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Milwaukee vs. Sacramento: Bucks Manufacture Win Over Kings

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Milwaukee Bucks leave California with one more in the win column after downing the Sacramento Kings 135-126. This contest was much closer than the final score would suggest, and in no small part due to everyone’s favorite former-Buck-who-technically-is-also-a-former-King, Donte DiVincenzo.

The main takeaway from this game is that the Bucks (once again) created a win where former iterations of this team would have failed to come back. After a solid first half and a halfway-decent third quarter, Milwaukee kept control of this game for long enough that a win was expected. The Kings fought back and fought hard, and Milwaukee shook off their mistakes to deliberately and methodically take back the lead over the course of the final period. It’s yet another instance of “turning it on” when it matters most, and the more this team keeps doing it...the more they prove that they can handle it.

We’ll see in May if it holds up, and if we’re lucky we’ll see again in June.

Three Things

The Bucks are good at offense and the Kings are bad at defense. One of the maddening things about the regular season – particularly in seasons where you’re defending the title – is that the games don’t really matter. More than that, the ones that don’t matter? They really don’t matter, and tonight was one of those games. Milwaukee certainly didn’t loaf around on defense, but they simply didn’t have to...try, not as hard as they will in a month. Part of that was the lack of effort required to score the basketball; Milwaukee shot over 50% from the field and from behind the three-point line, compiling 135 points on 89 field goal attempts. My advanced analytics (read: NBA.com’s box score) tell me that the Bucks also boasted a 122.7 offensive rating, which is so much higher than normal that it barely registers as a valid data point when looking ahead to the playoffs.

Still, execution matters regardless of the environment, and the Bucks did not fail to execute.

Khris Middleton is a smooth operator. He doesn’t get enough credit because he never gets enough credit, but Middleton was the steady influence Milwaukee needed in order to right the ship agains this feisty Kings squad. Moreover, Khris is the kind of player who gets to his spots when he wants to, and there’s not much the opposing team (or crowd) can do to stop it. When he has a bad game or goes through a cold streak, people are quick to point the finger at him as something inherently limiting to the Bucks, and I can only hope that the same attention is paid when Middleton does stuff like he did on Wednesday night.

Tonight’s game was special for me, personally. For anybody who knows me (or at least follows me on Twitter), you’ll know that I moved to Sacramento last year with my family. That in and of itself is not notable, but it’s been my third major move in my adult life (Wisconsin to New Jersey, then to Texas, now to California), all while maintaining my Bucks fandom as a core connection to the city where I grew up. Between that and the pandemic that’s knocked everything off-kilter (putting it lightly) in America for the last two years, Bucks basketball has been a constant for me that has brought me a fair amount of joy. It goes without saying, I don’t get to go to games often.

And tonight, I was able to share it for the first time with my oldest son.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • You wouldn’t know it from the box score, but Trey Lyles was the key piece of a Sacramento turnaround in the second-second quarter (a new term I’m using in place of the “third quarter” which shouldn’t exist and only causes problems).
  • Brett Favre was at the game! I don’t know why. But he was! And his grandson got a keepsake.

...my kid coulda gotten a sweaty jersey too, just sayin...

  • The Milwaukee defense was consistently overcommitting on drives, allowing ball handlers to kick out to open shooters in the corners, especially in the first half. That Sacramento shot as well as they did on threes (16-for-43) belies just how open some of those looks were.
  • Speaking of Sacramento’s offense, Point Donte got some good run tonight alongside new King Domantas Sabonis. DiVincenzo has had two stellar games in a row now, and is approaching restricted free agency with aspirations for a high-value contract. Glad to see him find success.
  • The halftime entertainment was your run-of-the-mill balancing act, but the tension was out of this world. The performer definitely did not exude the confidence you’d expect from such a show, and we’re all grateful that he didn't suffer a nasty fall during that break.
  • Giannis was spectacular in this game. He was also spectacular after the game. As usual.

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