In a potential NBA Finals preview, the Milwaukee Bucks took care of the Los Angeles Lakers, knocking them off by a 111-104 score.
It really seemed like a playoff atmosphere to start this one off. The crowd was electric, the energy was palpable, and both teams were extremely rusty — almost nervous-like. The reasoning behind that was the strong defense that both teams exhibited early on. From tipped passes to blocked shots and everything in between, there were very few baskets in the early going. However, a shot of energy came via George Hill, whose 10 points helped Milwaukee pad a 23-17 first quarter lead.
The Bucks would launch themselves on a large run in the second quarter, opening the period on a 25-11 run. It was the first set of minutes where the separation between the two teams really began to be noticeable. George Hill and Wesley Matthews were the key contributors, as they both were impactful in splashing home timely buckets to help grant the Bucks a hefty 65-46 advantage.
If there was any point where the Lakers seemed like they’d take control of things, it was the third quarter. Everything looked much more smooth for them, and they steered their way back into the midst of things. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Los Angeles had slashed the Milwaukee lead to just eight points at 89-81.
It was relatively smooth sailing from there. Giannis continued to stroke it from deep, as the Lakers simply couldn’t offer any answers. Though Los Angeles made a run late, Milwaukee would hold them off and secure the hard-fought win, 111-104.
As we’ve grown accustomed to, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks. He’d finish his evening with 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including a career high five threes. George Hill poured in 21 off the bench and Khris Middleton mixed in 15 of his own.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis was a beast with a game-high 36 points. LeBron James and Danny Green each contributed with 21 points. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 18 points.
That 3-point shot from Giannis is really turning into something special.
I mean, it puts a tear in your eye, doesn’t it? The Greek Freak knocked down a career high five threes. Yes, read that again. It’s awesome. He hit a career-high five threes. And the crazy thing? They weren’t just your ordinary straight-on open looks. No, no, no. They were in transition. They were deep. They were impressive. I mean, just check out some of these highlights:
The best of The Greek Freak:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 20, 2019
34 PTS | 11 REB | 7 AST | 32 MIN. pic.twitter.com/zBTeHrnE7C
In his postgame availability, Mike Budenholzer was asked about Giannis’ confidence shooting the three ball. Here’s what he had to say:
“I don’t know what the proper or correct word for him is. The thing we’ve been talking about with him is that his confidence is growing, the willingness to take them is just the first step. I think he’s going to have results. He puts the time and effort in. I’m just really happy with it. You feel it in him. You see him where he takes big shots too. They’re momentum changes or to put us back up double digits or 14 and force a timeout. I’m just really pleased with where he is on his 3-point shot and his mentality there.”
What does this mean? Well, take cover:
everyone wishing the world would end i have some good news for you Giannis is making threes now— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 20, 2019
Hey Google, play “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” by R.E.M.
Is George Hill starting to make a case for Sixth Man of the Year?
It really feels as if he should. Coming into last night, he was shooting slightly over 50 percent from deep, and that percentage continued, as he went 3-of-5 from deep in this one. His scoring outbursts came at such clutch times for the Bucks, especially early on in the first quarter when things were looking a little shaky. You can make the argument that Hill serves as the glue that helps hold the team together. And guess what? He still doesn’t think the Bucks are playing their best basketball. When asked about that in his postgame availability, here’s what he had to say:
“No, we were still in foul trouble and things like that. But, I think this team believes that you’re the next man up, you know, when someone goes down, the other guys fill that void and come in ready to play.”
Sheesh, just imagine how great this team will look when they’re playing up to Hill’s standards.
Defense, defense, defense!
The Bucks were all over the floor on the defensive end. From the opening quarter to the final whistle, they were everywhere. In fact, the Bucks finished the night with a season-high 14 steals. Guess who finished with four of those — Brook Lopez! That matches a career high for him. Milwaukee’s defense was something that Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel really stressed in his postgame comments as something that made things difficult for his team. Here’s his full quote:
“They have great length. Everyone is swarming the paint. Every time you go in there, you’re going to see a problem. You have to make the right reads. They have great athleticism as well...we have to be better on our reads.”
Bud always preaches defense first, and it’s very evident in games like these.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The Bucks are now 10-2 against the Western Conference so far this season and are 30-12 since the start of last season, which is the best mark among Eastern Conference teams against the West.
- It was clear that Wes Matthews honored being the challenge of guarding LeBron. He was a pest all night, clearly frustrating James. The one play that stood out was in the first half when LeBron drove down the lane for a layup, only to be unable to raise the ball above his chest due to the hands of Matthews holding it down. That defensive stand was a microcosm of the problems Milwaukee forced on defense all night long.
- With the win, the Bucks now own the best record in the NBA at 25-4 and are a season-best 21 games over .500 for the second time this season. Their 25-4 record is tied with the 1971-72 and 1973-74 teams for the best 29-game start in franchise history.
- Fiserv Forum was really rocking last night. Kudos to you if you were there. The crowd really brought it, and it truly felt like a playoff atmosphere. Fingers crossed we get this matchup later down the road in June.
- BAN THE REVERSE CAM, I AM BEGGING YOU. For those of you who are unsure what this is, it’s one of the in-game bits during commercial breaks are where they show fans on the Jumbotron REVERSE-EATING and it is the NASTIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. It never fails to send shivers down my spine. Heck, I don’t even watch it anymore and hearing the groan of the poor people who actually are watching is enough to make me queasy. Ughhhhh.
- I think I may enjoy LeBron passing as much as I like watching him score. It never gets old. He’s a floor general and it’s extremely fun to watch.
- Last, I had to ask Brook Lopez about the new Star Wars movie:
Asked Brook Lopez if he’s going to go see a midnight showing of Star Wars.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) December 20, 2019
“C’mon, you know me!” he exclaimed.
As for me, I won’t be able to see the Rise of Skywalker until Saturday. No spoilers in the comments (looking at you, Kyle)!