The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks 129-115 on Sunday night at the Fiserv Forum. The first half was a struggle for both teams, but the Bucks were cooking in the second half. Milwaukee is now back in the win column before their schedule toughens up.
What Did We Learn?
Torrey Craig...he lives! I guess cyberbullying works. Not only did Craig get some burn with both the starters and some of the bench unit, but he got first and fourth quarter minutes. Who would’ve thought? And of course, as we all predicted, he was effective in his stint. While he did get lost on an offensive possession where he turned his back on an incoming pass, it was a successful night for Torrey. He also dropped two gorgeous dimes including one to a cutting Jrue Holiday on the baseline who made a strong finish at the rim. He was also active and made some backdoor cuts that resulted in easy scores. It’s been tough sledding for the three-year man, but perhaps this game will serve as a breakthrough for him to play more. He scored four points in 13 minutes and finished plus-4
Giannis Antetokounmpo got off to a slow start due to foul trouble but turned up the gas at the end of the fourth quarter. While he did have two highlight-reel dunks, what impressed me the most about his performance was the way he was facilitating the basketball. He made a few Magic Johnson-esque passes and my favorite one was where he caught the ball in the post and quickly whipped a no-look pass to an open Brook Lopez in the corner. He missed the shot, but the pass was not only flashy but hit Lopez right in the shooting pocket. Antetokounmpo was a bit overzealous offensively at times, but the Hawks had no answer for him around the rim. He made 9-of-13 shots in 36 minutes to rack up 27 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. Giannis also converted on 9-of-15 free throws and even had a stretch where he made five consecutive tries.
Bobby Portis has been a consistent performer off the bench for the Bucks this season. He came out aggressive and hit an array of mid-range jumpers which the majority came after passing up an open look from deep. While that might make head coach Mike Budenholzer cringe, it is undoubtedly his forte. He has big Ersan Ilyasova vibes from midrange. I thought Portis was fantastic with his activity around the rim as he was constantly fighting for inside position on both the offensive and defensive glass. He ended with a 21-point and six rebound performance in 27 minutes off the bench. Bobby is a guy you hate to play against but love to have him on your squad. He is a bully.
The Bucks bench had a much-needed bounce-back effort after the horrendous output in their last defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers. Portis was the main culprit, but both Bryn Forbes and D.J. Augustin did “things” in the victory. Has there ever been a shot that Bryn Forbes doesn’t like? He was effective in limited minutes (11 points) and had a pretty midrange and-1 jumper after curling off a screen. When he’s on he’s really on...but when he’s off, he’s ice cold. Forbes has proven to be very effective when played with the right lineup. As for Augustin, he has been struggling all season but “broke out” a bit on Sunday. He hit three trifectas and dished out three assists. He did pass open a WIDE OPEN layup underneath the basket though. Any production from him is a welcome sign. Pat Connaughton did not do much on the scoring ends but did have a few hustle plays on the offensive glass that led to second-chance points.
- Jrue Holiday got off to a rocky start in the first quarter but quickly put it behind him. He was in his bag versus Atlanta and they provided little to no resistance. Holiday was consistently bullying his way to the rim and was not shy about going up with a Hawks big man for a finish. He and Giannis are developing quite the two-man game and a Holiday/Giannis PnR is proving to be impossible to defend. It is pick your poison when they are feeding off one another. Jrue finished the victory with a strong 15 point, five rebound, and five assist performance.
- Khris Middleton was consistent in his 33 minutes of action. In particular, he was consistently shredding Cam Reddish in the second half for easy buckets. He scored 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Oddly enough, he has made only 4-of-17 three-pointers over his last three contests. He also added eight rebounds and seven assists.
- Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo each contributed their fair share of points. Donte (nin points) and Brook (12 points) each had their moments on the offensive floor. DiVincenzo threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk late in the second half and Lopez missed only two shots.
- De’Andre Hunter is TOUGH. He had to shoulder the load with Trae Young and Clint Capela out and he was knocking down shots from all over the floor. He was hitting jumpers over Giannis, Pat, and Middleton. It didn’t matter who was guarding him...it was one of those nights where everything goes in. He poured in 33 points. John Collins came on strong in the second half and helped the Hawks claw their way back into the game momentarily. He scored 30 points while sinking 6-of-9 threes. I sure am glad the Bucks drafted D.J. Wilson over him :)