Milwaukee kicked things off with some excellent defensive activity with consistent and on-time rotations, and coverage that forced the ball out of James Harden’s hands during Brooklyn’s possessions. Bobby Portis was particularly effective, amassing 10 points in the period and the Bucks carried a 29-21 lead at the end of one. The Nets started to slowly bridge the gap at the beginning of the second quarter, partially due to Giannis Antetokounmpo drawing his third personal foul before the 9 minute mark. However, Brooklyn’s cold snap wouldn’t allow them to build enough momentum, and the Bucks built an 11-point advantage by halftime, leading 60-49. The two teams traded blows in the second half, but Giannis and Khris Middleton pulled off a 10-0 run in the third quarter to balloon the Bucks lead even further, all the way to 98-80 by the start of the fourth. The Nets found some life early on in the final period, but this dime from Giannis to Portis nearly snuffed it out.
Nets coach Steve Nash did not opt to return Kevin Durant or James Harden to the court, and the Bucks closed out the victory on national TV to end their two-game losing streak.
There’s something about Bobby Portis this year. Admittedly, the majority of his success against Brooklyn was probably due to the comparative lack of size (the Nets’ only true bigs tonight were Nic Claxton and LaMarcus Aldridge), but it feels like something’s there that wasn’t there before with Bobby. Surely, the Bucks have employed more of a blitzing defense during Brook Lopez’s absence, which seems to better suit Bobby’s mobility in these sorts of matchups. So while a Bobby-Giannis-Khris frontcourt offers a ton of offensive versatility, the fact that these lineups seem to have some juice on defense is an excellent indicator for the future of the Bucks’ center position. Portis isn’t going to put up 25/12 every night, but he doesn’t need to. When he has his jump shot going Milwaukee is a juggernaut on offense…and if they can also survive on defense…watch out.
We at Brew Hoop wish Darvin Ham well wherever his career takes him next. The lead assistant coach took on the top gig tonight as Mike Budenholzer is away from the team and in the health and safety protocols. Coach Ham has been a top candidate over the past few years when teams are looking to bring in a new head coach, and it feels like this may be something of a farewell tour in Milwaukee. This is a good thing, of course, since Coach Ham has put in the work for years, and it showed tonight. Milwaukee came prepared and, despite missing their entire backcourt, the Bucks held Brooklyn’s starting guards (Patty Mills and James Harden) to a combined 19 points on 23 shots, while also forcing Harden to cough up 5 turnovers.
Ham will, sooner or later, become another notable branch of the Budenholzer Coaching Tree (which itself is an offshoot of the Popovich Coaching Tree) and sometimes you just have to enjoy what you have while it lasts.
Showering Coach Ham with a victory ice bath. pic.twitter.com/eURWl4Gh9v— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 8, 2022
We at Brew Hoop also wish Semi Ojeleye well wherever his career takes him next. This is not meant to be a slight, but it’s clear that his development in Milwaukee is not working out. He doesn’t have a significant role, and he shouldn’t have one. Even with the minutes he does get, Semi doesn’t offer enough positives on offense or defense to make his playing time impactful; tonight, Ojeleye played nearly 11 minutes and accumulated 5 personal fouls…and that’s it. As a result, many fans have also concluded that that’s it.
Still, this is probably an unfair assessment, as Semi’s season has been hampered by extensive downtime caused by a calf injury and recurrence, as well as the health and safety protocols. He toiled away in Boston during his rookie contract and missed most of training camp and preseason. There still might be a valuable basketball player to be found there. With all that said, at this point, it isn’t evident how he’s helping the team when he plays. That doesn’t mean he can’t help the team…
Jon Horst is going to find a way to flip Semi into a competent bench player and the league is not ready for that— Kyle Carr (@KyleCoche) January 8, 2022
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Wes Matthews was active early on offense, posting up on Nets rookie David Duke Jr for an and-one and then blowing by Kevin Durant on a pump fake into a layup. He seems reinvigorated since taking a sabbatical in Los Angeles, and we’re glad to see it.
- Bobby Portis absolutely booted a breakaway dunk in the first quarter. It was one of the more egregious missed dunks I can remember recently; he took off a little further than normal, but there was simply no one around him. No one. And then! Then! In the fourth quarter, he was leading the fast break and was given an open pass from Jordan Nwora – who isn’t known for his passing! – and Bobby just fumbled it out of bounds. He had a great game, a fantastic game, but those two plays had me saying…
- Giannis Antetokounmpo closed the first quarter with a pull-up midrange jumper with less than 2 seconds remaining. In the Brew Hoop group chat, Andrew Goodman commented that it was a very LeBron-esque shot to take in that situation. Did anyone else make that association?
- Langston Galloway pulled off one of the most difficult touch passes I can remember seeing; he caught a fastball from Khris Middleton and, in midair in the corner, immediately placed the ball in the hands of a streaking Bobby Portis for an easy layup. He played 20 minutes and totaled 6 points and 4 assists; not bad for a 10-day contract debut.
- There was a ton of talk about Sandro Mamukelashvili tonight. Not because he had a breakout performance or anything (4 points, 4 rebounds, including 3 offensive boards), but because he apparently has the second-longest surname in NBA history. Neat. Still, Mamu was able to keep his composure and share the court with a trio of MVPs on ESPN, so that in and of itself is a pretty good night for the Seton Hall grad.
- Wes Matthews knocked knees with Kevin Durant in the third quarter, which for a second seemed like a scary situation for him…and an unlucky situation for the Bucks’ salary cap sheet, as Wes just had his contract guaranteed today.
- Nic Claxton earned a well-deserved ovation by dunking on Giannis as the Greek Freak came over to contest the shot as Claxton sprinted down the lane. Giannis doesn’t get yammed on often, but when he does, it’s usually a highlight play. This one was…fine, not the best dunks-on-Giannis, but if you’re on the losing side you gotta take it where you can get it.
- Milwaukee got outscored in the paint by twenty (62-42)…and won easily. Brooklyn was simply dismal from distance, shooting 6-for-27 (22.2%) on threes while Milwaukee managed a respectable 16-for-45 (35.6%).
- Luke Kornet played! So did Jeff Dowtin Jr!