In a game that figured to have just as much drama as the bubble re-opener, the Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Houston Rockets, 120-116. Milwaukee was mystified for a short while by the Rockets’ fun-sized approach to NBA basketball, but eventually they were able to close the gap and keep things competitive throughout the fourth quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo continued proving his case as the league’s MVP, even if the case didn’t need proving. His stat line (36 points, 18 boards, 8 assists) was as impressive as it seems, but he had a series of poor decisions late in the fourth quarter that ended up swinging the game away from Milwaukee.
Khris Middleton was a flamethrower in the first half, and ended the game at 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. For much of the game, the Bucks weren’t getting much besides their two stars, but Brook Lopez (23 points, 12 rebounds) eventually found his groove and started mashing the Rockets’ defense in the post. D.J. Wilson, who only played 7 minutes, was a crucial part of stabilizing the Bucks in the third quarter, when Milwaukee was struggling with Houston’s small-ball lineups.
James Harden (24 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals) spent a long time struggling to find his range, but is too productive to be held down for long, even with four first half fouls. Russell Westbrook (31 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) continued to fuel the Rockets’ frenzied play with his unique brand of organized chaos. As a team, Houston took a whopping 61 three-pointers, making 21.
All in all, this was a game that the Bucks didn’t need and the Rockets did desperately, and Mike Budenholzer was able to figure out a few lineup combinations that, especially in the playoffs, can help in certain situations. This loss is frustrating, as any loss is, but ultimately unimportant as long as the team learns from its mistakes.
Stat That Stood Out: 22
There are so many that stand out from tonight’s game, but the massive disparity in turnovers committed is what sunk Milwaukee in this one, particularly with a stretch of mind-boggling mistakes in the game’s final moments. Houston did an excellent job caring for the ball on offense, and their lightning-quick hands on D swiped at the ball often enough to affect the Bucks’ composure.