In an emotional night for both teams, the Bucks would hold off the Washington Wizards and earn their ninth straight game, 151-131.
This one would start with the Bucks absolutely flying out of the gates. Led by Ersan Ilyasova early on, Milwaukee couldn’t miss from the perimeter in the first quarter. Thanks to simply gorgeous ball movement, the Bucks would connect on eight threes in the period, granting them a 42-28 lead going into the second. Khris Middleton paced the Bucks with nine points.
Milwaukee would continue getting whatever they wanted to in the second quarter. That 76 points in the first half against Boston the Bucks scored earlier this season? It got SMASHED. The Bucks would end up posting 88 (!!!) points in the first half. That accounted for a franchise all-time high, with the old record being 87 back on March 14, 1979 vs. the New Orleans Jazz.
The third quarter began with the Bucks looking a little sluggish. Washington came out of the locker room igniting an 8-0 run, enough for the Bucks to do some quick reflecting. What looked like a game where Milwaukee could provide some rest to the starters quickly developed into a competitive game. Washington would keep working the Bucks and by the time the third quarter wrapped up, Milwaukee’s lead had evaporated to 13 points.
The Wizards would remain a threat in the final quarter of play. For a chunk of the period, they’d find themselves down by only single digits. However, Khris Middleton eventually decided that he had had enough, taking the game into his own hands. He’d end up erupting for career-high 51 points, which proved to be enough to play the leading role in carrying the Bucks to a 151-131 victory.
Middleton’s 51 points would be the game-high for all scorers. Bradley Beal would have an impressive performance of his own, totaling 47 points. Eric Bledsoe was next in line on the Bucks, going off for 34 points.
James. Khristian. Middleton.
I mean, what can ya say? Once Giannis was ruled out of the contest, you knew somebody was going to pick up the slack, and you knew that it had a pretty good chance of being Khris Middleton. And boy, did he pick up the slack. He’d absolutely go OFF and earn a career-high 51 points on the evening (and 10 rebounds). He’d connect on seven threes, and only miss on three. The best one? This thing of beauty:
LET IT FLY!!!!!— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 29, 2020
Watch the bench pic.twitter.com/MYG3OfXRnH
However, my favorite part of the performance came after he was substituted out. Just the pure, jubilant smile that was on his face, coming from a guy who doesn’t typically show much emotion. That was very neat to see. Here’s what K-Midd had to say on the way that his teammates celebrated his performance:
“That just made it a lot better. They know that I’m not the guy that tries to go out and get 40 or 50 or whatever, I just try to play the game the right way, but they were telling me to keep shooting, keep playing, don’t worry about us, we’ll find a way. Then Donte [DiVincenzo] definitely looked out for me by letting me grab that 10th rebound. I was working my ass off to get it, he was right there and could have easily got it, but he let me get it so that was pretty cool of him.”
This team, man.
Khris Middleton wasn’t the only All-Star caliber player that made a splash for the Bucks.
That’s right — I said it. Eric Bledsoe was massive for Milwaukee, ending his night with 34 points on 11-of-20 shooting, which was good enough for a new season-high. He continues to be a force for the Bucks this season, and his jump shot continues to look better than ever. Not only did Bledsoe make his presence felt scoring the basketball, but his fingerprints were all over the box score in other facets of the game. He’d tally a game-high 10 assists, which matched a season-high for him. It also marked his first double-double of the season. Definitely a big pad to the All-Star resume of the Bled Show.
I have to dedicate a part of this to talk about Kobe, so this is where I’ll do it.
Man. I still can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it when I initially heard the news, I couldn’t believe it when the Bucks gave their tribute, and I can’t believe it now — and probably never will. I’ll be honest. Growing up, I never really was a Kobe fan. In fact, I sort of rooted against him. However, as I grew up, I appreciated his greatness more and more. By the time I was a sophomore in college and he was playing in the final game of his career, I was like everybody else — his number one fan. Of course, that 60 point finale will live on forever and ever. Pre-game, the Bucks honored Kobe with a 24 second moment of silence. Here’s what that looked like:
Here is the Bucks’ tribute to Kobe Bryant, which consisted of a 24 second moment of silence pic.twitter.com/vwO9wzr1gu— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 29, 2020
Like other teams around the NBA, the Bucks and Wizards each payed their respect through a 24-second shot clock violation and an 8-second backcourt violation:
As expected, the Bucks took a 24 second shot clock violation to honor Kobe. The Wizards followed up with an 8 second backcourt violation. pic.twitter.com/UH98WQzXEU— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 29, 2020
It really was harrowing to see. As I looked back on things, I thought long and hard...what was my favorite Kobe Bryant moment? And for all the things he did on the basketball court, nothing from the hardwood proved to be my favorite memory. Instead, it’s this video:
We’ll never forget you, Mamba. Rest in peace.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- With the win, the Bucks earned their 41st victory on the season, making their record 41-6. The Bucks are now one of just five teams in NBA history to win 41 of its first 47 games.
- Milwaukee was cruising. At one point, I was wondering if they’d get the record for most points in regulation, especially after that 88 point first half performance. In the end, their 151 points are tied for the fifth-most in franchise history, and are the most since they scored 155 points in a 5OT (!!!) game against Seattle on 11/9/89.
- For those wondering about Giannis Antetokounmpo not being on the bench, don’t worry:
I told Giannis that people were worried him since he wasn’t on the bench. He thought that was strange, but said he’s fine. https://t.co/f4PQHO9rN2— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 29, 2020
- I just want to point out that this was the Bucks’ 16th (!!!) win of the season by 20+ points. As you can imagine, that’s the highest in the NBA.
- Last, I’ll leave you all with this gem of a picture:
Hang that in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa.