On the second night of a back-to-back, the Milwaukee Bucks notched a hard-earned W over the Atlanta Hawks as their star returned to the floor. On a minute restriction at 25, Giannis scored 15 while Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez led the offense with 23 and 19 respectively. Reserve-heavy lineups were surprisingly crucial to this victory: a bench-fueled 13-0 run (how often does that happen without Giannis or Khris Middleton?) staked Milwaukee to a 12 point halftime lead. Much like 1864, Atlanta was on fire to start the third, but the cavalry (Milwaukee’s bench mob) rescued the good guys again. Though they briefly held a one-point lead, Milwaukee quickly re-established themselves and largely kept the lead in double digits until the buzzer.
What Did We Learn?
Giannis may not be all the way back yet... but he should get there soon. This may be a matter of reacclimating to live gameplay after nearly 2 weeks off more than anything else. He looked to be moving with ease, effectively driving through Atlanta’s wall for multiple finishes at the rim throughout the match. The most important takeaway from his night is how confident he seems to be in his body after recovering enough from his knee ailment. Though Giannis is not one to dial back the aggression even when he’s not 100%, I doubt he would have used his usual arsenal of drives and interior moves unless he felt fully capable.
Jrue Holiday had Trey Young in jail all night. 23 points and 7 assists on 9/17 shooting is an offensive performance to hang one’s hat on, but it pales to what Holiday was doing on the other end. Tasked with defending the Hawks’ high-scoring young point guard, Holiday ensured Young laid a goose egg in the first half (0 points on 6 shots). Thanks to 9 free throws, Young finished with 15 but on 3/17 shooting with 6 turnovers... ouchies. I don’t recall seeing Young take an open shot all game, and as his primary defender, Jrue should get most of the credit.
P.J. Tucker had his best game as a Buck. Pops Junior hit two corner threes and even his a rare inside look for 8 points on 3/4 from the field. Like Holiday, though, his presence was arguably greater on the defensive end. As part of primarily bench lineups in the second and third, Tucker helped the Bucks make stop after stop, force turnovers, and rebuild their lead. When he and Holiday were in, good things were happening. That’s a lot of basketball IQ on the floor at once.
Jeff Teague continues to impress. Returning to his old stomping grounds, Teague had 11 points and 5 dimes, drawing a number of fouls as he penetrated. Really none of the Bucks’ reserves has ever gotten to the line often, so if Teague can do this regularly, the second unit adds a needed scoring tool aside from Portis jumpers and Forbes/Connaughton threes.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- In the first highly-anticipated (by Bucks fans, at least) matchup of Bogdan Bogdanovic against the team that nearly acquired him last November, the new Hawks’ guard played like he was out for revenge. Though he cooled off in the fourth quarter, Bogdanovic had a game-high 28 on 6/12 shooting from outside. This is what I have to say about that.
- The Bucks took great care of the ball (9 turnovers) and though the Hawks stopped coughing it up as much by the fourth quarter, the damage had been done: Milwaukee scored 21 points off turnovers to Atlanta’s 9.
- Most of the night, the Hawks were outscoring the Bucks in the paint thanks to Clint Capela (16 points on 7/10 shooting) The Bucks flipped in the fourth, though, once their threes stopped falling (2/11 in the last period after starting 14/32). They’d finish with a 50-48 edge.
- While the offense was having trouble getting shots to fall in a late fourth-quarter possession after the Hawks cut the lead to single digits, the Bucks pulled down 3 of their 14 offensive rounds on the night. Milwaukee had a 17-12 advantage in second chance points, though that one was more like a fourth chance.
- As the first quarter ended, Giannis appeared to jam his wrist on Solomon Hill’s hand while going for a poorly-placed lob but seemed to shake it off while on the bench.
- Bryn Forbes assumed Donte DiVincenzo’s (out with a sore foot) spot in the starting lineup and while he was just 1/6 from downtown, he hit all 3 of his long twos and finished 4/9.
- Add Solomon Hill to the list of mediocre shooters who turn into a Curry against the Bucks: the 32.1% three-point shooter hit 6 of his 8 longball attempts. Milwaukee largely left him alone when he received the ball on the perimeter and I don’t blame them for starting out that way, but at a certain point, maybe they should respect that jumper.
- While he didn’t appear on the floor, Mamadi Diakite made his presence known postgame:
Legendary moment pic.twitter.com/WPgMzuitwl— Mamadi Diakite’s Burner (@BurnerDiakite) April 16, 2021