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Milwaukee vs. Denver: Nuggets Fly Past Bucks, 128-97

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Nikola Jokic’s triple-double makes life difficult for the Bucks

Denver Nuggets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Bucks’ five-game winning streak would come to a halt Tuesday night, as the Denver Nuggets knocked off Milwaukee, 128-97.

The first quarter would begin with a flurry of Giannis Antetokounmpo slam dunks. Like seriously, I think he had like eight or so. It was really wild. However, the Bucks’ defense did show some weaknesses that Denver took advantage of. The Nuggets would possess the lead for the majority of the quarter and close things out with a 15-2 run. They’d carry a large 37-23 advantage after one.

The main cogs of the Bucks’ offense would continue to struggle in the second. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton couldn’t get much traction going and Denver kept bullying Milwaukee around in the paint. Add in the fact that the Bucks couldn’t buy a shot from deep and it was clear why the Nuggets held a double-digit advantage most of the quarter. At halftime, the visitors led 64-40.

The Bucks would be unable to get much of anything going in the third quarter. There’d be glimmers and flashes, but Denver held onto a comfortable lead for much of the period. They’d keep connecting on threes and constantly float around the 20 point advantage. Transitioning into the fourth quarter, the Nuggets would hold a 99-80 lead.

The Bucks would trim it to 13 early in the fourth, but following a Michael Malone timeout, Jamal Murray hit a nasty stepback jumper. The dagger would come following a Giannis Antetokounmpo missed 3-pointer, which would then result in a Nikola Jokic slam on the other end. Denver would then put the finishing touches on a 128-97 victory.

Nikola Jokic would lead all scorers on the night with 37 points. He’d put forth another triple-double by chipping in 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Jamal Murray would splash home 24 points as well.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 27 points on 10-of-15 field goals. Khris Middleton would pour in 20 points of his own.

What Did We Learn?

When you’re not hitting the 3-point ball, it’s difficult to win a basketball game. That was the biggest issue for the Bucks last night, as they shot just 28.2% overall from deep for the game. In the first half, they’d connect on just 24% of their 3-point shots. Denver would take advantage during that timeframe and quickly mount a double-digit lead, an advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the evening.

Three Observations

Nikola Jokic is an absolute joy to watch play basketball.

He may be the exhibiting the best basketball in the league right now. The big man posted yet another triple-double (his seventh of the season) — that was actually his 50th of his career (only the ninth player in NBA history to accomplish that). The way he passes is just simply thrilling. He’d tack up 11 assists on the evening to compliment his 10 rebounds and game-high 37 points. Whenever the Bucks seemed ready to put a dent in the game, it was Jokic who seemed to break their backs — whether it was by scoring or passing. In his postgame availability, Giannis ushered a high amount of praise to Jokic and kept repeating how he plays the game the right way. He’s incredible and there’s a very strong likelihood that he earns the MVP this season.

Denver was a force in the paint.

Early on, it was clear that one of the themes of this game was going to be Denver utilizing the paint. As Milwaukee was unable to hit a 3-pointer in the first period, the Nuggets wasted no time in racking up points down low. They’d conclude the evening putting in 56 points in the paint compared to Milwaukee’s 32. A big stand up from that? Denver’s ability to finish. They’d finish 22-of-29 at the rim. A lot of that is credited to Jokic and his workhorse mentality down low but when a team is taking that much advantage with shots down low while the Bucks continue to miss from deep, it’s not going to be easy to make baskets.

There wasn’t much from the bench in terms of production.

Nobody from the Bench Mob would tally double-digit points on the evening. While it wasn’t the biggest reason the Bucks lost this game, it is noticeable. Bryn Forbes would be the leading scorer with nine points off of three 3-pointers. It’d be an abnormal off night for Bobby Portis, who’d finish with just four points on 1-of-3 shooting. He wouldn’t even tally a single point until late in the third quarter at the free throw line. As I’m typing this, we’re waiting for players to speak at their postgame availabilities over Zoom. However, Bobby Portis is currently out on the floor putting up shots. He’ll look for a bounceback performance Thursday night in Memphis.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • The Nuggets would implement a zone defense and it’d clearly frustrate the Bucks. Postgame, the mentality from Budenholzer and the players would be that they’d have to do a better job in finding gaps and opening to take advantage of. Moving forward, this will be something that you can bet the team will work to break and figure out an effective gameplan for.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo’s streak of 35+ points would come to an end last night, as Denver held relatively him in check with 27 points on the night.
  • Jamal Murray is quite the acrobat:
  • It was a rough night for Donte DiVincenzo, especially in terms of finishing at the hoop. At one point, he’d blow a wide-open dunk opportunity, which resulted in a Denver basket at the other end. The Blogfather summed it up pretty well with this tweet:
  • I said it in my Extended Recap a few weeks ago when the Bucks knocked off the Nuggets in Denver, but overall, I’m a fan of the Nuggets’ re-branding. However, whenever I see the Nuggets, my mind instantly goes back to those sky blue uniforms. Just gorgeous.