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Milwaukee vs. Atlanta: Undefeated and Peachy

Stellar late game execution from Giannis and Holiday moves the Bucks to 5-0

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What a thriller! The Bucks remain undefeated through the first five matchups of the 2022–23 NBA season, vanquishing the Hawks 123-115 before a sellout crowd at Fiserv Forum on Saturday evening thanks to some late-game heroics on both sides of the ball from their stars.

Milwaukee came out a bit cold at first on the second game of their back-to-back after taking out some visitors from The Big Apple on Friday, missing all but one of their first eight attempts. Atlanta looked pretty fresh coming off their own back-to-back of their inbound from Detroit, knocking down 5 of their 9 threes. Trae Young cooked early with 17 first-quarter points on only 9 FGA. Lopez hit his first five shots from the field, including a couple of corner threes, as the Bucks tied it up at 21. They grabbed the lead while Giannis rested on the bench, concluding the period up 32-30.

We got our earliest MarJon Beauchamp sighting yet when the second began (more on him below) as the Bucks weathered an underwhelming start from Giannis, building a lead that briefly grew to 10 thanks to the continued sweet shooting of Lopez, who buried another couple of treys on his way to 19 first-half points. Giannis checked back in with just over two minutes remaining for Milwaukee to finish the second +6, equating in a 59-51 advantage at intermission.

For the fourth consecutive contest, Giannis came out of the locker room hungry. While he still had trouble getting hook shots to fall, he attacked inside aggressively enough that good things started to happen, even if it was simply freeing up space for teammates to put up floaters. He scored 13 in the third... but Young’s 16 exceeded him, even though the Hawks’ guard was scoreless in the second. Atlanta cut Milwaukee’s edge to 4 briefly before things evened out thanks to Holiday’s 14 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting in the quarter, and the home team was ahead 91-84 after three.

Jrue’s brother Justin helped the Hawks make it a one-possession game in the opening minutes of the final quarter, and several missed free throws by Giannis shrunk that lead to one at the fourth’s midpoint. Two Young floaters tied it at 104, but Giannis immediately put John Collins on a poster mere seconds later. Young followed that up with three to briefly give the Hawks their first lead at 107-106 before Giannis threw another one down inside on a putback. From there, the Bucks managed to stay barely ahead into the final minute. DeJounte Murray, Young, and Giannis traded clutch jumpers before Bud called a timeout up one with 27.8 remaining. He drew up a nice two-man action for Holiday and Giannis atop the key; the former paid it off for his 32nd and 33rd points of the evening on a silky lefty floater:

A De’Andre Hunter offensive foul before the inbounds ensuing pass put the ball back in Milwaukee’s hands with 23.2 left, and they had no choice but to foul Holiday as he brought the ball up the court. Though he missed the back end of the two attempts, Wesley Matthews corralled the offensive rebound, and Giannis headed back to the line to the serenade of MVP chants from the sellout crowd. After sinking them both, the ball ended up in his hands one last time thanks to a patented Marques Johnson “GIMME DAT!” strip of Young by the ever-wily Holiday, putting the icing on the cake with a fastbreak dunk that tied both Bucks with a team-high 34.

At 5-0, the Bucks will take Sunday off before welcoming the Pistons (who will also be on the second game of a back-to-back) on Halloween for the first of two games to cap off the homestand. Spooooooooky!

Three Bucks

Splash Mountain stays open well into autumn. Brook Lopez hit his first 6 shots from the field—including four triples—before a heat check caromed off the rim late in the second quarter. With 19 points in the half on 8 shots (only missing one of his six 3PA), his shooting buoyed the Bucks through a combined 5/17 first half by Giannis and Holiday. Lopez had only 2 in the second half, but they were big ones to put Milwaukee back up 3 with 3:13 remaining. In the postgame press conference, Bud credited him with sparking the team early to pick them up on the SEGABABA.

Giannis’ first half was downright bad, but whoa did he make up for it. It sure didn’t look pretty through 24 minutes of game time: -9 with just 4 points on 1/7 shooting including an uncharacteristic missed dunk. The rest of the way he was 10/15 from the floor and 9/15 at the line. He converted his last 6 attempts to finish 11/22, tying Holiday with a team-high 34. Perhaps the most impressive was this turnaround baseline fadeaway off the glass to put the Bucks up 3 with 50 seconds left.

Jrue Holiday’s jumper is back, heralding the breakout offensive night we pined for. Holiday entered last night’s action shooting a putrid 22.9% on jumpers, and though none of his first four looks outside the restricted area fell, it didn’t deter him from taking advantage of what the Hawks (and Giannis) gave him. When he hit a nice teardrop followed by a reverse bank shot late in the second—followed by two steals in short succession—it felt like a turning point. Sure enough, he didn’t miss any of his six attempts in the third (and only one of his four in the fourth) on his way to 24 second-half points. It wasn’t just all the floaters either, his jumper looked as good as it has all season. He even drained a baseline J over the backboard in the third. As a bonus, he even got to the line seven times. After the game, I asked him how Giannis helped key his big night, and he also told us about how his teammates picking him up on defense spurred him on:

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Uniform rant: Milwaukee debuted their new “Statement Edition” alternate jerseys tonight, otherwise known as the black Fear The Deer jerseys or third jerseys, though they apparently no longer pair them with a black alternate court as they had in years past. I was never a fan of the previous set—even though they were what Milwaukee wore when they won the 2021 NBA title—due to the likely-unintentional thin blue line reference and the fact that they were lazily reused versions of the Bucks’ lovely original cream City Edition threads, but I guess I like these new ones a little better. Just wish there was more visible green because without green, is it a Bucks jersey? Still, these continue the reusing pattern established with erstwhile jerseys, this time a recolored version of the 2020–21 “Earned Edition” alternates. For my money, their best black jersey is still the original Statement/third/FTD deer head jerseys. They grew on me to the point that I kinda loved them, and I don’t even like “black for the sake of black” jerseys. Related: I wonder when we’ll see this year’s City Edition (rumored to be back in blue with a neat side paneling pattern), now that we’ve seen the awesome purple Classic Edition and these new Statement Editions?
  • Trae Young dropped a game-high 42 in this one on 15/32 shooting, finding nylon from all over the court. Maybe due to his aforementioned tired legs, Holiday didn’t exactly wow when taking over the primary assignment on Young, which initially went to Carter. As he is wont to do, he picked Young up often well before crossing midcourt. That precluded much offensive involvement from Carter, but ultimately, Young is one of those players you tip your cap to for some crazy-good shotmaking that overcomes great defense. Otherwise, the Bucks attacked the well-known defensive liability early and often, getting him switched onto action that freed up some shooting room for Bucks like Holiday.
  • Jordan Nwora rebounded nicely from a stinker against the Knicks with 11 on 3/6 shooting, including three trips to the line, capping off his scoring with a big and-1 early in the fourth. Maybe he took the fact that Beauchamp entered before him last night to heart.
  • Wesley Matthews was a bright spot off the bench defensively, plus pulled down 7 boards. Bobby Portis’ last two nights have been rougher after a nice first three performances: he finished the evening with 9 points on 12 shots to go with 10 rebounds. Still, he found himself in one of the Bucks’ closing lineups, a big unit that Bud pointed to specifically as a successful one when they needed some stops in the last four minutes. Portis was +4 during that stretch.
  • Not much help from Grayson Allen (2 points on 1/5 shooting in 20 minutes) or George Hill (scoreless on one shot in 16 minutes), but the former’s lone bucket was a powerful tomahawk to finish off a transition opportunity, and the latter at least finished +9 with some very fine defensive possessions on Atlanta’s guards. Hill also closed the game in the backcourt alongside Holiday, taking Carter’s place.
  • Lopez’s first triple came off a delightful behind-the-back pass from Jevon Carter to the corner which drew some big-time oohs from the Fiserv onlookers:
  • After Justin checked in for Atlanta at the 3:42 mark of the first quarter to join Aaron and Jrue on the other side, it meant there were more paid Holidays on the court than I ever had in the corporate world. Jrue greeted his big brother with a drive right into the teeth of the Atlanta defense, and Justin responded in kind by hacking him on his way up for an and-1.
  • MarJon Beauchamp started the second quarter in his first non-garbage time action. He threw the ball away on his first touch but buried a corner three on the next possession. In just under seven first-half minutes—his only game action—he generally fit in. I asked Bud post-game what he thought of the rookie’s biggest NBA minutes yet:
  • The halftime entertainment tonight will be hard to top: a weiner dog race. Dachshund derbies are a common feature of many Oktoberfests I’ve been to, and the Bucks did it one better by getting the Doxies in costume. Milwaukee: we dogs!

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