s having a rough season) moseyed his way into the lane on consecutive possessions late in the first quarter, converting easy dunks on both. Mike Budenholzer was...displeased with the defensive effort that allowed those easy points.
  • Lonzo Ball came off the bench for New Orleans and didn’t play in the first quarter, but did start in the second.
  • The Bucks broke the 50-point barrier at the 6:56 mark in the second quarter. The Pelicans hit the same benchmark at 11:10 in the third. This was in no small part to carrying a +10 turnover differential at halftime (12-2). +10!
  • I have no idea if this is true, but here you go if you think the national media is overlooking Milwaukee:
  • Basketball players are skinny by definition, but Brandon Ingram is impossibly thin. It’s truly a testament to his skill level that he can succeed as an NBA player; of course, he’s also an elite athlete (by mere human standards), but he looks like he weighs the same as me despite standing a foot taller. Just...so gangly!
  • Mike Budenholzer, always true to his brand: