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Milwaukee vs. Sacramento: Bucks Stymie Kings in Sacramento

10 straight wins against the Kings.

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks won their third consecutive game by fending off the Sacramento Kings, 129-128.

After dropping their first contest of the west coast swing, the Bucks have won three straight.

What We Learned

Brook Lopez had his best game of the year by a wide margin, contributing 26 points while knocking down 11-of-13 shots from the field.

While Lopez did make two shots from deep, what was encouraging was how dominant he was in the paint and how coach Mike Budenholzer utilized him as a roll man instead of popping out to the perimeter. While we are all aware of how he transformed himself into a three-point shooting big man, we can’t forget that he is just a few years away from being one of the more dominant big men in the league in the post. Part of what has been frustrating watching him offensively this year is how often he would settle for fadeaway running jumpers instead of methodically working his way into the paint. When he gets the inside position, it’s a guaranteed bucket.

Seeing the Bucks constantly get him the ball in situations where he had positive momentum towards the rim opened up a lot of options for them. This is certainly something to look for going forward.

Three Observations

Whatever the Bucks want to offer Jrue Holiday for a contract extension is not enough. Without Giannis and Khris Middleton struggling to make a basket, Holiday took matters into his own hands on both ends and propelled Milwaukee to victory. He was active as ever defensively causing a multitude of deflections and made De’Aaron Fox (27 points) work for every bucket. When the Kings went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter, Holiday was there to help stabilize things by having a strong and-1 finish and winning a loose 50-50 ball that gave the Bucks an easy two inside. He also had his step-back jumper working throughout the contest...just lulled opposing defenders to sleep while subtly stepping back to nail jumpers. It’s just so smooth. He played 37 minutes and dropped 33 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists while making 14-of-23 shots. I’m not sure what is left to say about how he has played since returning from COVID-19...but he has been one of the most entertaining players to watch this season. Just insanely easy to root for.

Khris Middleton is having a tough go of it as of late. While he is still shooting very well from the floor over the last 10 games (50/49.3/77), he is not making the plays he typically makes. He got free from some pretty decent looks on Saturday night but couldn’t get anything to fall, shooting only 4-of-16 in 34 minutes. Thankfully for Milwaukee, Middleton did make some clutch plays offensively to help counter Sacramento’s late run. It has also been odd seeing how little he’s been involved offensively in the early going. Khris’ been a first-quarter staple for Milwaukee since Budenholzer’s arrival, but that has not appeared the case this season. Just something to monitor!

Bobby Portis provided the Bucks with a huge spark off the bench. He scored 18 points in 20 minutes in his second game back from contact tracing. While he only missed a few games, you could tell that they missed both his offensive versatility and tenacity on the boards. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Bucks might never lose a game again if Lopez and Portis combine to score 44 points. Bobby did the majority of his damage inside and he has such a soft touch around the rim...I am a big fan of his push shot in the paint.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • The Donte DiVincenzo roller coaster ride continued on Saturday and while he struggled offensively, he did everything else well. He crashed the glass relentlessly and finished with 14 rebounds in 31 minutes. Seven assists and three turnovers in a game where Giannis was out and the ball was forced to be spread around is serviceable, IMO.
  • Pat Connaughton started in place of Antetokounmpo and was just okay in 31 minutes (nine points on eight shots).
  • Jeff Teague had five assists and no turnovers in 18 minutes which is a positive development since he’s only been in a Bucks uniform for about 36 hours.
  • The Sacramento Kings...I feel sorry for their fans, they deserve better.
  • For the second consecutive game, the Bucks were outscored from the three-point line but still won.

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