Oh, victory tastes so, so sweet when it comes in a game the Milwaukee Bucks had no business winning, and doubly so when it comes against ol’ Jason Kidd and his Dallas Mavericks...what a 106-105 win it was.
It was a back-and-forth of silky shooting in the first period, with Luka Doncic pouring in 16 on his own, but the Bucks trailed merely 32-33. Shooting percentages for the Bucks dropped precipitously to start quarter number two, with an 0-9 opening few minutes from the field. They made up for that in spades with a late period spurt coupled with the Mavs going cold from deep, leading to a 52-48 advantage at half for the Bucks. A dismal third quarter was tough to watch for Milwaukee, as they mustered just 21 points to Dallas’s 36, putting the Bucks in a 73-84 hole heading into the fourth. Giannis Antetokounmpo finally came to life and his scoring spree helped Milwaukee re-take the lead, but he fouled out with three minutes left.
From there, it was an improbable ride with Dallas blowing free throw after free throw to leave the door open just enough that Splash Mountain could slam it shut right in Jason Kidd’s frowning little piehole.
What an ATO by the Bucks pic.twitter.com/No8aIc77OX— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 10, 2022
Giannis didn’t have it (until the fourth quarter). You can’t always expect your superstar to be superhuman night after night, but we’ve gotten used to the spectacular with eight straight 30+ point games for him, so tonight was utterly disappointing. Dallas threw multiple men at him at every opportunity. Whenever he drove into the paint, he got bumped by his own man and someone else digging into the paint. The only shot they let him get off without multiple contests was a three-pointer he hit early on. Finally, he got some momentum flowing in the fourth quarter finishing at the rim and scoring 15 in that frame alone. But he made silly fouls too many times, turned it over seven times and ended his 30+point streak after fouling out with three minutes left. He ended with 28 points and 10 boards on 10-20 shooting. He also said he called the ATO for Lopez though so, clutch work by him!
The Holiday kept Milwaukee Inn it. His final statline may not look all that much better than either of the other big three, but given he also had to hound Doncic all night, he more than held up his end of the bargain. His stepback was falling in this game, and he lasered some passes into the interior for slick finishes. Running pick-and-roll with Giannis near the end of the game was Milwaukee’s easiest path to steady offense, and he delivered clutch pocket passes down the stretch. He ended with 17 points and six assists on 13 shots.
Dallas blew it from the free throw line. They went 10-24 overall, missing their final five in the last few minutes which could’ve put Milwaukee away. It was the kind of choke job in which you almost could feel bad for them...but then you stare at the coach on the sideline, and any sense of empathy can gladly leave your body. Suck it Jason Kidd! What a sweet way to watch them choke.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- It’s been a bit of an adjustment period for Grayson Allen since Khris came back, so it was nice to see him get aggressive in the first with a DHO sequence with Giannis that ended with an and-one opportunity for him at the rim. It wasn’t his 3-point outburst like last time against Dallas, but 12 points and five assists for him on eight shots is a really solid evening.
- Someone in the comments should correct me if I’m wrong about this, but I don’t remember nearly as many possessions in past seasons where Giannis would bring the ball up and barely cross halfcourt before getting an 8-second violation. I can’t say I blame him since it’s a free chance at rest, but it also means Milwaukee isn’t really running anything on the offensive end until the shot clock is nearly halfway expired. I always lean on the side of getting sets going earlier, so I wouldn’t mind seeing this trend go the way of the dodo as the season wears on.
- Dallas was completely content shading extra men in Giannis’s direction, which made Milwaukee’s role players hitting triples even more vital to keep them close. Allen paid him off plenty early on.
- I had never heard of the Luke Kornet Kontest defense before I saw this clip a few days ago, but I think I saw our first example of it from the Bucks tonight! Wood was wide open for three in the second and Allen jumped up from the paint as a distraction.
- Brook Lopez, on consecutive possessions in the second, blocked Luka after a one-on-one defensive stand, followed up by obliterating a Christian Wood attempt.
- Khris Middleton is obviously still finding his rhythm on both ends of the court, as well as his conditioning, but I can’t say his defense has seemed up to snuff so far. Marques Johnson made a great point in the Kings game that he stuck with his man but didn’t have the legs for a proper contest at the rim. That felt like the case plenty against the Mavs too, but he also seemed to lose his man offball sometimes too.
- Planet Pat to Portis is lowkey one of the best Bucks on-court connections. Champagne and championship laughs forever.
- I liked the strategy in the second half of having Jrue pressure Doncic all the way past halfcourt to make him expend extra energy just bringing the ball up.
- After Dallas went up 78-66 in the third period, Bud went with a smallball lineup featuring Giannis at the five, Jrue, Khris, Hill and Connnaughton. It came on the heels of Dallas blistering Milwaukee in drop coverage off pick-and-pops. Despite some early success for the lineup, it couldn’t make up much of the margin. He tried it again to start the fourth, with Allen in for Holiday. Giannis finally got going in that permutation, but Dallas carved up the defense with Christian Wood hitting over switches onto small guards. It was frustrating.
- It’s a testament to Dallas that even when Giannis would drive into the lane, draw multiple defenders and kick out to the perimeter, the Mavs were still able to recover oftentimes to all their men and prevent easy jumpers.
- After sometimes starting, then going to the bench, and starting again, Portis has settled into the sixth man role and really found some offensive rhythm in his latest contests. It seems like almost any time he’s taking his man into the post and he can get to that nifty little 5-10 foot push/hook shot, I assume it’s going in. (Editor’s note: He missed his next hook shot after I wrote this. Sorry.) He’s even had runners where he’s driving off the closeout with enough touch to still rattle in.
- I try not to complain about refs, but there were certainly some questionable calls in this one, primarily when viewed through the lens of what Giannis doesn’t get away with and opponents get away with against him. Doncic knocked over Grayson with his shoulder, Middleton barely tapped Finney-Smith while going for a loose ball. Anyway, figured I’d mention at least a few I thought were a tad iffy.
- Great callout by Redick late in this game on a Holiday pass to Hill in the corner for a three. He immediately mentioned that Doncic was peeking into the lane watching something else. Jrue noticed and dished quick as he could. I didn’t catch it on the first pass.