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Milwaukee vs. Houston: Bucks Re-Enact Apollo 13

Giannis re-injures his ankle, then his teammates give up 143

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks in large part to a credible Klay Thompson impression by Kevin Porter Jr., the lottery-favorite Houston Rockets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night rather embarrassingly. Porter Jr. scorched the nylon all night, going 9/15 from downtown on his way to a career-high 50. As a team, Houston was an outrageous 25/46 (54.3%) on three-point attempts. Former Bucks Christian Wood (31 points including 6/10 from deep) and D.J. Wilson (15 points, 12 rebounds) also exacted a measure of revenge against their former employer, while the ever-popular Kelly Olynyk piled on 24 points and 13 boards. Khris Middleton led all Bucks with 33, followed by a career-high 30 from Bryn Forbes, and 29 from Jrue Holiday.

As awful as this loss is, it could be far more costly than just a fall in the standings. Giannis stepped on noted star-injurer Olynyk’s foot as he was being fouled just 46 seconds into the game. His right ankle, which was even listed as being sprained before the game, buckled and Milwaukee’s star went down. Clearly limping after play resumed, Giannis was subbed out and did not return. It’s not unreasonable to worry that it’s significant.

What Did We Learn?

Giannis isn’t the best at switching, despite being the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but Milwaukee’s defense absolutely crumbled without its star. Houston made roadkill out of the Bucks all night running double ball screens atop the arc, which Kevin Porter Jr. used to great effect by nailing three after three, especially when Brook Lopez switched onto him. Even elite switchers P.J. Tucker and Jrue Holiday were burned on drives and jumpers alike. The result was the highest opponent score of Mike Budenholzer’s tenure.

Three Bucks

Bryn Forbes was feeling it. Lost among the debacle this game was on defense, the Bucks actually shot pretty well (52.9% and 41% behind the arc), Forbes chief among them. He’d finish with a career-high 30 on 11/17 shooting while canning 6 of his 10 longballs.

Rushed into early action, P.J. Tucker looked mortal on defense. Tucker struggled a bit with less talented players than the ones he shut down on Tuesday night in Charlotte, even committing a matador foul late as Porter Jr. slashed by him to the rim. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, but he might not have the juice to keep up with that very athletic 20-year-old.

Jrue Holiday also struggled on defense but got the Bucks back into the game. Early in the fourth, Holiday rattled off 8 unanswered points himself, then extended his personal run to 14 as the Bucks turned a 6 point deficit into a 4 point lead. There was still a long way to go and the Rockets clearly had a lot left in them, but Holiday provided a brief glimmer of hope.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Former Bucks D.J. Augustin (sprained left ankle) and Sterling Brown (recovering from a scary assault) did not dress for this one. Good vibes to Brown as he heals.
  • Bobby Portis is known as a below-average defender, and while he’s been better than expected this year, he really took it on the chin in the paint tonight, caught out of position multiple times.
  • Khris Middleton made a few big threes (5/10) and got to the line ten times (where he was perfect) on his way to 33 points, negating a mediocre 9/21 performance from the field.
  • Donte DiVincenzo apparently had 3 points and was -14. He’s only scored double figures once in the last 8 games, and it was only 11.
  • Brook Lopez scored 15 on his usual craftiness within 10 feet but was perhaps the most woeful Buck on defense in the fourth.
  • I’m not a football fan, but that sure was a rough day in Wisconsin sports, and an unforeseen one at that. Here’s hoping things can be patched up with Rodgers, and best wishes to Corbin Burnes for a full recovery from what is likely COVID-19.

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