The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to Sin City. They defeated the New York Knicks 146-122 in the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament.
With a trip to Vegas in the inaugural In-Season Tournament on the line, you knew both teams were going to come out firing. That’s exactly how things unfolded to start this one. Both teams were trading blows like heavyweight boxers, with some of them coming from...AJ Green. He had several threes in the first quarter, contributing in a large way to the Bucks’ 37-35 lead after a quarter.
A flash from Bobby Portis helped the Bucks pad their lead to eight at one point in the second quarter, but New York didn’t let things get out of hand. It remained quite competitive. A Damian Lillard 3-pointer closed things out at the break and gave Milwaukee a several point lead at intermission, 75-72.
A double-digit lead swung Milwaukee’s way a few minutes into the third as they really started to grind down the New York defense. It was a bit of a meltdown for the Knicks, as they were unable to get anything going and were Swiss cheese on defense. After three, the Bucks led by 16, 112-96.
The Bucks wouldn’t relinquish the lead from that point on. They were just too strong for the Knicks, overpowering their way and earning a trip to Vegas. When the final whistle was blown, Milwaukee comfortably owned a 146-122 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for the Bucks, concluding his efforts with a 35 point performance. Damian Lillard was lethal as well, connecting on five threes and scoring 28 points.
Julius Randle erupted for the Knicks, posting a game-high 41 points. Jalen Brunson ended his night with 24 points and RJ Barrett with 23 of his own.
The Bucks now head to Sin City to clash with the Indiana Pacers on Thursday in the semi-finals of the In-Season Tournament.
What Did We Learn?
Yet again, we learned just how lethal this Milwaukee Bucks offense is. Sure, there have been questions and concerns about the defense. However, the talent remains on the offensive side of the ball. Giannis and Dame led the way last night, getting seemingly whatever they wanted. It was definitely contagious, as numerous other players fell in line. Milwaukee ended up burying 23 threes on the night. On the other side of the coin, New York attempted 23 threes. When they’re clicking at that speed, that offense is quite difficult to stop.
Things are starting to fall in shape for the Bucks and you can see it.
Right after the final horn sounded, Damian Lillard mentioned in his on-the-court interview that it feels good that the Bucks are playing their best basketball. He expanded on that in his media availability:
This has been an ongoing theme in Lillard’s answers during media availabilities throughout the year. He hasn’t been hesitant to admit struggles, but he’s also been transparent in talking about how the team is processing things. It’s a transition. He’s new. Griffin is new. It’s a new system. It’s going to take time. The offense is definitely headed in the right direction, and it’s surely going to be exciting to watch them in Vegas.
The defense did its job in the third quarter.
The third period was definitely the turning point of this game. In a duel where both teams were trading blows left and right, a lopsided quarter was exactly what the Bucks needed. They ended up outscoring New York 37-24 in those 12 minutes, commandeering control of things and placing themselves on the path to victory. They also embarked on an 18-8 run in that time, doing a masterful job of developing strong defense into strong offense. That type of performance and attention is going to be what’s necessary to halt Indiana’s high power offense that’s led by Wisconsin-native Tyrese Haliburton.
What a job by Malik Beasley.
Could you have asked for a better performance from Malik Beasley? My goodness. Not only did he drain six threes on the night, he also received the task of defending Jalen Brunson. It seemed that he was always on the right spot of the floor on the offensive side of the ball. Whenever there was commotion with the basketball in a pinball-esque fashion, it was Beasley who was waiting on the perimeter to bury a clutch shot. Then, while there were spurts where Brunson did get loose, he cooled down in the second half. You gotta tip your cap to Beasley on that matter. Just a very well-done night for him.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- I know the In-Season Tournament has been mocked pretty much since it was announced, but I was always of the belief that this was going to be cool — and I’m excited that my assumptions are correct. Competitive basketball is always a good thing. I’d much rather be watching this than a game where the stars are benched for load management or any other type of blowout. It’s been a blast so far and I can’t wait to see how it wraps up.
- AJ Green provided an unexpected spark in the first quarter. His shot was quite strong, as he connected several times from deep. Postgame, Adrian Griffin complemented him for always putting in the work. He also said how it’s rewarding for him to see players like Green have their hard work pay off. That was pretty neat to see and hear.
- I can’t wait to watch Dame vs. Haliburton. Lillard wasn’t able to go in the first clash in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, so you know he’s itching to get the nod this time around. Count me in.
- My Vegas take: I love it. I know some hate the chaos, but I embrace it. What a fun place to go and just have simply a great time. You just have to go with the knowledge that you’re going to lose that money and be content with it. It’s all entertainment in the end. As for my favorite casino, give me the El Cortez. Those $10 mins at the blackjack table are nice.
- Last, don’t test Giannis on his candy knowledge:
giannis just listed everything in 7/11’s candy aisle in 30 seconds pic.twitter.com/I2Z1kJtRs9— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) December 6, 2023