In a game that featured adjustments and so much more, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the New York Knicks in the first round of group play in the In-Season Tournament, 110-105.
Pre-game, Adrian Griffin addressed adjustments regarding Brook Lopez and the Bucks’ defensive approach. More of that will be featured below, but it was clear that things changed right out of the gate. How much of a difference did it make?
Despite the change, the Knicks still held the lead after one quarter of play, 25-21. Quentin Grimes led all scorers with eight points.
Milwaukee embarked on a barrage of threes midway in the second to shift the focus of this one. They were from unlikely candidates as well, as three of them were hit by Jae Crowder and another pair came from MarJon Beauchamp. It helped pad their lead up to double digits at the break at 56-46.
Beauchamp continued the scoring in the third, which proved pivotal, as there wasn’t a lot of offense elsewhere. It was really fun to watch how intense he was out there and seeing him impact the game like he did. It helped protect the Bucks’ lead going into the fourth 82-76.
What a thrilling fourth quarter we’d see. Jalen Brunson was absolutely magnificent, utilizing his footwork in a majority of ways. However, that Damian Lillard also has the clutch gene in him. Down the stretch, he’d bury both a 3-pointer and an 3-point play the old fashioned way, padding Milwaukee’s lead and securing the 110-105 victory.
Jalen Brunson was the offensive show of the night, exploding for a game-high 45 points on 17-of-30 shooting.
Damian Lillard was the leading scorer for Milwaukee, posting 30 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo chipped in with 22 points of his own.
The Bucks will now travel to Brooklyn where they’ll face off against the Nets on Monday evening.
What Did We Learn?
The biggest takeaway from tonight was Adrian Griffin making the adjustments of placing Brook Lopez near the rim in a drop defense. Pre-game, he let us know his thoughts on switching things up and made it apparent that change was coming:
Bucks Head Coach Adrian Griffin on his defensive philosophy with Brook Lopez: pic.twitter.com/NOYdOnnKrX— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 3, 2023
Everyone in the media was shocked at how open he was that he was going to change. Typically, coaches may hint at something evolving in the gameplan or slightly mention it. Heck, we never knew with Mike Budenholzer. But Adrian Griffin didn’t hide it at all. And he backed up his word. Brook Lopez immediately had an impact in the first quarter. Right away, he began picking up the blocks. He also earned two 10-second violations in the first quarter. All in all, he tallied eight blocks on the evening and was a force at the rim all night long. As for how long this will last, it remains to be seen. Brook told us that he loves playing in this role, but will do anything that he’s asked of. It’ll definitely be intriguing to see how things unfold moving forward.
The adjustments made by Griffin are telling when it comes to the relationships between players and coaches on this team.
As Griffin was telling us about this pre-game, I became so interested in how this conversation unfolded and what it meant for all parties involved. Maybe it’s because I have a Communications minor and have had these type of scenarios unfold in many real-world situations at my full-time job, but I wanted to dig at it more to get a sense of how things are developing behind-the-scenes of this Bucks team. So, postgame, I asked about it. First, I asked Griffin what it meant from his perspective where the players felt comfortable enough to approach him:
Bucks Head Coach Adrian Griffin told us that players talked to him about placing Brook Lopez in a drop.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 4, 2023
I asked him what it meant that they're comfortable enough to approach him about issues and work out adjustments together. A great answer about player/coach relationships: pic.twitter.com/oVPtOTo1OI
I then followed that up by asking Damian Lillard about it from the angle of the players:
From the other side of the equation, I asked Damian Lillard what it meant from a players' perspective to have a coach that's approachable and listens to feedback from the team, along with how big that communication will be moving forward: pic.twitter.com/oMFlI0Xw8j— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 4, 2023
Last, here’s Brook Lopez’s perspectives on the whole ordeal:
Here's Brook Lopez on the conversation of changing his involvement in the defense and how communication will evolve:— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 4, 2023
"It’s going to be a lot of give and take and feeling things out. And that’s going to make us such a great team in April, May, June than we are even right now.” pic.twitter.com/kLrr7qj6ml
All in all, I think Bucks fans have to be extremely pleased with how things are playing out. Obviously, the defense wasn’t the best in the first few games. However, rather than expression frustration and lashing out at one another, both parties approached one another in a meaningful and respectful way, and initial results are positive. Kudos to all involved.
The Bucks were splashing home the three ball.
Following a game where it seemed like their opponents couldn’t miss a three, the Bucks had a 3-point party of their own. They’d shoot a very effective 51.3% on the night (20-of-39), including some hot stretches where they nailed consecutive threes. On the contrary, New York was just 10-of-39 from deep. Despite the hot shooting, Milwaukee was still quite effective on other areas of the floor, showing how the merger of positive action all around the court was instrumental in a victory. Obviously, if you hit threes in a game, you’re more likely to win, but it was a big plus for the Bucks to have one of their more effective shooting nights thanks to smart ball movement and shot selection.
Dame Time struck again in Milwaukee.
In a a game that seemed as if it could benefit from more of his involvement, Damian Lillard showed up big down the stretch. The Bucks offense sputtered at times throughout the night and whenever it did, the Knicks were quick to capitalize. However, when the clock struck Dame Time, the air in the arena got a little colder. Lillard would finish with 30 points on the night (7-of-15, 4-of-7 from deep, and 12-of-12 from the free throw line). Half of those points came in the fourth quarter. In the final frame, he also went 8-of-8 from the line. That just truly epitomizes how big the acquisition is, as once again, the defense made things tough on Giannis down the stretch and he wasn’t as effective as he normally is. However, by having another clutch option in Dame, the Bucks were able to push themselves over the finish line and get a hard-fought win.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- A lot of Bucks fans are begging Giannis Antetokounmpo to stop shooting 3-pointers. However, last night, he went a perfect 3-of-3 from deep. I’m not endorsing him shooting those threes, but just stating his stat line.
- This was the first time this season where Khris Middleton registered fourth quarter minutes. All in all, he’d receive 21 minutes of action and score 12 points, going 2-of-3 from 3-point land. His usage moving forward will definitely be something useful to watch.
- Early in the first quarter, Pat Connaughton got hit in the face by Jalen Brunson. The season has now officially started.
- Initially, I wasn’t a fan of the Bucks’ court. I thought the mint neon-ish green that they have on it looked off. However, after seeing it in person, it’s grown on me. I don’t love it, but I’d say I’m indifferent/sorta like it. How about you?
Are you a fan of Milwaukee’s in-season tournament court?
This poll is closed
- MarJon Beauchamp was massive off the bench. He nailed several threes, all of which were extremely timely. His 13 points marked his first double-digit scoring of the year and are tied for the fifth-most he’s scored in a game in his career.
- Additionally, Jae Crowder put forth another solid outing, solidifying his impactful start to the campaign. He knocked down a season-high four threes in last night’s win, matching the most threes he’s made in a game as a Buck.
- Julius Randle was ice cold for the floor. He finished 5-of-20 on the night. Brrrr, get me a blanket!
- This was exciting to see:
- Last, this was an absolutely incredible. Fiserv Forum turned into an absolute electric factory. A 10/10 celebration...there’s no other way to put it.
OUR FIRST JACKPOT SHOT WINNER OF THE YEAR— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 4, 2023
HE HAS LEFT THE BUILDING pic.twitter.com/r2RD8VOaWj