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Milwaukee vs. New York: Escape From NY, With a W

It got ugly, but a win is a win.

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Do they award bonus points for style, for flair, for aesthetics? No? Good. The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the New York Knicks last night, and it was far from beautiful. The most important thing is that this game is over, and that Khris Middleton might be back very soon.

Don’t get me wrong, getting a win on the road is always a good thing, especially when it puts you at 15-5 and solidifies your status as a top-3 team this early in the regular season (the only teams with 15+ wins so far are the Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics, who are enjoying some hot jump shooting compared to league averages). But the upcoming schedule is why the regular season is referred to as a “grind;” after Friday’s matchup against the Lakers, Milwaukee will play a game at least every other day all the way through their December 25 matchup against the Celtics. Not only that, there is a fair amount of travel involved in this stretch, most of it eastward. Fully integrating key pieces like Middleton and Pat Connaughton (who’s still finding his sea legs) and eventually Joe Ingles is a crucial component of Milwaukee’s success this season, and the next few weeks are a tough environment in which to do just that.

Three Things

Giannis was in pass-first mode, and his teammates could not cash in. There are certain times where you can just tell that our beloved Greek Goof is hunting for assists, and tonight was one of those times. Milwaukee was ice-cold from three, especially in the early goings, and it’s tough to say where things went wrong because some of those looks were good. Giannis has long been a fan of the posted-up cross-court one-armed pass into the corner, and those dishes were on-point tonight...the shots just didn’t fall, as the Bucks failed to break 30% as a team. When he didn’t try and emphasize his playmaking, Giannis was of course his usual dynamic self. Like this!

Or this!

It was a tough game for Milwaukee’s front court. Brook Lopez has been fantastic – DPOY-level fantastic, in fact – to start this season, but the Knicks actually provided some challenges for him tonight. Between Jalen Brunson’s crafty floater game and Mitchell Robinson’s impossibly-long arms, the Knicks created a decent number of shots in the paint compared to most Bucks opponents. It helped that Robinson vacuumed up an ungodly number of rebounds – 20 total and 12 offensive, to be precise – and led New York to win the rebounding battle 64-57. Combine all that with Bobby Portis’ improved-but-still-exploitable defense and the fact that Giannis fouled out of this game, tonight’s win was not without warts.

Giannis took a lot of jump shots today. Some might say “too many,” and on some level you’d be right. Despite his 37 points, Giannis made 2 of his season high 8 three-point attempts, and while some of them come on walk-up “dare you” shots that the defense freely concedes, others are early in the shot clock and low on the list of preferred outcomes for an offensive possessions. Giannis gets to take those shots, but in close games those decisions stand out a little bit more, even if the end result wipes away the memory.

(No, I can’t believe I spent all three items in this section finding things to complain about, either! After a win! Something’s wrong with me!)

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • To start, this has nothing to do with the game. This is more of an open letter, calling out former Brew Hooper @bucksthot for her insistence on promoting the idea of the Reverse Cam. You know, the in-arena “entertainment” that is fraying the very fibers of our nation. I’m thankful that the Knicks have enough decency to not engage in such behavior, and I hope everyone here will join me in denouncing the practice. Food goes in, not out!
  • On the flip side, Madison Square Garden has an organist playing contemporary songs during play, and it gives the game a fun vibe. I don’t want every arena to have a pipe organ and I hold DJ Shawna in high esteem, but it’s one of those little things that gives credence to MSG’s reputation.
  • Grayson Allen’s game-winning three was his only three-point make of the evening. Neat!
  • Jevon Carter took on the challenge of guarding Jalen Brunson, while Jrue Holiday drew the off-guard assignment for most of the night. This led Holiday to a fair amount of freelancing, and shows an impressive amount of trust in Carter’s stability on that end.
  • In the second quarter, Jrue Holiday blocked an Obi Toppin corner three, emphatically. It was awesome.
  • Giannis missed a point-blank finger roll layup in transition after the Bucks had missed consecutive three-point attempts. It was not awesome.
  • Pat Connaughton is back! And by “back,” I mean “getting hit in the face while playing basketball!”
  • This isn’t new news, but Giannis’ free throw routine has changed again, and once again it’s taking longer than 10 seconds. Many fans have noticed this, but Giannis seems to be challenging the refs (and the league) to force him into speeding up; until then, keep practicing that deep breathing, big fella. And keep practicing after the buzzer, why not?

Not a ladder to be seen!

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