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Milwaukee vs. Brooklyn: Bucks Waltz to Victory, 117-97

Six straight victories!

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the flopping Brooklyn Nets 117-97 on Saturday night to earn their 38th victory in 44 games.

Yesterday was my birthday and the Bucks won! Coincidence? I think not.

Three Observations

The way the Nets attempted to “defend” Giannis Antetokounmpo was flat-out dangerous. From the first few moments of the game, any defender trying to stop him from getting to the rim would step in front and crumble to the floor. We know Giannis loves to get to the basket with a full head of steam, but the way Kyrie Irving and other Nets players were falling to the floor last night was just atrocious. Even with the slightest bit of contact, that was clearly a flop and a blocking foul, Nets players acted like they got ran over by a freight train. It is inherently dangerous to hop in front of a player before they have gotten a chance to take their gather step/dribble. Even with all the flops and ridiculous calls against Giannis, he pestered Brooklyn to the tune of 29 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists while making 12-of-20 shots from the field. We’ve seen a lot of teams deploy the flopping strategy against GA, but the flops in the last two games versus Boston and Brooklyn could have caused serious injury. It is something that has to be addressed.

Khris Middleton: still smooth as butter. He’s playing at an even higher level than he did last season and continues to show why the Bucks elected to break the bank to retain him. He was getting to his spots with no problem on Saturday night, making 7-of-12 shots to total 20 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three stills. Middleton also connected on 3-of-5 attempts from three-point range and is now up to 41.5% from deep this season. I am really not sure how a player averaging 19.4/5.7/3.8/1.1 on 49.3/41.5/88.8 shooting is viewed as not being good a good enough second option on a championship-contending team. Let’s remember, if the Bucks did not retain Middleton, the chances of Giannis departing in free agency would have been much higher. The bond and chemistry these two players share on and off the court are palpable. They have been through a lot together in their tenures in Bucks uniforms.

Deciding between Brook Lopez or Giannis Antetokounmpo for Defensive Player Of the Year is going to be a tough one. While Lopez’s three-point stroke has cratered this season, his interior defense has skyrocketed from last season which was already tough to beat. While we would all love to see Brook’s percentage from deep increase to where it was last season, the way he has been playing defense has made it easy to forget his offensive struggles. He was stifling countless Nets players in the painted area and got the best of Brooklyn big man Jarrett Allen on multiple occasions. Offensively, he contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and five blocked shots in 26 minutes. Brook is the key cog to Milwaukee’s defense, and at this point in the season, I firmly believe he has established himself as the best defensive player in the NBA. No disrespect to some of the other contenders, but who (aside from Giannis) is impacting their team defensively the way #11 is? I’ll wait.

Bonus Bucks

  • That marks two consecutive games with a technical foul for Eric Bledsoe. Against Boston and Brooklyn, he just seemed to want to either do a little too much or be completely disengaged in the game. He still played 28 minutes but was limited to eight points, five rebounds, and five assists going against Kyrie Irving who hit only 6-of-15 shots himself.
  • Dragan Bender early minutes? Dragan Bender early minutes! If you are DJ Wilson, that is NOT a good sign for where you stand on this roster.
  • It was great to see Wesley Matthews have an efficient game offensively as he converted on 4-of-7 shots for 11 points in 27 minutes. While he has struggled offensively, his defense and engagement out on the floor have been immensely valuable.
  • Every member of the Bucks finished with a positive plus-minus, except for Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown, and D.J. Wilson :(