It took three and a half quarters, but the Bucks finally gained some separation late and defeated the Kings 126-113 in their sole visit to Milwaukee this year.
Sacramento runs the fourth-highest pace in the association, so both teams came out flying and knocking down shots. Last night had the early makings of a shootout as each squad kept burying jumpers before cooling off as the quarter wound down. Only Brook Lopez really offered any resistance, but the Kings made some floaters over him anyway. After one, the Bucks led 34-29.
Managing to prevent the Bucks’ advantage from growing past nine, the Kings were able to tighten things up with continued shotmaking and by dictating the pace of the game. Mike Budenholzer closed the half with a three-guard lineup (Holiday, Jevon Carter, and George Hill) to help slow the Kings down and got that nine-point edge back. It was 68-61 at half, with Giannis and Holiday each contributing 18.
Milwaukee jumped in front by 12 early in the third, but Sacramento used a 10-2 run to trim that back before Giannis picked up his fourth personal and hit the bench. Holiday then started to cook and rebuild the lead, breaking the 30-point mark with 2:36 left. Sabonis got the Kings back in it, though, getting fed the ball inside and earning some free throws along the way. Heading into the fourth, the Bucks were clinging to a 97-94 margin.
Giannis immediately re-entered but the Bucks couldn’t gain much separation through the midpoint of the frame. Holiday then subbed back in, and with some help from Grayson Allen, Milwaukee found themselves up 12 again as Sacramento went frigid from the field. They held serve from there, finishing off a 29-19 fourth.
Milwaukee now moves to 18-6 and head down to Dallas for their next tilt on Friday.
The good Jrue Holiday showed up last night. Every handful of games, he puts together a really big offensive effort with 31 points on 12/23 shooting. For someone who doesn’t get to the line much at all, he drew plenty of contact driving into the King’s defense. After taking six free throws on Monday in Orlando, he matched that Monday total by half. Postgame, he commented on heightening his aggressiveness, especially when Giannis was in foul trouble.
Bud shortened his rotation in more ways than one. With Wesley Matthews in the health and safety protocols, Bud both decreased the number of players he trotted out and decreased the size of the lineups he used. Sacramento hewed small at times with two or more of De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell, and Malik Monk on the floor. After the game, he explained this rationale and how it related to the Kings’ breakneck pace:
“We don’t play [Carter, Hill, and Holiday] together very much, but tonight was a night where both for transition defense and you know, trying to help us keep them out of transition, but also you know, just being able to chase them around in the half court too.”
Giannis hit nine of his ten free throws. And he still went out and shot some postgame. Last night was Greek night at Fiserv Forum (hence the Giannis Dad Joke Bobblehead Giveaway), so thousands of fans got to watch, which can’t hurt. He’s still not winning any awards for brevity and probably could have been called for at least one more ten-second violation, his work at the charity stripe staked him to an efficient 35 points on just 19 shots. I was paying attention to his breathing in watching him shoot free throws during warmups, so I asked him about how he thinks about breath and how a free throw is a rest opportunity:
“I can’t control my breathing, I don’t know when I’m gonna need it. Sometimes I’m gonna go to the line and I might not need to breathe because I’m not tired at all, and there’s gonna be times that I gotta breathe ten times and go ten seconds and I’m ok with that.”
Bonus Bucks Bits
- As mentioned, Matthews was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols in the afternoon leading up to the game. In the pregame presser, Bud essentially confirmed that Matthews indeed has COVID. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
- Commissioner Adam Silver was at this random December Wednesday Bucks-Kings game for some reason. I saw him in the tunnel about ninety minutes before tip, and soon after saw GM Jon Horst and team president Peter Feigen heading the same direction, also overhearing they were headed for a meeting. This is just my speculation, but maybe they’re making another pitch for the All-Star Game.
- With one of his trademark full-speed closeouts, Pat Connaughton had a block on a KZ Okpala corner three-point attempt in the first. Oh, how I missed thee. He later had an opportunity for a four-point play but missed the free throw.
- Man, the Kings treat every possession like it’s a transition opportunity. After a number of Bucks makes in the first half, they very quickly whipped the ball downcourt, where their halfcourt offense was already set. As the game went on this subsided, perhaps due to fatigue and the more mobile lineups Bud featured.
- For some reason, the refs whistled Giannis for what would have been his fifth with about 8 and a half left, though the foul was very clearly on Hill, who lobbied the refs to revise their call. It worked, though it looked like Kings coach Mike Brown wanted to challenge it.
- Giannis went down kind of hard on a foul by Chimezie Metu and stayed down for just long enough for the crowd to hold their breath before he shot up to their applause. In the presser, he said he wasn’t in pain after this at all, instead taking his pre-free throw breaths down there on his back. He also said at that moment he was thinking about the birthday funfetti cake his sons made for him last night. Liam and Maverick already are baking? Am I understanding this correctly? Because I sure can’t bake and I have a few decades on them.
- All five starters for both teams ended in double figures. Grayson Allen was the last one to get there, but he finished a game-high +20.
- Relevant minute totals: Middleton played 29 and Connaughton played 24. The former had a quiet 14/5/6 on 5/11 shooting, including a big stepback three in the fourth that upped a two-point lead to five.
- ICYMI, former Buck Matthew Dellavedova is back in the NBA and on the Kings, after a year back home down under. He exchanged pleasantries with Giannis, Middleton, and Ingles pregame and played the last 1:18.
- Speaking of Ingles, his recovery is going well enough to get some shots up and even do some cutting before this one:
Ingles progressing to on-court work pic.twitter.com/s5qfoSx366— Van Fayaz (@lohausfan) December 8, 2022
- Today in pettiness: when the horn sounded, the Bucks put on the jumbotron their version of “lighting the beam” with an animated green laser skyrocketing from Fiserv Forum. I respect them for trying, but I found it way too tame. Not that I really care about nettling the Kings.