What looked like it might be an offensive affair in the first few minutes turned into a defensive frightfest in the second half as the Milwaukee Bucks got their first win of the season 90-88 while putting the poor Philadelphia 76ers at 0-2.
Giannis Antetokounmpo looked cool, calm and collected the entire time on the court, and even in what seemed like a game he was going at half his normal aggression level, he still put up 21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks. Jrue Holiday had a nightmare shooting night (2-15) which was offset on the other side by Joel Embiid nailing just 6-21. James Harden looked pretty good with a near 30-point triple double, and yes, it was pretty annoying. That made it even sweeter when he complained to no avail after a no-call on a potential game winner that bricked off the backboard.
Milwaukee got off to a 30-24 advantage after one, capitalizing from beyond the arc with 5-11 shooting from deep. An uneven offensive period followed, with Philly finding their offensive footing inside the arc. The Bucks took 55% of their shots from deep in the first half, Philly just 24%, setting up for an intriguing showdown with Milwaukee up 47-45. The Bucks coupled a stifling defensive third with a late offensive push to secure a 73-63 advantage heading into the final period. James Harden evaporated that lead within a few minutes of the fourth, as the Sixers did damage without Joel Embiid on the floor and evened up the contest for the final minutes. Milwaukee held tough and a clutch triple by Wes Matthews put the Bucks up for good before a timely make-and-miss sequence at the free throw line by Brook Lopez to secure the win.
Stat that Stood Out
Defense, in particular opponent shot frequency, is going to be what I’m watching all year long as the Bucks work on their new scheme. Last year, they allowed 41.8% of opponent attempts to come from deep. In their first regular season employment, they held the Sixers to just 28% of their shots from deep while allowing a heavy diet of midrange shots. That trend held true in the preseason, but opponents pummeled them inside. Tonight, they held the Sixers to just 53% at the rim on 28 attempts, a testament to Giannis and Brook.