The Bucks needed a strong start to get rid of the ick from the last few games, and that’s exactly what happened. Following his absence from the other night, Damian Lillard immediately found his shot, connecting on a pair of threes. The scoring continued with Milwaukee embarking on a 20-6 run to close out the quarter, fueling them to a 41-23 lead after one.
The run kept rolling for the Bucks to begin the second quarter. Boston was forced to call a timeout due to the inspiring play from Bobby Portis off the bench, who was hitting nearly shot he put up. He and Giannis combined for a 20-0 run to really launch the Bucks in front. That Milwaukee run ended up being a 25-0 run which finally ended with 7:15 left in the quarter. When halftime came around, Milwaukee was up by a comfortable margin, 75-38.
The third quarter began with Boston immediately waving the white flag and trotting out their bench. The Bucks didn’t take their foot off the pedal, keeping the lead enforced and hauling a 111-70 lead into the final quarter of regulation.
It was simply a matter of playing the remaining minutes from that point on, as the Bucks put the final touches on a 135-102 victory.
Bobby Portis erupted off the bench with 28 points, which served as a game-high. He went 11-of-18 from the floor and 5-of-6 from three. Giannis Antetokounmpo was four assists from a triple-double, ending his night with a line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and six dimes.
Boston was led by Payton Pritchard, who finished with 21 points. Stevens Point native Sam Hauser was next in line with 15 points.
The Bucks’ homestand continues Saturday night when the Golden State Warriors come to town.
What Did We Learn?
When this offense is clicking, it’s clicking. That was the theme of the night. The tone was immediately set by a pair of Damian Lillard threes, which really was the match that got things going. Then, immediately after entering the game, Bobby Portis doused the floor with not just energy, but scoring. As was mentioned above, his scoring helped fuel a 20-0 run between he and Giannis. That first half was dominant offense by the Bucks, and their stars weren’t even fully rampant. Just a great outing for the squad to get back on track.
This was a big win for the team.
That was the theme in the locker room. It started with Adrian Griffin, talking about how it was a big step forward. Malik Beasley also had some comments to say:
Malik Beasley: “Obviously, we had this game marked on our calendars for a while.”— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 12, 2024
Continued to say that he thinks this can be one of the games that changes the season around.
I asked Giannis, Dame, and Griffin what the biggest keys are to ensuring that this momentum carries over into Saturday night against Golden State. Here are their answers, beginning with Giannis:
“I feel like the team after this win, I feel like the team came together. I feel like our chemistry is better now. I feel like we needed this. I think we believe in one another now. And hopefully, we can carry over. I don’t know if it’s gonna carry over, but as a leader, as a player on this team, I want this to carry over. And I think we can do it. We have to go tomorrow and watch film take care of our bodies and hopefully come Golden State, we can play with the same energy, and same focus and try to win that game.”
“I think you gotta hold onto the feeling. I think the biggest thing is like I said, we didn’t do anything special. But we could all feel how it felt when we just did our job. We got into the ball. We were physical. We didn’t give them anything easy. When a team has to work for everything offensively, those shots aren’t as comfortable — even if it’s a shot that they normally shoot. If they’re getting bumped, getting chased off the line and ridden over screens and they gotta work for it, you’re a little more tired, a little more uncomfortable taking those shots. So I think we just gotta hold onto that feeling of what we did and what it caused for a really good team and we gotta try to just have some carry over with that.”
“It’s always preparation. I thought we had a really good two days. You know, when you lose, you always have that greater sense of urgency and we gotta maintain that. We can’t take our foot off the gas. But it was a good start. Tonight was a good start. And obviously, the next couple games are tough. Golden State is always tough. Sacramento’s playing tremendous basketball so we gotta continue to build on today and that just starts with our preparation, starting with film, starting on the court. Like I said before, I gotta be better, our coaches need to be better, our players need to be better. And I thought we took a good step in the right direction today.”
In the locker room, it almost felt like it wasn’t a sigh of relief, but just a reminder of what everyone’s capable of. They know what they’re capable of, but it’s huge to get a win like this on a national TV going into a back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday night.
Bobby Portis was able to respond in a huge way.
Lately, Bobby Portis hasn’t had the scoring touch. Coming into last night, he was 1-of-12 from the 3-point line. In last night’s game, he went off for 28 points (11-of-18 from the floor including 5-of-6 from three). It hasn’t been his best year to date as a member of the Bucks, so it was necessary for him to have an offensive night like that. Those five threes were a season-high for him. His 12 boards also matched a season-high and he earned his sixth double-double of the campaign. Milwaukee is now 6-0 when he tallies a double-double.
This one was really over at halftime.
Milwaukee did a tremendous job of coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Right away, Damian Lillard buried a pair of threes. In his postgame presser, Adrian Griffin mentioned how that was so big in giving the team confidence to get the job done and how it set the tone. That it did, as the Bucks’ 75-38 halftime lead forced Boston to bench their starters to begin the third quarter. That 37-point lead at intermission marked the fourth-largest lead in franchise history. It also tied the third-most points they’ve scored in a half (first or second) this season. Setting the tone was a major factor in this one and will surely be moving forward as well.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- As we’re all aware, last night was Jrue Holiday’s return to Milwaukee. Here’s how he was greeted by the Milwaukee fans during starting lineups:
And as for the video tribute?
you already know which portion of the jrue holiday video got the biggest ovation pic.twitter.com/MUSh6taXxb— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 12, 2024
In regards to his actual performance out on the court, it was a bit of a struggle. Our friend/co-founder Frank Madden made a great point:
Jrue is a champion and a Bucks legend forever, but watching him fumble around offensively in both Bucks/Celtics games this season has been a clear reminder of why the Dame deal was a no-brainer. Just couldn’t go into another postseason with Jrue as the # 2A/2B offensive option.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) January 12, 2024
- The Bucks had one of the weirdest in-game entertainment bits I’ve seen in my time covering the team. Contestants had to shoot a basketball into a washing machine, dribble around an oven three times, make a layup, then make a shot over a fridge. Wild.
- The 3-point shooting differential was pretty staggering. Milwaukee shot 18-of-42 from the perimeter while Boston went just 9-of-34.
- How bad was this blowout? TNT actually cut away from the action and went to Knicks vs. Mavs:
- Malik Beasley said that the team had a meeting a few days prior to today. As for what was discussed? Here’s what he had to say.
“A lot of it came down to more effort and more energy. Those young guys, Dre and Chris Livingston brought it, so why can’t we do it, in the sense of veterans. I think we did that. We came out and competed. I think the main thing for us, we came out physical. We hit first instead of getting hit.”
It wasn’t a players-only meeting or anything of that nature. Damian Lillard was asked about it and he said it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary and pointed at the team’s record, showing no signs of worry.
- Milwaukee finished with 135 points for its league-high-tying 15th game of the season 130+ points and is now 14-1 when reaching the 130-point mark. The Bucks, who entered last night’s game second in scoring, are now averaging 124.4 points per game this season.