Against a shorthanded New York Knicks team, the Milwaukee Bucks took care of business through a fairly wire-to-wire win, 112-97. It was a slow start for the New York Knicks, but the Milwaukee Bucks continued putting it on them through the first period to start up, 26-16. The lead ballooned partway through the second period, but a flurry of Knicks buckets late cut it to just 61-48 heading into halftime. Khris Middleton led all scorers at half with 16. The Knicks rocketed off a spree of hot-shooting from beyond the arc, but Jrue Holiday and the Bucks weathered the storm to retain a 93-79 lead. Milwaukee faced a small comeback, but quelled it quickly in the final minutes to come away with a win before they head to Boston on Monday.
What We Learned
There’s not much you can take away from a Sunday noon tip against a Knicks squad missing three of their key rotation players, but, they did still have Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson, who pummeled Milwaukee on the glass just a few short months ago. Today was a great indicator of how the Bucks have been able to help fix some of their rebounding issues that were so problematic early. They boasted a 81.0% defensive rebounding percentage, right around what their usual near league-leading number has been the last few years. On top of that, they used the offensive glass to their advantage with a 28.6% OREB percentage.
After the Bucks looked like such a small team a few months ago without all of their pieces, this was a nice reminder of how they can use their size across positions to punish teams inside.
Khris Middleton, who shot just 6-18 against Houston, wasn’t interested in the Knicks trying out Quentin Grimes on him defensively for his first start. In the first period alone we got two shimmy-shake baseline turnaround jumpers that saw Middleton clear as much space as I’ve seen him get on shots this year. He topped that off with drawing a foul too, a good opportunity for him to find his rhythm from jump after seeming like a slow starter since his return from COVID-19. He cooled off considerably in the second half, but it’s clear he’s continuing to be aggressive and look for his shot while trying to find his rhythm again post-illness. He had a team-high 24 points on 17 shots to go along with eight boards and four assists.
Khris matches his career-long streak of seven straight games with 20+ points.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 12, 2021
24 PTS | 8 REB | 4 AST pic.twitter.com/pK1NkeSWFm
Bobby Portis enjoyed his return to Madison Square Garden. Admittedly, some of his shots were of the forced variety reminiscent of his Knicks days, but he was taking every opportunity to interact with the crowd flashing those muscles and smile all day. He started the day with an isolation long two, and by the third period he was pulling up for corner triples with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. He’s taken full advantage of his starting spot to attack defense with more vigor, and today, his turnaround jumper was even working. This year his efficiency is down a spell, and I think there are some genuine questions if Brook comes back about how he’ll adapt to a slightly smaller offensive role, but his 3-point percentage is above 40% on higher volume still. That has to be considered a huge win. He finished the day with 19 points and 10 boards.
Afternoon Delight.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 12, 2021
19 PTS | 10 REB | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/nMc37Aw5kH
It was an incredibly low bar, but Rodney Hood might’ve had his finest game as a Buck. For someone shooting around 30% in his career as a Buck, he hit a triple, long jumper and showed the most verticality I’ve seen from him during a putback in the second half where he hung in the air. He also made a few decent extra passes inside the interior and around the arc, including a late bouncer to Middleton for a triple out of a timeout to stop a Knicks (or, mostly Kevin Knox) run. He ended with 14 points and three assists on perfect 5-5 shooting.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- There was something delightfully old school/new school about the way Giannis opened this game. First, he used his athleticism to catch a lob dunk coming off a down screen from Khris Middleton. The next possession, he posted up Nerlens Noel, bodied him up and then pirouetted into a turnaround short-range jumper from the block. His diversity and repertoire within the Bucks offense is always fun to see. It felt like a quiet Giannis game, but he did log a triple double.
This bucket puts Giannis at 13,000 career points. pic.twitter.com/v0niQmkTO5— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 12, 2021
- We’ve seen plenty of rough 3-point misses from Giannis in his career, but oooh boy, Evan Fournier coughing up an airball and another chuck that barely caught rim in the first quarter alone. Someone wasn’t quite ready for the early tip.
- Jordan Nwora got into this game in the initial quarter, his first meaningful appearance since the Raptors game. To no one’s surprise, he let a triple fly on his very first offensive possession from the corner. Related: He didn’t play again until garbage time.
- After missing four straight games, George Hill returned to play just 14 minutes and had zero points. Hilariously, the team was +10 with him on the court.
- Cross “Grayson Allen — Ankle Breaker” off your Bucks Bingo card after he obliterated Quentin Grimes in the second quarter. Nice finish at the rim too. Whoo.
Just looked it up and Derrick Rose is averaging 53 points and 27 assists a game in his career against the Bucks. Wow.— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) December 12, 2021
- In the second, Marques seamlessly transitioned from talking about chatting up Ben Stiller and Spike Lee pregame into an “Amazing Grayson, how sweet thy jumper,” followed by a sardonic remark about how Allen hitting shots may help prevent him from getting pulled in crunch time like he did last time against the Knicks. We are blessed.
- I have no clue what got into Quentin Grimes for his first start, but the rookie from Houston had it rolling. The MSG crowd ate it up as he poured in 27 points on 17 shots.