There wasn’t a lack of urgency from the Bucks to begin this one as one might’ve thought given their situation. Instead, they leapt out front, building up a nine-point lead at one point. Damian Lillard found the free throw line right away, going 5-of-5 from the charity stripe in the opening frame and rattling off 12 total points. It helped provide Milwaukee a 32-28 lead going into the second quarter.
The scoring continued for the Bucks, with Giannis leading the way with 15 points at the break. Despite Damian Lillard not scoring a single point in the second quarter, Milwaukee still didn’t have trouble establishing a lead at half, going into the locker room with a double-digit 61-51 lead.
Milwaukee kept pouring it on throughout the third. A 14-2 run helped them create further separation, as the Cavs couldn’t really do much of anything. Then, to close out the frame, Damian Lillard drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Bucks a 93-79 lead headed into the fourth.
Cleveland made it interesting down the stretch. They wouldn’t go away, slicing things to single-digits. However, the Bucks put the final touches with a flurry of threes, with a Malik Beasley triple from the corner serving as the nail in the coffin. Milwaukee wrapped things up with a 126-113 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with yet another triple-double, stringing together a 35 point (game-high), 18 rebound, 10 assist performance. Damian Lillard rode a strong first quarter on his way to 28 points of his own. Khris Middleton contributed with 24 points.
Donovan Mitchell was the leading scorer for the Cavaliers with 23 points. Jarrett Allen earned a double-double performance with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Milwaukee’s back in action on Friday night against Cleveland at Fiserv Forum.
What Did We Learn?
Khris Middleton is once again settled in as a major part of this offense. He scored 24 points last night, marking his second consecutive and 10th game this season scoring 20+ points. After scoring 26 points on Monday against the Pistons (which marked his second-highest scoring night of the season), his 24 points last night are tied for the third-most he’s had in a game this season. We all know how potent this Bucks offense can be when the trio of Giannis, Dame, and Middleton is dialed in. Doc Rivers will soon be taking on the challenge of continuing that firepower while also increasing efficiency on defense.
The Bucks were able to get the job done despite the crazy last 24 hours.
Of all the players that spoke, everybody dove into how crazy of a whirlwind this process has been. To have a guy that’s been your leader all year essentially vanish — it can be a lot. However, despite that, the team was able to shelf those thoughts for a game against a tough divisional opponent. I asked Giannis about how the team was able to get the win last night, despite all of those emotions they had been feeling:
“At the end of the day, with all the news that happened yesterday, I think the guys came in and understood that we have to be one. We have to become one. And there’s a lot of people that spoke up and said either this is gonna tear us apart and we’re just gonna like, “Oh, okay, we’re gonna make excuses, this happened, that happened, this is taking place,” and for us not to do what we are here to do or we’re gonna come together and we’re gonna try to be better from this. And I feel like guys did that. You know, from the start of the game, especially against Cleveland. When Cleveland starts games, they start really, really hard. Really, really fast. They move the ball, attack you, shoot threes. You know, they did it in Cleveland in that first game. They did it against Orlando. Like, that’s what they do. Like once they feel like you’re tiptoeing to the game, they’ll take advantage of that. I feel like everybody’s urgency was up. We played I think a very, very solid game. Everybody moved the ball. Dame was being aggressive, [we] sticked to him throughout the whole game. We were defending. I think everybody played a solid game. We came together. I hope we can keep on on this pace on Friday.”
Those emotions do take a toll.
The majority of the players highlighted how Griffin was a terrific guy and they hated to see him go due to the nature of it all. Damian Lillard talked about how he appreciated Griffin supporting him through his personal matters and now he has to pack his things up and leave. Giannis also opened up about it in a very lengthy answer:
Here is what Giannis Antetokounmpo had to say about how he reacted to the decision to dismiss Adrian Griffin and how the team will try to move forward from here: pic.twitter.com/M1EIwmKEo5— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 25, 2024
Giannis then continued with this long answer:
During Giannis Antetokounmpo's postgame press conference tonight, @LoriNickel asked Giannis if Bucks coach Adrian Griffin getting dismissed felt any different to him because he was involved in the hiring process of Griffin.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) January 25, 2024
Here is Antetokounmpo's four-minute response: pic.twitter.com/pDfavTIJcM
And then, he also said this regarding the trust that exists between the whole organization:
“At the end of the end of the day, I trust the ownership’s decision. I trust the front office. They’ve never did me wrong in the past. They’ve always created a great atmosphere, a great culture. They’ve always did whatever was the best for the team and for us to be in a position to win. So, you’ve just gotta do the same thing here. You just gotta trust that this is the best decision for me and the guys and we just gotta go with it. It’s trust. That’s it.”
Giannis continues to be a menace out on the floor.
It was yet another triple-double for the Greek Freak, as he concluded his outing with 35 points, a season-high-tying 18 rebounds, and ten assists. That marked his second triple-double in as many games, marking just the second time that he’s recorded a triple-double in consecutive games (3 games, March 11-15, 2021). He now has five triple-doubles this month and seven this season, which is tied for the most triple-doubles he’s had in a season in his career (2020-21). Something tells me that he might break that this season.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- The pre-game vibes were definitely there:
- Khris Middleton had yet another dunk, making it the second consecutive game he’s had one. Everybody, especially Giannis, was laughing at that.
- This is unreal:
- Former Buck (and NBA champion) Sam Merrill showed off his hot shooting, going on a stretch where buried several threes in a row. He finished with four on the night, totaling 12 points in the stat sheet. It also provided a quintessential Joe Prunty moment in his postgame presser, where he just started sidetracking about Merrill’s shooting:
I missed those. But kudos to Merrill. He’s really stepped his game up this year.
- Khris Middleton appeared in his 695th game with the Bucks tonight, tying him with Sidney Moncrief for the third-most in franchise history. Middleton now trails only Giannis (761) and Junior Bridgeman (711) for the most games in Bucks history.