Even though the Milwaukee Bucks dropped their season-opener 121-122 to the Boston Celtics in Boston, there were still many positives to take away from this one. The Bucks played like a team who lost roughly 50% of their roster in the offseason, but their key cogs looked great and came away healthy from this one which is all we can ask for.
The Boston Celtics needed a BS prayer from Jayson Tatum to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in game number one of the season. When it looked like the Celtics were going to pull away in the fourth quarter, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday did their part to ensure the Bucks did not go out without making one final big run.
Milwaukee’s three-point defense remained lackluster and their pick-and-roll defense might’ve looked even worse. I thought Brad Stevens did a fantastic job at executing their game plan as he ran a multitude of pick-and-pop plays that gave Jeff Teague, Jaylen Brown and even Daniel Theis open looks from downtown. Additionally, even though Milwaukee won the rebounding battle (52-37) there were multiple possessions where Tristian Thompson was a pest and created second chances for the C’s.
On an off note, this recap marks my third season covering the Bucks for Brew Hoop. I just wanted to say thank you to all the readers! You are much appreciated and thank you for making me a part of your lives.
What Did We Learn?
Early D.J. Wilson minutes? Early D.J. Wilson minutes. He did nothing with his opportunity and having him be one of the first Bucks players off the bench was a...surprise. He also played alongside Bobby Portis (16 minutes) and that did not work out at all. It will take some time for the new group to gel, but I am going to go out on a limb and saying playing Wilson/Portis together is a recipe for disaster.
I touch on this later in the recap, but Jrue Holiday had us Bucks fans drooling in his debut. I love how fearless he is on both ends, but last night his offense shined throughout. He was patient while looking for his shot and did not force the issue, something a certain Bucks point guard had an issue with last season. His step-back three-pointer to give Milwaukee the lead late just shows how much confidence he has in his game. Albeit one game, his performance alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton was outstanding and they really haven’t played/spent much time together. This is going to be fun.
Jrue Holiday is so smooth pic.twitter.com/pROcIK41s7— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 24, 2020
Giannis Antetokounmpo was not going down without a fight, that’s for sure. Giannis was not in rhythm throughout the game, but when the fourth period came around, he saved his best for last. Antetkounmpo hit an array of jumpers, three-pointers, and had some slick finishes around the rim. The Celtics had a solid game plan for him and did force Giannis into a handful of unforced turnovers, but seeing Giannis take over in the fourth was certainly encouraging. He finished the opener with 35 points, 13 rebounds, and an uncharacteristically low two assists. The lowlight here was clearly the seven turnovers. At times, Boston was two steps ahead of Antetokounmpo and took multiple charges, and of course, Marcus Smart was heavily involved in that department.
Giannis played tremendous defense on Tatum’s hail mary three-pointer, which ultimately sunk the Bucks and you could not have asked him to defend it better. On the other hand, Antetokounmpo got fouled with 0.4 left on the clock and made one of two free throws which would have sent the game into overtime. Overall, he shot 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. I don’t know about you, but I did not have confidence that Giannis would have made both free throws to send it into OT. He came away from the game healthy which is all we can ask for.
Jrue Holiday is awesome. I am trying to contain my excitement, but Holiday looked fantastic in 38 (!!!!!) minutes. For someone who was acquired in November, it looked like he has been a part of the team for multiple seasons. His in-between game was in full effect on Wednesday night as he was able to create space to hit tough shots, navigate the lane and make precise passes to his teammates. Even though it is one game and it will take some time to adjust to a new system/roster, it is clear that Jrue Holiday is a HUGE upgrade to this Bucks team. To see coach Budenholzer play him 38 minutes is encouraging, too. It is going to be a helluva lot of fun watching him this season and it looks like he and Giannis have developed a nice chemistry in their short time playing alongside one another. Holiday finished his Bucks debut with 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one blocked shot.
Khris Middleton picked up right where he left off the prior two seasons, by tormenting the Boston Celtics. He started off slow offensively, but I enjoyed watching him set up shots for his teammates. His passing ability was on full display offensively and he rarely forced the issue on that end of the floor. Khris saved his best for the second half, hitting multiple jumpers to help the Bucks claw back from a double-digit deficit. In the end, Middleton dropped 27 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and committed only two turnovers in 38 minutes. At this point, you know what you are going to get with him and he showed no signs of slowing down after enjoying a career-best 2019-2020 season
Bonus Bucks Bits
- I should have made Donte DiVincenzo a bigger part of this recap, but he was amazing last night. Donte looked like the Donte before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2019-2020 NBA season. In fact, Donte was heavily involved as Milwaukee’s primary playmaker early in their season opener and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. It certainly looked like he worked his tail off in the offseason and it is no coincidence Milwaukee made their fourth-quarter run when he was out there on the floor. He brought consistency on offense and tenacity on defense en route to 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 27 minutes. He also shot 6-of-11 from the floor and made 3-of-4 tries from deep. If pre-pandemic Donte is here to stay, the Bucks will be MUCH more dangerous.
- Brook Lopez looked okay for the most part, but was a team-high plus-22 on the night. He hit a few shots in the first quarter and finished with seven points while grabbing only three boards. The Celtics opted to go with a big starting five in the opener but they didn’t stick with it all game, so I wonder if that phased Lopez out of the game plan. In my opinion, there was not much to take away from his performance on Wednesday night, it was the Brook we were used to.
- Pat Connaughton was a minus-14 in 23 minutes. What much else needs to be said here?
- Torrey Craig?? Jordan Nwora? Not sure why neither of them saw action when the Bucks could have used Craig’s length on Tatum defensively down the stretch. Instead, coach Bud opted to have Pat Connaughton defend Tatum. We know how that ended.
- The Bucks finished with 51.1/40/83.3 shooting splits while Boston had 47.5/45/72.7