It wasn’t the prettiest way to close before heading off to the romanticism of Paris, but the Milwaukee Bucks took care of business in a 111-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. The Bucks bench unit picked up where the starters left off in overpowering the Bulls in the first, as Milwaukee led 30-23 at the quarter’s conclusion. Turnovers and sloppiness defined the second period, with the Bucks blowing their first quarter advantage to lead by the slimmest of margins, 53-52, at half. Milwaukee found a tad more rhythm in the third period, pulling ahead 84-77 by the fourth period’s start. From there, Giannis Antetokounmpo took over and the Milwaukee Bucks secured this one.
You ain’t got no alibi, you U.G.L.Y.
And boy was it ugly for the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half. Shooting 63.9% from the field seems great on the surface, but they turned it over 15 times (they average 14.4/game total) over the first two periods and were a putrid 3-10 from the free throw line. The Bulls initial hot shooting on solid volume from deep kept them in the game, coupled with Milwaukee bouncing the ball on their foot one too many times. The Bucks ended with 23 turnovers, tying a season high, and shot a season-worst 10-23 (43.5%) from the charity stripe.
Eerily Quiet Eric
While it is disconcerting that Eric Bledsoe continues to fancy himself a star of The Quiet Place offensively, it should be noted that he helped hold red-hot Zach LaVine to 24 points on 7-19 shooting. As always, Bledsoe’s impact on that end of the floor is easy to lose amidst his offensive troubles, which can go under the radar with George Hill’s endlessly impressive season. After Bledsoe’s 29-point outburst in Portland, he’s scored just 11, 9, 8 and 7 in successive games for him. We all know it’s too easy for him to find himself out of sorts on the offensive end, and it’s a fine line between shooting yourself back into rhythm and potentially shooting your team out of the game, but Bledsoe shouldn’t shy away from doing that in spurts to find himself during the regular season.
Giannis Got Me Hooked
Something minor towards the end of the game, but still important, was Giannis flashing some of his baby-hook shots right in the paint over Bulls defenders. With his height and elevation, no player in the league could even approach blocking that type of attempt. The Bulls are one of the teams least-equipped to do so too, but still, Giannis flashing that little push shot is an encouraging sign should he need to pull out a go-to move come Playoff time. You don’t get unblockable, decent-looking shots like that all too often. He even nailed a midrange jumper and then faked another before dishing to Donte to secure his triple-double.
Bonus Bucks Bits
I had forgotten about the collage of ‘M’ logos that dot the side of the Bucks court. Still not a huge fan of that part of the redesign - even as an accent.
We got a little D to D connection in the first period when Bender and DiVincenzo displayed some chemistry on a baseline drive/dish for a flush followed by some pick-and-roll synergy where on his roll Bender found an awaiting cornered up Ilyasova for a slick triple. Bender’s emergence will likely draw the attention, as it should, but I’d argue it’s more important to see Donte working as a ball-handling playmaker and creating offense even with someone he’s seen little game time with to this point.
I always appreciate some of the elder NBA statesmen who continue to give Giannis the business defensively. Thaddeus Young is one of those men. He fittingly flopped in the second, which people are wont to do on Giannis nowadays, but I respected him pulling the chair out from under Giannis on a post-up.
It’s not always the best recipe for efficient offense, but lord is it enjoyable when a guard like Bledsoe gets caught in the restricted area and does his best Robin Lopez spinning top impression trying to fake out his defender. He got Lauri Markkanen on one fake in the second and just managed to get his shot to fall.
The Bucks offense humming is just so delightful, especially with little details like Donte DiVincenzo, who was camped out on the arc, awaiting a pass, but his body Was already primed to kick it over to Wesley Matthews in the corner. Knowing where the next pass will go, but not fully telegraphing it, those are the kind of intricate details that give this offense such spunk.
Aww, generous Jim, you shouldn’t have! K-Midd hit the free throw too.
Bucks will shoot FT when 2nd half starts. Boylen drew T as half ended.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 20, 2020
Khris Middleton came out scorching to start the second half, including some nifty cut work in a clogged paint with Giannis and a delicious chicken-wing spinning post-up finish past Kris Dunn down low.
Here lie two sets of ankles. RIP.
Brook Lopez drew another technical in this game (he’s up to 7 now this year) following his argument after refs seemed to incorrectly call that he fouled Zach LaVine on a layup attempt. He got all ball from my point of view.
Milwaukee’s bench crew, who acquitted themselves well in the first quarter, flipped their play on its head in the third as the Bulls proceeded on an 13-3 run that slashed the Bucks lead. Their slick passing turned into bumbled passes and settling for tough jumpers.
Bud tried out his coaching challenge on a potential personal foul against Kyle Korver - which looked suspect and was called quite late - and won! Huzzah!