Though Eastern Conference All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo sprained his right wrist and exited early in the second quarter, the Bucks won their twelfth-straight contest Thursday night at United Center, taking down the Bulls 112-100. Milwaukee was also without Khris Middleton (right knee soreness again) and Pat Connaughton (left calf soreness), but got a huge night from Brook Lopez, who scored 33 points in 33 minutes. Jevon Carter backed him up with 22. Nikola Vucevic scored 22 to lead Chicago, who lacked All-Star DeMar DeRozan (quad strain) among others.
Unlike their last trip to the United Center, the Bucks couldn’t miss from deep to start, hitting six of their first nine attempts. Lopez was particularly active with 15 points and two blocks, playing all twelve minutes to help put his squad as much as 14. Milwaukee carried a 34-24 edge into the second, holding Chicago to just 34.6% from the field.
Barely a minute into the next frame, Giannis went down under the rim after contesting a Coby White layup. He exited and headed to the locker room favoring his right wrist, which appeared to get jammed in the stanchion’s padding as he hit the floor. The game continued in a similar fashion without him: the Bucks did not permit the Bulls to get within eight and headed into half up 61-49.
Milwaukee’s advantage vacillated between eight and twelve for much of the penultimate period. After briefly getting it to fourteen, some youthful lineups let Chicago back to within single digits before Lopez came back in to jump over the 30-point mark. After three, it was Bucks 85, Bulls 73.
A few minutes into the fourth, the Bucks separated a bit on a couple of treys from Jevon Carter and A.J. Green to put them up sixteen. The former sank another two silky jumpers that got it to twenty with 7:38 left, and once the Bucks got it to 25, this one was just about dusted as both coaches emptied their benches.
Milwaukee heads into the All-Star break a bit banged up, but at 41-17 are just a half-game behind Boston for the NBA’s best record.
Brook Lopez notched a season-high 33 in 33 minutes. As mentioned, he played the entire opening quarter but re-entered after just a minute on the bench when Giannis went down. After finally getting some rest, he totaled 23 first-half points on 11 shots in 18 minutes. He surpassed his previous season-high—set back in December—as the third concluded with 31. He added another bucket in the fourth and was credited with four blocked shots, though he may have had another one or two. His final line totaled 13/18 from the field, 3/6 from distance, 7 boards, 2 assists, and a game-high +28. My favorite moment might be when he attacked the rim off the dribble on a Vucevic closeout, blowing by him for the dunk, visible about 33 seconds into the video below. That trailing transition three around the 1:10 mark must have been pretty demoralizing for the Bulls too:
Season-high 33 points for Brook tonight.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 17, 2023
33 PTS | 7 REB | 2 AST | 4 BLK | 72 FG% pic.twitter.com/Pt83G3oz99
Carter got in the kitchen and carved up the Bulls into a nice ribeye. Getting the start tonight with Connaughton out, Carter hit his first three attempts from behind the arc early but really got cooking late. After the first quarter’s 11, he went scoreless in the second and third before helping the Bucks finally break the game open. He did that by dipping into his bag of pull-ups, finding nylon on a trio of jumpers that put the game out of reach. Ending with 22 on 9/13 shooting, only missing one of his five three-point attempts, while also contributing six dimes and six rebounds. One of his best all-around games as a Buck, and done with extreme confidence.
A.J. Green had a fine night off the bench. In his first real game action in a month, Green connected on a career-best five threes on his way to 15 points. That ties his career high set in Miami back on January 12th. Already shorthanded due to injuries and with two open roster spots, then hamstrung further by the Giannis injury, the Bucks had to dig deep into their bench early on in the game. Green answered the call, helping Milwaukee to a very fine 18/47 (38.3%) three-point shooting mark.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- In the postgame, Bud expressed optimism about what’s being termed a right wrist sprain for Giannis. Here’s his exact quote, as told to me in the presser:
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, on Giannis Antetokounmpo's right wrist sprain:— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) February 17, 2023
"I think the initial reports were hopeful. The x-ray was clean. And he's got a sprain. I think we'll see how he feels tomorrow, see how he feels the next few days and continue to evaluate it."
He added that he has “no idea” if Giannis will make the trip to Utah for All-Star festivities.
- Giannis became the Bucks’ all-time assist leader after dishing off to Jevon Carter for a triple in the opening minutes, surpassing Paul Pressey. In the past eleven months, he’s claimed both the franchise’s scoring and passing records. Crazy.
The assist to make Giannis the all-time assist leader in Bucks franchise history!! pic.twitter.com/nI2IsVc6gj— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 17, 2023
- Milwaukee trotted out a lineup featuring both its two-way players—Sandro Mamukelashvili and Green—in the second. The two youngsters held their own with veteran help (mostly Holiday, Ingles, and Allen), though Mamu somehow managed a -8 despite some good work on the boards.
- Bud doubled down on the youth by adding MarJon Beauchamp to the two-ways alongside Jrue Holiday and Wes Matthews in the late third. Though they had a couple nice defensive possessions, Bud pulled the plug after two minutes and re-inserted Lopez as the lead dropped from thirteen to nine.
- In the third, the Bucks had a possession featuring a litany of deflected passes that my colleague Eric Nehm narrated it simply with the Benny Hill Show theme, a.k.a. Yakety Sax. The best part? After the shot clock buzzer sounded, the Bucks didn’t turn it over because of a late whistle on Matthews’ shot, which didn’t even draw iron. Hilarity.
- The Bucks only turned it over nine times! That’s right, nine times. Three more than the Bulls, and points off turnovers favored them, but by merely 9-5. Obviously, we’ll take it.
- As mentioned, Middleton and Connaughton sat this one out. Bud wasn’t overly concerned about the former but optimistic about the latter.
- It bears repeating, but this is the Bucks’ longest winning streak since December 2019. What a time to be alive that was.