Well, that was a thrill to watch. In the first game of the 2023-24 season, the Bucks were able to get the job done against the Philadelphia 76ers and snagged a 118-117 victory.
The Bucks would race out to the first lead of the game, paced by Antetokounmpo’s five points in rapid fashion. The utilization of the pick-and-roll from Dame and Giannis challenged the Sixers defense and Milwaukee got some good looks out of it. Griffin would give both Giannis and Lopez a break simultaneously, which allowed the Sixers to drive some action at the rim. The Bucks still owned a 30-23 advantage heading into the second.
The first Damian Lillard spark came in the second quarter. It’d begin with an incredible off-balance four-point play where he drilled a three, bringing Fiserv to its feet. The Bucks would hold their biggest lead of the night to that point before Philly would start to scratch back. At half, Lillard boasted 21 points to lead Milwaukee and assist them in getting a 63-54 lead at the break. 17 of those came in the second quarter.
The Sixers would storm out with a run to begin the third, silencing the Fiserv frenzy that came to life in the second. The third quarter would be geared more toward them, as Milwaukee just couldn’t muster anything to generate the offensive flash they saw in the second. Giannis was in foul trouble for the majority of the quarter, which slowed things down a bunch. Going into the fourth, the Bucks clung to a slim 88-85 lead.
It’d be a whole new ballgame in the fourth. The Sixers flipped the script and embarked on a run to give them their biggest lead of the night. However, the Bucks had that Damian Lillard guy on their end. He’d explode for 14 straight in the last four minutes of the game, swinging things back in Milwaukee’s favor. Ultimately, that was what gave them the juice needed for the 108-107 win.
Lillard would lead the Bucks in scoring, rattling off 39 total points. Giannis fell next in line, concluding his outing with 23 points.
Tyrese Maxey finished with 31 points, which served as the team-high for Philadelphia. Kelly Oubre Jr. was impactful off the bench with 27 points.
What Did We Learn?
We learned what it was like to see Dame and Giannis on the floor. We had seen it in the pre-season, but it was obvious that the Bucks saved most of their action for last night—and man, was it worth the hype. This game epitomized why the Bucks made this deal. On a night where Giannis wasn’t his typical self and Khris Middleton was on a minutes restriction, Lillard stepped up in a huge manner. Despite off nights from a bulk of the offense, his firepower proved to be enough momentum to snag the victory. I mean, this shot was absolutely wild:
It’s clear who will be the closer for the Bucks.
When the trade was made, there were some rumblings about who would have the ball in their hands late. Last night, we got the answer. It’s Damian Lillard. In the final minutes, the entire offense would flow through him. In fact, he buried 14 straight points in four minutes. It once again just proves how lethal it is that the Bucks have somebody other than Giannis that they can turn to when they need it in situations like that. Postgame, Lillard told us about the conversations he’s had with Giannis surrounding those late-game scenarios and who should be closing things out:
Damian Lillard had the ball in his hands down the stretch tonight, scoring 14 straight points in the final four minutes.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 27, 2023
He told us about conversations he's had with Giannis regarding closing games out, including Antetokounmpo giving him the keys late in the action tonight. pic.twitter.com/e0Bvxuunzx
It proves just how in agreement both Giannis and Dame are in their goals of winning a championship. In his postgame availability, Giannis chatted about how it’s crucial to go with whoever has the hot hand. If Dame’s hot, he’s the guy. If Khris is hot, he’s the guy. Both of them are pushing egos aside and are aware that they each possess their own unique skillsets and that each of them are crucial towards racking up victories.
Lillard wasted no time in making an impact.
At first, it seemed as if the offense wasn’t flowing through Dame as everyone thought it would. In the first half, he seemed passive and didn’t look like his typical self. He wasn’t slicing through the defense, wasn’t creating separation on threes... it just seemed... stagnant. However, that changed in the second quarter, which was when we got the first glimpse of what he can bring to the table offensively. Obviously, Dame Time arrived in the fourth and he totally flipped a switch. All in all, his 39 points served as the most points ever in a debut by a Milwaukee Bucks player.
Damian Lillard brings so much to the table.
Right away when the Bucks made the trade for Lillard, every fan dreamt of his first three going in and what it’d look like paired next to Giannis. However, his game features so much more than that. He’d get to the line 17 times on the evening, sinking all of them. For more perspective on this, let’s bring in the Brew Hoop co-founder Frank Madden:
We understandably focus on Dame's long-distance shooting, but his ability to draw fouls can be just as crucial in late-game situations. To put Dame's 17/17 FTs in context: Jrue never took more than 10 FTA in a single game in Milwaukee and his high over TWO games was 16 FTA— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) October 27, 2023
I mean, that just speaks levels and is pretty crazy to think about. It also makes you think about what that’ll be like come the springtime when the Bucks are embarking on their playoff run. Adrian Griffin hinted at that in his postgame availability:
He hit the nail on the head by characterizing Dame as a triple threat. He truly is lethal when it comes to the offensive side of the ball and provides the Bucks with so many weapons. It’s going to be quite enjoyable watching him fit in even more as the team chemistry grows and he becomes even more comfortable.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- As you might’ve expected, the crowd was pretty amped to see Dame. Here’s his first introduction by Eric Jensen:
- Giannis chase-down blocks are officially back on the menu:
Dang what a block by Giannis pic.twitter.com/hDuOMa7y2r— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 27, 2023
- And so is his competitiveness:
Giannis wasn't ready to be subbed out of the game pic.twitter.com/j5SwaYHxB2— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 27, 2023
- Here’s a Giannis stat:
With his eighth made field goal in tonight’s game, Giannis Antetokounmpo passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,902) for the most field goals made in franchise history (per @BucksPR)— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 27, 2023
- Last, MarJon Beauchamp got some run last night, finishing with 16:22 of action. He’d score four points, but his defensive activity shined when going up against Tyrese Maxey. Here’s what Griffin had to say post-game about it:
MarJon Beauchamp saw 16 minutes of impactful action tonight. Postgame, Adrian Griffin touted his defensive mindset, especially against Tyrese Maxey: pic.twitter.com/KaDD0GLE93— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 27, 2023
- Last, we have another Jackpot Shot thread...but no shot to start the year. Hopefully things bounce back on Sunday.
this tweet marks the beginning of the 2023-24 jackpot shot thread— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) October 27, 2023
we’re off and running with a wedgie on the final 3PA…no half-court attempt to begin the year