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Milwaukee vs. Washington: Bucks Shut Wizards Down in DC

Just another win, Giannis dropped 37 and 10, no big deal...

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After a big win in Toronto, this matchup had the makings of a letdown game. But this is a new era, and the Milwaukee Bucks were able to handle the Washington Wizards with relative ease, 131-115. A 38-point first quarter and a game-long deluge of threes and free throws fueled Milwaukee in this one, and while they got caught playing with their food in the third quarter and had to play their starters later into the fourth than intended, this one was never really in question.

Three Observations

Giannis got a star whistle?!

If there are fewer than four defenders between him and the basket, Giannis Antetokounmpo gets to the rim whenever he wants. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also bigger, stronger, and faster than (insert literally any current NBA wing here) when he has the ball in his hands and a head full of steam, and that means that Giannis Antetokounmpo gets hit. Giannis gets hit a LOT. On most nights, though, Giannis doesn’t get his due from the refs (i.e. fouls that are fouls are not called fouls, because Giannis is New Shaq), and this is frustrating for everyone involved. Tonight, though, Giannis got legitimate treatment from the refs, and went to the line seventeen times. What did he do with his trips there?

And if he wasn’t fouled? Well...

Bucks back to BudBall Basics

Milwaukee took 39 threes in this game, making 17 of them. The first half, though, saw the ball moving crisply around the perimeter in search of an open Buck, and they were more than happy to oblige by letting it fly. This space, in turn, fueled Giannis’ forays to the rim (see above), and led to the Bucks’ impressive scoring output. Additionally, the Bucks’ defense clamped down on the rim and quality distance looks for Washington, and they did an excellent job of avoiding fouls while the game was still undecided (Washington only took 9 free throws in the first half.

The Trade Deadline is February 7

This fact is only relevant for three people: Ersan Ilyasova, Thon Maker, and Mike Budenholzer. Friday morning’s trade deadline might be a checkpoint for Thon, whose ill-timed trade request (well, technically his agent’s) has dropped him all the way out of the rotation, and the spot currently filled by Ersan is in desperate need of reassignment. Ersan (-11 in seven scoreless minutes tonight) is in a slump so profound that he may never recover. Ilyasova simply looks completely and utterly washed up, and aside from the charges he takes, there’s little he adds to the team right now. The Bucks need to put someone else in Ersan’s place, and Mike Budenholzer might be waiting for the deadline to pass in order to give Thon another chance, if only to maintain the point that Maker’s representation has no leverage, and Thon’s play this season hasn’t guaranteed him anything. Thon has been saying the right things and, by all accounts, is genuine in his desire to play in Milwaukee (just with “play” being more important to him, which is fair). Then again, it’s entirely possible that Maker does actually get moved (highly unlikely), in which case the Ersan Conundrum still demands a solution, but honestly if this is the team’s biggest problem, things are going pretty well.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • The Milwaukee “zone drop” defense is still in full effect. Brook Lopez, who was scorching hot on offense tonight, is as close to the rim when defending the pick and roll as he’s far from the rim when the Bucks have the ball.
  • The Wizards Dancers did two things that I wish more NBA teams did with their dead-ball entertainment. First, they weren’t merely pretty cheerleaders, but serious dancers with impressive choreography that was well-executed. Not only that, but they were a co-ed squad, which adds to the talent pool available. Second, and most importantly, they performed to a Missy Elliott mashup, and while it didn’t include “Gossip Folks” (a damn shame), the league always needs more Missy Elliott.
  • A Christian Wood sighting! After the game was fully decided, Bud went all the way to the end of the bench to give some other guys a chance to work things out, including Wood. Christian didn’t do much in his four minutes, and unfortunately neither did his counterparts. This didn’t end up looking great on the box score, much to Dean Maniatt’s chagrin.
  • Donte DiVincenzo was inactive, and donned a grey turtleneck on the bench. A turtleneck!
  • Pat Connaughton might not play every game, but rest assured that when he does play, he’s gonna do something silly, like dunk a rebounded three-point miss from a standstill.
  • Khris Middleton, All Star. He had a solid outing by his per-36 standards (20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, all in 30 minutes), but this circus shot to beat the buzzer was the most fun.
  • In the first half, there was a Sam Dekker dunk that was defended physically, but no foul was called. Sam, his teammates, and D.C. onlookers were all displeased, and even more so when the Bucks drew a foul (on a delayed whistle) on the very next possession. The funny part, though, was that Bradley Beal whacked Middleton on the arm so loudly it was audible on the broadcast, so unless the Wizards were upset about the late call, it’s not like the foul didn’t happen.
  • A Jordan McRae highlight dunk in the final minute was ruined by some solid Planet Pat defense; Wizards fans (those who were still there, anyway), were thoroughly disappointed. McRae got his revenge by hitting a buzzer beating bring the final deficit down to 16 points.