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Milwaukee vs. Washington: Bucks Survive Westbrook’s Supernova Performance, 125-119

A tale of two halves

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks dug themselves their own grave in the second quarter on the road against the Washington Wizards, but they were able to tighten the screws defensively in the second half to earn a 125-119 victory to push their record to 24-14.

What We Learned

Russell Westbrook...still got it! You probably hate his playstyle for obvious reasons, but he dialed back the clock with his performance against the Bucks on Saturday night. He and Rui Hachimura were the only reasons Washington was able to keep pace with the Bucks.

Don’t get me wrong, Westbrook did have his fair share of questionable shots and missed free throws in the contest, but his ability to slash to the rim created a dozen problems defensively for Milwaukee. The Bucks gave up the switch on him too easily at times which left Brook Lopez out in no-mans land on him...and we all knew how that was going to go. Westbrook played 39 minutes and added 42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists while finishing minus-18. A career 30% three-point shooter, he sank five yesterday.

Three Observations

Khris Middleton was driving the struggle bus for the majority of the game. While he did add eight assists and make all nine of his free throws, he could not buy a bucket offensively. I also thought Middleton played rather timid on the offensive end and could have easily ended up with more than 12 shots against a poor Wizards defense. The Bucks did set him up beautifully multiple times in catch-and-shoot situations but it just wasn’t falling...regardless of how open he was. He also struggled defensively on Hachimura and committed a very bad foul on a Russell Westbrook and-1 opportunity late in the fourth quarter. He has a great opportunity to bounce back on Monday against these same Wizards.

It’s safe to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo will not be sending Alex Len any greeting cards this Holiday season. Len, the former top-five pick, closed-lined Giannis at the end of the first half which seemed to piss off Antetokounmpo, and rightfully so. Not sure making Giannis mad is the smartest decision, and the Wizards paid for it in the second half. Giannis played very patiently in the first half and opted to get his teammates involved early and get them into a rhythm. While Giannis ended with a 33/11/11 triple-double (his second consecutive triple-double), he could have easily ended with a higher assist total if Milwaukee’s shooting wasn’t so inconsistent in the victory. However, complaining about a massive triple-double does seem knit-picky. Anyways, he was a maestro in the third quarter and was able to dissect Washington’s defense with ease. Not only did he make 12-of-19 shots from the field, but he also sank two triples, and 7-of-8 free throws. Don’t look now, but he’s up to 40% from deep this month and has been over 70% from the line since February. Very nice. Also, how has no juice/smoothie company picked up an endorsement deal with Giannis??? Seems like a missed opportunity.

Pat Connaughton...underpaid? I teased this idea in Milwaukee’s home loss to the Denver Nuggets earlier this month...and this is looking like the case. I absolutely criticized GM Jon Horst’s decision to bring back Pat this offseason, but not only has he helped solve Milwaukee’s switching issues defensively, but he’s also hit his fair share of clutch shots this season. This is something I am happy to eat crow on. Connaughton played 26 minutes and knocked down 4-of-6 shots to tally 11 points. He hit two quick trifectas in the first quarter, but hit a clutch one in the fourth and secured a big offensive rebound in the fourth quarter which led to a Bobby Portis three-pointer. He is up to a white-hot 38.2% from deep this season and has earned himself a role-playing in crunch time.

Bonus Bits

  • Brook Lopez added 11 points in 27 minutes...I think he is going to have nightmares about trying to keep up with Russell Westbrook defensively tonight. Not necessarily his fault, nonetheless.
  • Jrue Holiday had a forgettable first half but ended his night nicely by elevating his play in the fourth. He played with active hands defensively and deflected multiple passes and disrupted what the Wizards were trying to accomplish offensively. He sank multiple clutch jumpers down the stretch and finished the win with 18 points in 32 minutes.
  • Bobby Portis...elite three-point shooter? He sank 4-of-8 tries and is now shooting 48.7% from deep.
  • Donte DiVincenzo had a wild 10/13/3/2 line...but he did have a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l ball fake/euros step on Alex Len for an easy finger roll.
  • After making all seven threes in the last Bucks victory, Bryn Forbes couldn’t get it going last night. He was getting the looks, just wasn’t converting.
  • I was very impressed with Rui Hachimura. He defended Giannis Antetokounmpo well in the fourth quarter and poured in 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
  • Every Raul Neto shot should count as a turnover...just yikes.

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