In their first game of their title defense, the Milwaukee Bucks wasted no time getting started. They’d easily notch a 127-104 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Ring Night at Fiserv Forum.
This one would start off with the same exact energy we saw from the Fiserv Forum crowd all summer long — pure electricity. It especially came with 7:14 left in the quarter, as a Giannis Antetokounmpo fastbreak slam dunk put everyone into an absolute frenzy. The Greek Freak would explode for 13 points in the opening stanza, going a nifty 5-of-12 from the floor. It’d help push the Bucks to a 37-25 lead after one.
The hot shooting would keep falling in the second quarter. Grayson Allen, one of the Bucks’ additions from the offseason, finally got a shot to fall. The Nets would make a slight dent when James Harden heated up, but the Bucks were able to keep the separation. Brooklyn would chisel things down to single digits in the final few minutes, though. At halftime, Milwaukee owned a 66-59.
Despite being a hobbled team coming into tonight, the injuries continued to wrack up for the Bucks. Prior to the second half, it was announced that Jrue Holiday would not return to action due to a right heel contusion. If you had Justin Robinson receiving minutes on Opening Night on your bingo card, make sure you crossed it off. However, despite the odd lineups, Milwaukee was still able to craft themselves a double-digit lead after three, 97-85.
From that point on, the Nets seemed to just roll over and accept defeat. No real comeback efforts came with any steam in the fourth, as the Bucks maintained their double digit advantage throughout. The play from Antetokounmpo and others were more than enough to pad things for the Bucks and start their title defense off with a win, 127-104.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in scoring, finishing with 32 points and 14 boards. Pat Connaughton had a massive scoring output from off the bench, finishing next in line with 20 points. Jordan Nwora also had quite the respectable outing with 15 points in 26 minutes of action.
For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant once again did what Kevin Durant does. He put up a 13-of-25 shooting performance that resulted in 32 points.
What Did We Learn?
We learned that the Bucks were able to get right back to business. Giannis chatted about all of the distractions that exist, but how that’s part of what basketball is like. He mentioned how he tried to soak in everything during the ring ceremony and then utilized the nine minutes before tip-off to properly prepare himself. All together, the Bucks were able to keep themselves composed and handle business as they normally do. So many times, Ring Night acts as a “hangover” of sorts for championship teams, as they cough up a poor performance and find themselves starting their quest to repeat 0-1. However, that didn’t happen for the Bucks. Last night really served as a testament as to how the Bucks are committed and locked in.
Pat Connaughton had a massive night off the bench.
Looking back at last year’s playoff run, one of the key consistent cogs that was a piece to the puzzle was Pat Connaughton. Last night, he kept that same momentum going. He’d finish with nearly 30 minutes of action, which resulted in 20 points. Those 20 points served as the most he’s ever scored as a Milwaukee Buck. He even had a few drives to the hoop that were heavily contested, yet still resulted in a basket. In his postgame availability, he mentioned how he’s working on making that more of a part of his game. Obviously, Pat will continue to be heavily relied on as this team embarks through the first part of the season, especially with injuries. It’ll be intriguing to see how his play shapes out moving forward.
Jordan Nwora saw some meaningful action.
Last season, we saw flashes of Jordan Nwora that came during mostly meaningless games. He’s always shown an ability to create a shot on the offensive side of the basketball. Typically, defense was his primary concern. However, last night, he saw a good run of action, totaling 26 minutes on the night. That would result in 15 points scored off the pine on 6-of-13 shooting. Oh, and that defense? Check out this play he made on Kevin Durant:
NWORA SAID NO!!— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 20, 2021
This entire sequence is pic.twitter.com/eOXnBGlPZ7
Here’s what Nwora said regarding this play:
Jordan Nwora on what he was thinking before his block on Durant: “Man, I’m about to get punched on right now.”— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 20, 2021
Nwora is definitely a player that brings an exciting style of play, and will surely be relied on more this season. He mentioned how he has a sense of belonging, especially after being thrust into the deep end as he was last night — on Ring Night. This has definitely opened the door for more playing time, and it’ll be incredibly intriguing to see how he plays moving forward.
The emotions the Bucks showed while getting their rings was awesome to see.
This was obviously a big point of discussion among everybody that took the podium postgame. Ranging from Mike Budenholzer to Giannis Antetokounmpo to Khris Middleton to Pat Connaughton, a lot of the same appreciations were echoed. There were mentions of how it would be with them with the rest of their lives. They mentioned how they can show it to friends and family. They also talked about the actual design of the ring and how it blew them away. As for the QR code in the ring? That was actually Giannis’ idea:
Giannis said he was the one who told the Bucks to add the QR code to the ring.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 20, 2021
"It's pretty cool."
Giannis also mentioned how awesome it is that the banner that was unveiled will also be hanging up in the rafters forever. It was truly an incredible atmosphere at Fiserv Forum.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- For those who haven’t seen the rings close up, here you go:
"Bucks in 6"— ESPN (@espn) October 19, 2021
The Milwaukee Bucks' 2021 NBA championship rings are too clean. pic.twitter.com/OVByP5aJK9
- Here’s an even closer look. Just absolutely clean:
- Oh, and the banner is pretty nice as well:
- Herb Kohl definitely deserved to be a part of last night, and he was:
Senator Herb Kohl receives his ring!! pic.twitter.com/XdMc85aECp— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 19, 2021
- Giannis is wasting no time on getting the momentum started on his Defensive Player of the Year campaign...
- This was quite the welcome for Sandro Mamukelashvili:
Sandro Mamukelashvili with some early second quarter run.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) October 20, 2021
He was welcomed to the league by getting to defend James Harden in isolation. Reacted well though in the two-man game on the other end with Nwora that created a triple.
In 7:02 minutes of action, Mamu didn’t score a point and corralled one rebound. It’ll be fun to see how he takes on getting more minutes in the coming days.
- Grayson Allen looks like he’ll fit in with this Bucks team just fine. During preseason, it was discussed how he’s going to have the “Let it Fly” mentality, and he sure did last night. He’d attempt ten 3PA. He connected on three of them and a majority of them were quite open looks.
- Congrats if you had guessed that Justin Robinson would get meaningful action:
Justin Robinson gets his first bucket in the NBA regular season. pic.twitter.com/Rxb6U51T2s— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 20, 2021
- And last, no words for this last bullet point. Just a picture: