Mike Budenholzer definitely draw up this Texas road trip ending on a sour note with a loss to the Houston Rockets, but that’s exactly what happened as the Milwaukee Bucks fell 97-92, shooting just 36.7% from the field overall.
It was a parade to the paint in the first period, with the Bucks finding their way inside whenever they wanted en route to a 25-19 advantage after the first quarter. The second quarter was sloppy by Milwaukee, with the Rockets young players ready to pounce in transition and in the pick-and-roll game, knocking down enough shots to take a 50-48 lead over the Bucks into half. It wasn’t pretty, but some three balls finally fell in the third quarter and a late offensive run helped Milwaukee regain some momentum and a 79-74 lead with one period to go. Despite that, the Bucks started to fall apart offensively in the final quarter, mustering merely 13 points in that period as the Rockets pulled ahead and snatched a 97-92 win that can’t be described as anything but disappointing for this Milwaukee team.
Khris Middleton hurt, again. What a disappointing development for Khris, who was quite clearly still trying to get himself back into real game shape, to be out after just six minutes. He came back into the game to start the second quarter, but left after just 93 seconds to make way for Jordan Nwora onto the court. I didn’t see him on the bench for awhile, and eventually the broadcast said he was ruled out with a left ankle sprain, which they later said came on a 3-point attempt. He could really use some reps to get back into rhythm as what’s been a tough shooting stretch since his first game. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. This is what Bud had to say after the game.
Khris Middleton was initially ruled out with a left ankle injury, but #Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said he wanted to check with their medical staff before offering any kind of update:— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) December 12, 2022
“He should be fine. It’s a couple of very minor things. Hopefully he’ll be fine.”
Giannis couldn’t find the rhythm. Despite scoring 44 points in their first matchup of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo just couldn’t get himself going against the Houston Rockets. After a few early dunks, he seemed insistent on trying to create for his teammates and utilize his gravity. On a night nobody could hit outside shots (12-43 as a team), that strategy did not exactly pay dividends. You would then say well maybe he should’ve attacked the basket a bit more, but even he was off as a shooter, with his 16 points coming on 17 shots. It was a pretty baffling performance from Giannis in what tied for his lowest scoring output of the seasonn.
Jrue Holiday remains steady as can be. For as much of a rollercoaster as he can be at times, his offensive contributions in the early season without Khris have been crucial for this team. It just seems when the team ever might be falling behind, he pulls a stepback or turnaround jumper out of his hat that quells any opposing tide. Despite the missed bunnies that can drive me crazy, Holiday was essential in this one, as he was all year, with timely scores and some highlight drives creating for teammates. Unfortunately, he was the only one in this game, and his 25 points and eight assists wound up going to waste.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- It is pretty jarring watching Milwaukee be able to cavalierly treat the Cavs pick-and-roll attack after the all-out attack required guarding Luke in the same action on Wednesday.
- Giannis started the game with four buckets, every single one was him yamming on the poor Rockets defenders.
- Jordan Nwora made his way back to the rotation after not seeing the floor against Dallas. I wonder when Beauchamp will (or if) he’ll be able to find his way back onto the court for meaningful minutes anytime soon.
- For most of the first half, it generally felt like Giannis decided he just wanted to go into assist rather than attack mode. Despite shredding through the Rockets defense almost at ease, many times he seemed to look for the kickout rather than trying to barrel through. I can’t say I blame him, trying to get others going and save himself some punishment against this team, but it certainly seemed purposeful.
- This was the case in the first Houston game too, but contests like this with the veteran savvy of Milwaukee against a team predicated on youth really illustrates the lack of athleticism on this roster. The spree in the second quarter of lob dunks and transition finishes made the Bucks look a lot more geezery than I usually feel.
- You know what wasn’t geezery though, Lopez meeting Eason at the apex here with this block. He’s had at least one highlight block in every game.
- Pat Connaughton continues to ride the strugglebus from deep. He was at 14-52 (26.9%) coming into this game, and was 1-6 from three too.