In the second game against the Washington Wizards in less than a week’s time, the Milwaukee Bucks once again struggled mightily defensively, even as they did just enough scoring to edge out a tight 131-128 victory.
The start of the game wasn’t particularly edifying for the referees or for the concept known as off-ball effort. There was plenty of confusion about who last touched the ball before going out of bounds, made worse in part because neither team had a ton of interest in strongly securing possession. Malik Beasley did a good job as a primary defender being a nuisance to Jordan Poole, poking and prodding even when the play was on the complete other side of the court. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard provided the Bucks offensive punch (four early assists and 10 points in the frame) including a great pocket pass to Giannis off a P&R look to tie things up at 26 with ~three minutes left in the first. Neither team could stop the other from scoring, and Washington held a minor lead, 35-34.
Where the start of the first was exemplified by middling effort, the start of the second was coast-to-coast chaos. Crazy steals, crazy passes, lobs, shot misses that just fell right back into the hands of the original shooter, etc. Acrobatic finishes from Pat Connaughton and Cam Payne in traffic put the cherry on top, and we weren’t even four minutes in! Then it all started going to pieces defensively (again), exemplified by a possession where Payne and Bobby Portis fell completely asleep and left Corey Kispert wide open for a three and a 50-44 Wiz lead. Milwaukee just kinda effed around on offense with Brook Lopez (who’d end with 39 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks) doing his level best to carry the team through a long stretch of uninspiring play. Yet, a gorgeously drawn up and perfectly executed inbound lob from Khris Middleton to Giannis with 0.6 left on the clock would leave things at 61-60 in favor of Washington at the half.
Milwaukee would grab hold of the lead quickly to start the third, jumping to a 65-61 lead thanks, again, to Brook. Andre Jackson Jr. was pressed into immediate service as well, with Khris Middleton checking out and heading to the locker room with 10:40 on the clock. Washington continued to take advantage of substandard defense by Milwaukee, with Tyus Jones in particular dropping a nice three and leaking out for an easy transition layup to force an Adrian Griffin timeout. A Giannis offensive rebound and strong dunk through Daniel Gafford’s defense stabilized things a bit at 77. Bobby Portis absolutely erased a Galinari dunk, only to see MarJon throw the ball into the stands in transition in a sequence that quite nicely summarized much of Milwaukee’s night. Bucks would hold a lead after three, though,
In a game full of lead changes, it would appropriately keep that furious pace to start the fourth. Washington retook the lead, only for AJ Green to come in off the bench and nail a three to take it right back. Landry Shamet then nearly killed both Giannis and AJJ on a poster dunk, which felt appropriate. Milwaukee would struggle to maintain a lead of much more than four points, although Lopez was doing his damndest to keep the Bucks afloat with another burst of scoring. A clutch three to get his personal scoring total up to 36 broke a deadlock between the teams, although a Poole garbo layup would keep Milwaukee’s lead to one. He’d then nail an and-one shot off a Giannis dish to tie his career-high scoring at 39 and gave the Bucks the largest lead of the night at six whole points. The Wizards would then get two consecutive and-one opportunities off horrifically late reach-in attempts by Bucks defenders, and a Kuzma three would make it 127-126 with 16.9 left.
Giannis would be sent to the line off an intentional foul, and hit both free throws to make it 129-126, Bucks. They did their best to let Washington right back in with some of the worst ATO defense I’ve quite literally ever seen. So bad, in fact, that Landry Shamet had no idea he was as open as he was and rushed a totally clean look from three for a miss. From there, it was free throws (two missed by Pat, two made by Dame) and a Kuzma half court heave to secure the win, 131-128.
What Did We Learn?
Khris Middleton is probably going to miss a bunch more time after checking out with Achilles tightness. If you thought the team was slow-rolling his return before, trust me when I say we’ve almost assuredly seen nothing yet.
With his departure and the long timetable for Jae Crowder’s return, the opportunity gets that much bigger for Andre Jackson Jr. and MarJon Beauchamp to lay legit claim to a rotation spot down the line. AJJ continues to strike me as the far more dynamic player of the two, but MarJon’s relative control will probably allow him to stay in games longer while avoiding foul trouble. Jackson Jr. has already started two games this year, so don’t be surprised if that trend continues.
Three Three Point Bucks
For the first time in franchise history, three Bucks would each score 30 or more points on the same night. And my God, did the team need every little bit to get over the line. Thanks go out to Brook Lopez (39 points), Giannis Antetokounmpo (31 points), and Damian Lillard (31 points).
I’ve been waiting a long time to get this song onto Brew Hoop. It’s about Wisconsin culture:
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Marques Johnson line of the night: “Thou protesteth too much”
- Marques Johnson’s other line of the night: “You know why [Danilo Galinari] wears 88, right? He was born August 8th, 1988... I think.”
- Poole was jawing all night long, and somehow got under MarJon Beauchamp’s skin enough to get MJB to shove Poole, drawing a technical. Poole then duly missed the free throw. Lol.
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo gave his younger brother a little laugh and a wink after Giannis made the first of two clutch FTs late. The bench vibes captain remains the hardest working man on the team.
- The Wizards have allowed the Bucks to score 142 and now 131 points, two of Milwaukee’s top three scoring nights on the season so far. Of course, the Bucks have also allowed two of Washington’s top three scoring nights on the season in turn.
- Almost the entire Lopez clan was in the building to witness Brook and Robin combine for nearly 40 points (credit to commenter Xiao Biduen for catching that box score insight). The other Lopez brothers look pretty much exactly like their twin siblings. You’ve heard of the legendary Sixth Antetokounmpo Brother. We must begin the search for the legendary Fifth Lopez Brother.
- Sorry Lisa, but AJ “Automatic” Green is not going to happen no matter how much we force it. It has to be natural. Like A”Ray” Green.