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Milwaukee vs. New Orleans: Laissez Les Buck Temps Roulez

New year, same winning streak

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

In a New Year’s Day revenge game, the Bucks took down the Pelicans by a score of 136-113 thanks in large part to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 27th career triple-double, his second of the year. The Greek Freak poured in 35 points on 12/18 shooting (including 9/12 at the line and 2/4 from deep), 16 boards, and 10 assists in just 32 minutes. Jordan Nwora contributed 23 off the bench and Jrue Holiday kept up his recent stretch of productivity with 21.

Even with a 5:30pm CST tipoff, it was a rough start for both teams in this one. The Pelicans and Bucks combined to shoot just 6/25 in the opening 6 minutes and for 10 turnovers in the quarter. 12 of New Orleans’ first 14 points came off Milwaukee turnovers. Perhaps a bit too much revelry on New Year’s Eve? A 9-0 Bucks run after the 4:25 mark put them in front and they led 27-24 after one.

New Orleans shot their way back in front early in the second while catching Milwaukee defenders on switches like gnats in a spiderweb, briefly holding a 7-point lead. However, consecutive threes from Nwora and Bobby Portis started a 14-3 Bucks run to snatch back the lead in just over 2 minutes. They maintained a single-digit advantage through the rest of the half, going into the locker room up 64-56. Giannis led all scorers with 17 points on just 8 shots.

The closest the Pelicans would get—in the early stages of the third—was 6, after which point the Bucks embarked on a 21-7 run to really start separating from their undermanned opponent. They’d build the lead up to 19 and were ahead 96-82 after three. Milwaukee stayed hot from behind the arc, shooting 5/10 in the period after a sizzling 7/13 in the second.

From that point on, it was pretty academic as the Pelicans could never get closer than 14. The main storyline was if Giannis—who came into the fourth with 7 dimes—could put together his second triple-double of the season. He did with 6:55 to go and exited the floor soon after to “MVP” chants as the Bucks’ lead increased to 23. Bud actually re-inserted Giannis a couple of minutes later when that number waned to 15 and naturally, it would finish back at 23 for a 136-113 final.

Three Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player on planet earth. No matter the opponent, very few players can accomplish such an efficient and high-scoring triple-double as Giannis did last night. As mentioned in the rapid recap, all ten of his assists were on three-point buckets. Both Nwora and Grayson Allen pointed out postgame just how much attention New Orleans gave him, allowing them wide-open looks from the perimeter. No matter how much the Pelicans threw at Giannis, though, there was no stopping him. The strength advantage he possessed over their active big men was frankly unfair. His recent performances definitely merit Eastern Conference Player of the Week consideration.

Nwora The Scora is back, if for just a game. With Khris Middleton and other Bucks out last night (more on that below), Nwora seized the opportunity in his first game action since December 23rd. The second-year forward finished with 23 points and 4 boards on 9/11 shooting, going 5/7 from deep in just under 19 minutes. He did not enter until the start of the second but quickly made his mark with 8 points in the quarter. It’s not easy to tag back in after time off and have such a productive game, even against a bad team.

Jrue Holiday has shot at least 50% in his last ten appearances. His last five shooting performances: 8/14, 8/13, 8/11, 8/14, 8/14. Holiday struggled to finish at the rim earlier in the year but has improved in the direction of his career average in the restricted area (61.2%), now at 58.8% after starting the season below 50%. Also speaking of the number ten: he’s made his last ten consecutive free throws. After the game, Giannis made the case that he should be an All-Star as his numbers begin to creep above last year’s. Holiday also had this beaut, a pass whose angle was directly in line with my view from the press box:

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • About an hour before tipoff, New Orleans announced that star forward Brandon Ingram would sit with left Achilles soreness. With Jonas Valanciunas in the league’s health and safety protocols, the Pelicans were missing their top two scorers.
  • A half-hour before tip, Donte DiVincenzo was scratched with a left ankle sprain that apparently occurred during his pregame routine. That’s the same ankle he had surgery on last June. After the game, coach Mike Budenholzer wouldn’t address it beyond stating that “he twisted it during warmups.” DiVincenzo appeared in three games upon returning from the offseason procedure; I imagine we’ll get an update by Monday.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo also was placed into the health and safety protocols in the afternoon.
  • Khris Middleton missed this one for personal reasons, as announced the previous day. Pat Connaughton started in his stead.
  • Rodney Hood also saw his first game action since December 23rd thanks to the above absences. He was scoreless in 12 minutes.
  • Facing his former employer, DeMarcus Cousins was the only Buck with a negative plus/minus (-10) on the evening, tallying 5 points on 6 shots in 18 minutes.
  • We know Allen mainly as a spot-up shooter on the three-point arc, but he had two great cuts along the baseline last night: Holiday found him on the first for an easy lay-in from the dunker’s spot, then he pulled off an impressive reverse layup through traffic in the third.
  • Giannis and Portis each got T’d up in the first half; it was Giannis’ first technical of the year.
  • Recent hardship exception signing Javin DeLaurier made his NBA debut with 2:48 remaining, picking up his first career rebound and steal. His 10-day contract is set to expire today, but with two Bucks back in the protocols, he may get another one.
  • New Orleans shot a woeful 8/16 from the charity stripe in the first half. They got to the line a whopping 13 times in the fourth, hitting 11 to boost their percentage to a still-bad 63.3%. Milwaukee (well, mostly Giannis) shot exactly 20 percent better at 15/18.
  • This was Bud’s 400th career W. Congrats Coach!
  • I sincerely hope that all of you remain healthy and are vaccinated, but if you do find yourself in some health & safety protocols, Giannis has some good advice on how to pass the time:

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