Do you think the Bucks remember what happened in last year’s postseason? Sure seemed like it on Tuesday night in South Beach. The Bucks led wire-to-wire and were honed in on both ends of the floor from the opening tip. What impressed me the most was the defensive intensity early, especially from Jrue Holiday. More on him in a bit!
Milwauk33333333333333333333333333333 Bucks.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 30, 2020
Full highlights from tonight’s record-breaking performance. pic.twitter.com/6Wk1M4XoZP
What Did We Learn?
The Milwaukee Bucks seem to operate best when Giannis Antetokounmpo is not the primary ball-handler and distributor. The addition of point guard Jrue Holiday makes the Bucks all the more dangerous because of his willingness to create on his own and push the tempo off of a miss or turnover.
It’s early, but the first play the Bucks ran was a Jrue/Giannis pick-and-roll that opened up a huge lane for a Holiday floater. They slowly seem to be building a solid repertoire. Having Holiday initiate the offense makes the Bucks all the less predictable offensively rather than having Giannis dive to the rim with a head full of speed and hoping he makes a play, as we have seen the last few seasons. We saw the #JrueEffect on full display against the Heat...it’s only game four.
Happy Holidays.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 30, 2020
24 PTS | 7 AST | 3 REB | 60% 3PT pic.twitter.com/VNwTWBc8Cw
Jrue Holiday, what a difference-maker. Remember when the Bucks got torched by Goran Dragic last postseason? Thank god those days are behind us. Holiday had Goran in a padded cell early and took him out of rhythm by constantly hounding him off the ball and pushing through screens. Jrue had a handful of steals in the opening frame and he set the tone for how this game was going to be played. Offensively, he was getting whatever he wanted. He was patient while navigating through the teeth of Miami’s defense en route to 24 points, seven assists, three assists, and three steals in only 26 minutes. The Bucks moved the ball around very crisply offensively, hence the low number of assists. Moreover, I loved the poise he played with last night. After every three he swished or turnover he created, he kept the same facial expression...which was emotionless. This man is a gamer.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is adjusting to life without having the ball in his hands as much. Outside of the first game of the season against the Celtics, Giannis just hasn’t found his rhythm yet...and that’s okay! The Bucks led by as many as 50-points and he finished with just nine points. Crazy. One thing he will benefit from is how much Jrue pushes Giannis to run rim-to-rim after a missed shot to run the lane for a dunk or find a mismatch. I believe incorporating Giannis more off the ball offensively gives the Bucks much more scoring options and gives them an element of unpredictability. Don’t get me wrong, Eric Bledsoe had his moments for the Bucks, but he is not Jrue Holiday whom defenses must respect. At this point, aside from free throw shooting, my biggest gripe with Giannis is his lack of footwork/go to move in the post. I would love to see him get rid of the baseline fadeaway jumper and incorporate a short floater/drop-step down low. The bumps will be worth it in the long run, though.
Khris Middleton has been Milwaukee’s best player dating back to the bubble last year. I am running out of superlatives to describe how well he has played. Middleton was inked to a large extension and it has paid dividends with how much he improves after each offseason. Even though the Heat went without Jimmy Butler, Middleton left right off where Milwaukee’s season ended...by torching Miami. He poured in a game-high 25 points on a near-perfect shooting night. He ended making 10-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 on tries from downtown. It has gotten to the point that you expect him to make every shot he takes. If Khris Middleton finished as the Buck’s best player offensively, how far will that take them? It’s an interesting thought.
- The Bucks made an NBA-record 29 three-pointers...it still does not feel real.
- I enjoyed watching Brook Lopez play last night. He tallied 14 points in 18 minutes but was making a big impact defensively and not letting Miami get easy shots around the rim. This was a big match for him after getting annihilated by Bam Adebayo last postseason.
- Donte DiVincenzo continues to trend upward in the early going. He got his shooting stroke back this season and finished converting on 6-of-8 field goal attempts for 17 points while finishing a game-high plus-28. He also chipped in two steals while making some excellent defensive plays in the passing lanes. His instincts are elite.
- Every member of the Bucks finished with a positive plus-minus. Everyone on the Hat who played finished in the negative, including Adebayo and Tyler Herro who were minus-32 (!!!).
- Herro was the only player to get anything going for Miami, but they had him play point guard, and it was an epic failure.
- Bryn Forbes provided buckets off the bench tallying a season-high 12 points in 18 minutes. He is not shy.
- D.J. Wilson, at least for tonight, had his spot in the rotation taken instead by Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Worth watching if this was a one-time thing or if we’re anticipating more actual Thanasis minutes.