Make it four straight wins for the Milwaukee Bucks. They’d knock off the New Orleans Pelicans 129-125 Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks would start things out stringing together a few very nice possessions, quickly mounting a 20-12 advantage. Hot shooting (54.2% from the floor) would grant Milwaukee a lead throughout, and a Giannis Antetokounmpo 3-pointer splashed in the waning seconds padded the home team’s lead to 35-31 after one.
Despite the hot shooting, the Pelicans would keep right with the Bucks. The main reason? The explosive play of Zion Williamson. He was just a bull that kept running downhill. Old Friend Eric Bledsoe quickly rattled of 11 first half points. At the break, Milwaukee held onto a 69-68 advantage.
New Orleans would continue to exhibit grit and hustle throughout the third, never giving the Bucks an easy opportunity to pull away. A lineup late in the quarter of Merrill-Forbes-Connaughton-Antetokounmpo-Antetokounmpo would prove to be pretty porous, giving the Pelicans their largest lead to date. However, a nice closeout to the quarter would put the two teams neck-and-neck at 103 apiece.
The Bucks would be unable to really pull away at any point throughout the fourth, leaving it a close game down to the waning seconds. Eric Bledsoe would get an opportunity to convert on a game-tying 3-pointer, but ultimately, was unable to connect. The Pelicans would have an opportunity once again to tie things up, but Donte DiVincenzo continued his massive performance and earned a charge that effectively gave Milwaukee the win.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would lead the way, finishing with a game-high 38 points. Khris Middleton was next in line with 31 of his own.
For New Orleans, Zion Williamson finished with an impressive 34 points. Brandon Ingram contributed with 23 points on 11-of-25 shooting.
What Did We Learn?
This was the Donte DiVincenzo game.
I cannot get over his performance. Just absolutely massive. When the Bucks needed him, he was able to step up. Prior to the game, it was announced that Milwaukee would be without DJ Augustin due to the birth of a baby girl (congrats!). This would leave the Bucks thin in the backcourt, and Donte was able to contribute quite nicely. He’d tally a career high on the evening in points, finishing with 24 on 9-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-7 from deep. The most impressive play of his night? The charge he earned in the final seconds of the game from Brandon Ingram. Just absolutely great. Somewhere, Ersan Ilyasova is smiling.
Khris Middleton played as if he was an All-Star.
Did it look like Khris Middleton held a grudge for not being selected as an All-Star? He’d be the first to tell you no, but man, he put on a show last night. His 14-of-24 shooting was fantastic, and he connected on a pair of threes. It’s always great to see the duo of Middleton/Antetokounmpo clicking like it was last night, and when you add the night of Donte to the mix, things get even better.
Zion is a joy to watch.
This was the first time I was able to watch Zion in person (it was my first time back at Fiserv in 363 days), and boy, is he everything advertised and more. He’s like a stocky bull just sprinting down the lane ready to knock out anything in his way. He had one block DiVincenzo where I thought the ball was sent through the glass. Then, on the other end, he’d throw down alley-oops I had no expectations of him throwing down. All of this prompted a question: How much would you have to be paid to take a charge from Zion? Here’s my dad’s answer:
Zion would explode for 24 points in the first half, but be held in check during the second for just 10 points. In his postgame availability, Bud preached praised at just how well adjustments were made to contain the big man. It really did pay off, as the impact he brought in the second half was significantly less than what he had made in the first half.
In nights where we can forget how good Giannis can be, he was crucial last night.
Obviously, you could use this line in pretty much every game, but Giannis had his fingerprints all over the game — as is pretty typical for him. He’d finish with a game-high 38 points on 14-of-27 shooting. One of the main standouts? His 8-of-10 free throw shooting. He continues to shoot so well from the line and has really been in a groove throughout February. The last time I checked, he was right around the 75 percent threshold. Compared to how he started this season, that is absolutely massive. If he can continue that shooting the regular season and maintain it throughout the postseason, it’d be absolutely massive for the Bucks.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The Bucks would be without the presence of DJ Augustin last night, but for good reason — he’s the new father to a baby girl! Congrats, DJ!
- I wasn’t watching the TNT broadcast due to being at Fiserv, but my timeline was littered with complaints about Marv Albert. Supposedly, at points throughout the evening, he said the following:
- Called Thanasis Giannis’ little brother
- Said Pat Middleton
- Called Sam Merrill DJ Wilson
If those aren’t signs that he needs to hang it up, I don’t know what is a proper sign. Also, I heard the TNT feed nearly had a Max Headroom incident and that a phone went off? So odd how these things always seem to occur during Bucks games.
- Lonzo Ball would connect on six threes during the evening, most of which were from open looks. He never seems as if he can miss vs. Milwaukee.
- I still can’t get over this block from Donte:
- This was a pretty cool moment following the game:
Respect.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2021
Giannis & Zion exchange jerseys postgame. pic.twitter.com/XAirPTkutF
- Another cool moment? Donte DiVincenzo in his postgame availability. He’d show up wearing Khris Middleton’s All-Star jersey from last season and said how he believes he should’ve been an All-Star again this year.