The Milwaukee Bucks got some pleasant news ahead of last night’s matchup with the Utah Jazz, as we got our first look (in a very long time) at both Brook Lopez and George Hill, who returned to action in a thrilling win over the Jazz. The game itself matters less than the health of those two key contributors, so while moral victories don’t show up in the standings this one still felt pretty good.
It probably feels better because the Bucks actually won. So there’s that.
Seriously, welcome back Brook and George. Hill was the first one back on the court, entering the court about halfway through the first quarter. Lopez had to wait until the start of the second, and everyone on the Bucks’ bench seemed thrilled to have them both out of street clothes. Brook started off by missing a pair of threes (badly) but forced a point-blank miss from Rudy Gobert on the other end. He also reasserted his presence on the court with the refs:
And now as he is going to the bench, he is telling the officials that Rudy Gobert has not been guarding anyone and should get whistled for a defensive 3 seconds. https://t.co/KPXY8R0iB7— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 15, 2022
Hill was predictably understated in his return to action, but Brook dove back in head-first. He was uncharacteristically handsy on defense, committing a number of fouls that he’s usually able to avoid. Chalk it up to rust; the guy has been out since October, and all we need from him is to get back on track over the next dozen games. Lopez played 14:32 while Hill played 13:32; look for those numbers to slowly and subtly increase in the coming weeks.
Late or early, this Bucks team does not fold. The first quarter flood from Utah was the sort of performance that would set the tone of the game for Bucks teams of years past. These Bucks simply stick with it and work what works for them, and what may have become an early blowout instead became yet-another double-digit game for Milwaukee by the end of the first half. That resiliency is gonna come in handy, because...
Bucks have missed all six shots they've taken in the third quarter. The Jazz have not.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 15, 2022
That's a 10-0 run to Utah and they now lead, 69-68, with 9:11 left in the third quarter. Another lackluster start to the third quarter.
ABOLISH THE THIRD QUARTER. Seriously, why do we even need the third quarter? Hockey doesn’t have a third quarter, and they’re doing fine! The Bucks re-took the floor with little of the urgency or execution that defined their second quarter turnaround, continuing the troubling trend we’ve gotten all too familiar with.
Bucks need a “Third Quarter Free” ticket promo where they give you 25% off as compensation for watching them attempt to play basketball in third quarters— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) March 15, 2022
By the numbers, Milwaukee was outscored 34-21 but it felt way worse. Thankfully, Milwaukee’s stellar fourth quarter performance to close out the game papered over the angst Bucks Twitter felt earlier in this one.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Weird rim mics in Utah. The Jazz clanked three of their first four three point shots, and it definitely sounded like a clank. But the snap on the net on makes sounds extra crisp, so I suppose it makes the trade-off worthwhile.
- Giannis ended up with an isolation on Rudy Gobert in the lane early on in the first, and he spun his way into a traditional hook shot (which dropped in). We don’t see a ton of traditional post moves from Giannis, but it’s nice to see them work out when he does use them, and he ended up using them a bunch tonight.
- Soon after having a shot attempt smothered by Hassan Whiteside, Giannis forced Utah into a timeout by getting some revenge:
- The Jazz hit ten threes in the first quarter. That matched the league-high for threes made in a single quarter by a team this season. Ten threes, but they ended up leading Milwaukee by only two points for the period. “How is that possible?” you may ask. The Bucks hit 11 two-point field goals (compared to 4 for Utah) in the quarter, buoying their offense amidst the Jazz’s barrage.
- Speaking of threes, behold the simple corner three that brought Bucks Twitter to tears:
- The Utah crowd does not appreciate it when they feel like Rudy Gobert hasn’t gotten a deserved call. The sheer amount of audible discontent in the ESPN broadcast is staggering whenever Gobert hit the deck (usually with his hands upraised, pleading for the ref’s favor), Jazz fans are right there with him. A very supportive fanbase.
- Mike Budenholzer gets a lot of attention for his sideline expressions, but Quin Snyder deserves some too. One looks like he forgot his ID and can’t get into the club, but the other looks like an evil supervillain whose scheme is about to be foiled by a suave international spy. I’m just saying, there’s something there.
- The third quarter started with a pair of three-point clunkers from Bobby Portis, quickly followed by a Mike Conley three, a Rudy Gobert alley-oop, and a Royce O’Neal leak-out. Not the most fun 7-0 run to witness to open the second half.
- In the midst of the Bucks’ third quarter woes, Khris Middleton pulled off a nifty left-handed shot from the left baseline behind the backboard that required a perfect angle to convert. Khris found that angle; it was a lovely respite from the rest of the suckage that defined the third period of play. Not to be outdone, Jrue Holiday hit a jumper from the same spot early in the fourth that was somehow further behind the backboard.
- Holiday also hit a tough lefty layup against Rudy Gobert at the very end of the third quarter, but the shot ended up getting reviewed and was not released in-time. Too bad, it was a crafty finish.
- The crunch-time lineup as Milwaukee protected a modest lead was the Big Three flanked by...Wes Matthews and Jevon Carter. In related news, the Bucks lost the rebounding battle, 56 to 54.
- But it deserves to be said: Jevon Carter got fouled with 12.9 second remaining and his team up two...and Carter calmly and cleanly hit both free throws. Salute.
- Giannis played the final 5:11 despite accumulating five fouls, and he played his normal, aggressive self. Yet another example of his maturation as a player.
- Milwaukee has a 31-9 record when all three of Jrue, Giannis, and Khris play together this season. A pleasant omen of things to come.
- As the ESPN commentators were all too happy to point out (repeatedly), the Bucks have not won in Utah since 2001.
It's been 7,440 days since we won in Utah - until tonight. pic.twitter.com/SDiwiSGfW3— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 15, 2022