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Milwaukee vs. New York: Ingles Finds Angles for Bucks Comeback

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Much and more has been made of the Milwaukee Bucks and their recent struggles. Last night against the New York Knicks, Milwaukee snatched victory from the jaws of defeat behind the steady play of Joe Ingles, and some late-game heroics from Jrue Holiday.

Three Things

Milwaukee’s offensive ineptitude really stood out in the first half. “We just need Khris Middleton back, wait until Khris Middleton comes back, I hope Khris comes back soon.” has been the months-long chorus, and some were singing it with fervor as Milwaukee failed to execute even the simplest offensive set once Holiday left the floor with three fouls in the game’s first four minutes. But even Khris couldn’t have saved the Bucks with some of these miscues. Missed shots are one thing, but bad passes, aimless dribbling, and errant inbounding did away with any margin for error the Bucks had. That Milwaukee didn’t trail by double-digits until the third quarter is as big of an indictment of New York as you can find; the Bucks were bad and the Knicks never could put them all the way away.

Joe Ingles to the rescue? At some point in the third quarter, I stopped caring about the game. I was fed up. I got to a point where I was convinced the Bucks wouldn’t shake out of their funk, at least not tonight. So instead of leaning forward and tracking all of the back and forth, I sat back and just watched. And what I saw, thankfully, is a team that hasn’t lost its heart. Milwaukee continued to compete on defense and, despite the offensive frustration, the Bucks did not resign themselves to their fate. On offense, though, they had lost their way. The Bucks might still have their championship edge, but the offense was a quagmire from which there is no escape…or so I believed.

From the 2:25 mark in the third quarter – when New York extended their lead to 16 points off of a Julius Randle and-one – the Bucks came roaring back, and Joe Ingles was at the helm.

Milwaukee went on a 20-8 run to close out the third quarter, keeping the game in reach. And Ingles’ final points of the night were what gave the Bucks their lead back – a nasty-looking pull-up three early in the fourth quarter. He didn’t win the game single-handedly, but this would have been a biting loss if it weren’t for Joe Ingles.

Jrue Holiday hits them when it counts. I mean this when I say this: Jrue had most of a bad night tonight. 15 points and 9 assists might not seem like a rough outing, but Holiday simply wasn’t making an impact for long stretches of the game. A massive part of this was being defanged on defense in the opening minutes; getting three fouls called on you is enough to take anyone out of his zone, particularly an All-Defensive Team guard. But Jrue’s heroics, as has often enough been the case, came through in the highest-pressure moments, and it never gets old.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Jalen Brunson was stress-testing the Bucks’ zone drop all night. As one of the league’s up-and-coming ball-dominant guards, Brunson walked into the space Milwaukee allowed him when running the pick-and-roll, strolling into easy midrange attempts. Brunson mustered 44 points (on 30 shots) tonight, and was the main reason New York controlled so much of the game.
  • Our Holy BlogFather captured this vintage Bad Bobby moment from early in the first quarter.
  • Both Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo got dinged for a traveling violation in the waning moments of the opening period. The league has been more open to blowing the whistle on walks this season, and it showed tonight as the two travels made up one-fifth of Milwaukee’s 10 first half turnovers.
  • Giannis was walled off from the rim for several stretches early on, and on one second quarter possession when Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson had limited his drive, Giannis wildly flipped the ball over his head…into the hands of Joe Ingles, who quickly moved the ball to an open Pat Connaughton in the corner for three.
  • MarJon Beauchamp still has some rookie growing pains to get through, but the dude is a plus-athlete.
  • Jrue Holiday’s foul trouble unlocked some aggression from Julius Randle. Re-entering the game in the second quarter, the Bucks used a lineup where Giannis was the only big on the floor, meaning Holiday was the team’s most capable defender against Randle. Knowing that Jrue couldn’t risk another whistle, Randle was relentless when backing Holiday down and successfully positioned himself for several buckets. It didn’t last, which goes to prove that basing your offense on Julius Randle post isos isn’t a sure fire path to victory.
  • Brook managed to block a Mitchell Robinson alley-oop that I’m still questioning how he managed without fouling.
  • Noted Bucks fan justinsuperbuck is always good for finding the silver linings when the team’s performance is lacking.
  • While the Bucks were playing small in the second half, Pat Connaughton’s rebounding turned out to make a world of difference on defense. With his leaping ability, he was able to snatch a handful of boards that other Bucks couldn’t reach, and secure possessions the team desperately needed to stay in this one.
  • Our good friend and former Brew Hooper Eric Nehm (of The Athletic) was recognized for his work over the past year, winning the Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year Award. Congratulations, Eric!
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the world, and he only now gets an actual mention in this recap. 22 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks, and it’s legitimately a disappointing statistical game from him. Basketball is a team sport, of course, but Giannis didn’t have the same impact against the Knicks’ interior, which limited his overall effectiveness. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking a positive from the fact that the team managed to spread the scoring load around more (7 Bucks scored in double figures) and that Giannis didn’t have to carry the team to victory. For once.

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