With Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the starting lineup for the first quarter, Milwaukee seemed poised to feast on a still-adapting Nets team. Instead, Brooklyn was doing the eating all period long, going up 34-22 thanks to seven really rough Bucks turnovers and a 6-1 advantage in made triples. Thankfully, the Nets felt generous and wanted to even up the coughing-up-the-ball fit which helped Milwaukee maintain contact throughout the second to trail 62-52 by half. The Bucks finally got their first lead since 5-4 in the initial period late in the third quarter, with a Giannis-less lineup getting them over the hump to take a 91-85 advantage into the fourth. Jacque Vaughn surrendered with four minutes to go and the Bucks starters got a little more run before Bud put in the backups to secure a 15th straight win.
Giannis started slow...but certainly didn’t end that way. With just four points in the first quarter and facing foul trouble, Antetokounmpo looked like he might not have his rhythm early. It didn’t take long during his second and third stints to rectify that, as he bludgeoned the Nets interior defense with dunks and lay-ins. He even had his jumper working at points too — including a Dirk knee-up fadeaway near the free throw line. He ended with 33 points, 15 rebounds and four assists.
Giannis was on one tonight.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 1, 2023
33 PTS | 15 REB | 4 AST pic.twitter.com/ZVgNorscR6
A tale of two halves. In the first half, Milwaukee looked listless, turning the ball over at almost every opportunity and the Nets feasted at the line going 14-16 compared to just 2-6 for the Bucks. In the second, partially driven by Giannis’s aggression, they flipped the script and took it to the Nets to even up the score by pummeling them inside. Equally as important was that Brooklyn made just four triples in the second half, that’s always a good way to go on lengthy runs. Another key - Khris Middleton, who had just six at halftime on seven shots, but finished with 18 points on 13 shots to go with six assists and two steals. Milwaukee outscored Brooklyn by 16 in the third and by seven in the still competitive portion of the game.
Spark plug off the bench.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 1, 2023
18 PTS | 4 REB | 6 REB pic.twitter.com/p4wEH9oR86
Undefeated in February. 15 straight is objectively more impressive than an undefeated 10-0 month with the fewest contests, but this game was another indication this team isn’t interested in going out with a whimper. As noted above, despite a lackluster first half they turned it on in the second to ensure they didn’t drop a winnable game as they jockey for the first seed in the East. It’s a testament to all of them for committing to not letting a stinker ruin this spectacular run. They’re now tied for the 4th longest win streak in team history.
The Bucks finish February 10-0, marking just their fourth undefeated month in franchise history (min. 3 games played) and only their second with 10+ games played.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) March 1, 2023
Bucks Undefeated Months:
1. 13-0, March 1973
2. 10-0, Feb. 2023
3. 7-0, Oct. 2018
4. 6-0, Oct. 2022
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Marc Lasry was enjoying the game courtside tonight alongside oft-seen at Bucks games ex-President Bill Clinton. Unclear if Lasry now has to pay for his tickets...
- Brooklyn chose to double Giannis early and often, but they just didn’t have the defensive connectedness to make up for his ability to pass out of it. In the first, he got doubled on the left side, easily dished it above defenders to Holiday (whose man had left him) and Jrue found Brook open beneath the rim. There are no good answers for Giannis, but especially for a team still trying to coalesce.
- Importantly, after I wrote this bullet, the Nets proceeded to go on a near 20-0 run, so I guess joke’s on me about which team had to coalesce in this game. Milwaukee went over four full minutes of game time without scoring.
- Jae Crowder’s passing has impressed me more than maybe anything else about him. Against Phoenix, he had a beautiful touch pass to Brook while he was double covered in the post. In this game, he lobbed a pitch-perfect transition alley-oop to Giannis. After some of the early entry passes from Holiday in this game, it was a welcome sight.
- Grayson Allen had a terrific defensive possession around 9:15 in the second, sliding his feet to body up Mikal Bridges and prevent him from driving. That’s what made it such a shame Crowder let Finney-Smith backdoor cut on the same side for an easy score.
- Bud went with a Holiday-Allen-Crowder-Ingles-Giannis midway through the third to counter the Nets smallball lineups full of wings. Unfortunately, it was short-lived after Giannis picked up his fourth personal foul.
- Grayson missed a technical free throw. Khris missed a defensive three second free throw attempt.
- I felt for Pat Connaughton in the fourth quarter when he had a wide open three — so wide open he was able to basically take a full breath — and he still clanked it off. In his defense, the Nets had just missed seven straight threes, so it might’ve been contagious.
- It is a little impressive the Bucks only had 12 free throws tonight despite Cleaning The Glass crediting them with 38 attempts at the rim. Brooklyn, for its part, had 25 free throw attempts off only 14 shots at the rim — most of theirs came on shooting fouls further out.
- Marques Johnson trying to figure out the Marvel villain Thanos vs. the ref’s mispronunciation of Thanasis’s name as “Thanis” in the fourth was just wonderful stuff. As someone who often has to watch these games on mute, I treasure every time I get to hear gems like that from Marques.