Talk about flipping the script in the second half...the Milwaukee Bucks dug themselves out of a 19-point first-half deficit en route to defeating the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers on the road, 109-105.
What We Learned
It was a tough scene for the “Giannis isn’t clutch crowd” on Wednesday night. With the Bucks clawing their way back into the game in the third and fourth periods, Giannis Antetokounmpo saved his best for the final moments. His most impressive stretch came in overtime where he reeled off a 7-0 run by himself and capped it off by crossing over Dwight Howard with a behind-the-back dribble and sinking the step-back mid-range jumper.
The 76ers and Ben Simmons did a good job at getting in Giannis’ head in the first half and he was forcing the issue a bit by continuously trying to take it at Simmons. Thankfully, the Bucks figured out that Philly pick-and-roll defense sans Embiid is Swiss cheese, which opened up the floor for Giannis. I don’t care that Joel didn’t play, this was an otherworldly performance from Giannis considering the less than stellar first half he put up. In all, he dropped 32 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists while making 13-of-22 shots from the field. He also added one “sit down at mid-court” to his ledger, too after sinking a clutch shot in OT.
The back-to-back MVP put on a show in Philly:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 18, 2021
32 PTS | 15 REB | 5 AST pic.twitter.com/zz3AGxLYHs
The Milwaukee Bucks went into overtime because of Donte DiVincenzo’s unnecessary defense gamble but they were also “in” the game because of his offensive performance. It’s typically a wild ride for Donte every game, but this one was rather turbulent in the early going. He made multiple gambles defensively where he came up empty on a steal which led to a ton of open looks for Philadelphia. However, he stayed active in the passing lanes and created multiple turnovers. I guess you can say they balanced each other out. Anyways, offensively, Donte played an integral role in mounting Milwaukee’s furious comeback by making multiple threes off catch-and-shoot opportunities. He is lethal off the catch and his shot looks more fluid than when he is shooting on the move. I loved the fact that he was able to put his rough first half performance behind him and drain some clutch jumpers AND free throws. DiVincenzo played 36 minutes and contributed 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals while making four three-pointers.
Donte was saucin’ it up:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 18, 2021
20 PTS | 8 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/NSaKfxGO8M
I thought Brook Lopez was solid once again in the victory. While Tony Bradley did cause him some issues on the boards early, I was most impressed with how Brook was able to stay with Tobias Harris when switched onto him and successfully contest his patented running midrange jumpers. With the acquisition of PJ Tucker, this means that the Milwaukee Bucks are committed to switching defensively and Tucker will eat into Lopez’s minutes depending on the matchup. However, having flexibility does not hurt one bit. Brook was a reliable source of offense as well, scoring 14 points while making three three-pointers and finishing a team-high plus-8.
The Bucks needed Khris Middleton to step up his game on Wednesday. While it didn’t happen, thankfully the Bucks were able to overcome his struggles from the field. This is what frightens me about potentially facing the 76ers in the postseason...they have the players to shut down Middleton. Matisse Thybulle was aggressive with Middleton and continuously denied him the ball and it threw Middleton off and it looked like he checked out. It was the same result when Ben Simmons defended him, too. Furthermore, the errant alley-oop pass late in the fourth quarter to Giannis nearly cost the Bucks the game. Look, I am all for dunking on the 76ers and their fans, but if there’s one team that can shut him down for a playoff series...it’s this team. He finished the forgettable performance with more shots (16) than points (15). It’s been a rough stretch for Khris.
- Jrue Holiday is a ninja with how fast his hands are. His anticipation defensively is phenomenal and his clutch steal in overtime on Ben Simmons helped Milwaukee keep the lead. He also defended Simmons a decent amount and made life difficult for him. Granted, I probably have more moves in my bag than Simmons, but he is a big and strong man. Holiday compiled 19/6/6/3 in 41 minutes of action. His decision-making offensively early on wasn’t the greatest, but, performances like these are why the Bucks acquired him from New Orleans.
- Pat Connaughton continues to be a bright spot for the Bucks. He was all over the place on Wednesday night and his activity on both ends of the floor helped elevate the Bucks when they needed a shot in the arm. He played 34 minutes and added six points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
- Bryn Forbes shot 0-10 from the floor and the majority of them were decent looks. He is certainly due for regression, but I am not panicking about him.
- Scott Foster is...not good
- The Bucks forced Philly into 20 turnovers. What made the first half so frustrating was the fact that they were playing good defense and causing turnovers but they could not capitalize on them. While the Bucks did have some defensive lapses, I was pleased with how they defended the majority of the night.
- Please, never mention Ben Simmons in the same sentence as Giannis...not even remotely close. While Ben is a lockdown defender and decent playmaker, his offensive “bag” is nonexistent.
- Tobias Harris...23 shots for 19 points. He was talking a lot of junk early, too.
"We were terrible offensively." - Khris Middleton, on the Bucks' first half— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 18, 2021
Explained that the defense kept them in the game and allowed them to pull out the win.
“Is there something wrong with having fun?”@Giannis_An34 explains to @JimOwczarski in postgame Zoom why he just wanted to take a seat - and let it be known. He was vs Philly pic.twitter.com/EBKaeQ3hnw— Lori Nickel (@LoriNickel) March 18, 2021