In their second matchup this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on Friday night, 112-100.
The first quarter featured some gritty competition among both teams. It seemed that the play between the two teams was more contentious. Cleveland fought for a small two-point advantage going into the second quarter with Donovan Mitchell leading the way with a game-high ten points after one.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard began to get things going in the second quarter. Both of them entered the double-digit point category. In fact, Giannis was a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor at the halftime break, providing a major assist in the Bucks taking a 57-54 lead into the locker room.
Cleveland soared in front midway through the third quarter, but the Bucks wouldn’t let them get too far with the lead. A barrage of 3-pointers ignited by Giannis’ playmaking launched the Bucks right back into the thick of things, erasing the Cavs’ nine-point lead. Milwaukee found themselves down 80-77 going into the fourth.
The Cavaliers remained in front from that point on. The Bucks made it close down the stretch with their starting five, but they couldn’t muster enough energy to fully complete the job. Cleveland waltzed out of Fiserv Forum with a 112-110 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard matched one another in terms of team-high points for the Bucks, with each putting up 22 points.
Donovan Mitchell was the leading scorer in this one, rattling off 32 points on the night. Jarrett Allen strung together another double-double with a 24 point, 14 rebound performance.
The Bucks are back at it tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans on a SEGABABA.
What Did We Learn?
Well, with a minute to go in regulation, we were informed by Bucks PR that Doc Rivers is officially the head coach. However, he won’t be coaching until Monday in Denver. This portion will cover the postgame quotes from everyone. First, Joe Prunty didn’t have much to say, as he was still unwrapping the game itself. But here are some players’ reactions:
“Played against Doc a ton in my career. I’m excited to have him here. I think, obviously, he has tons of experience. He’s been in the NBA, played in the NBA for a very long time, so that’ll be good to have in this locker room. Kind of an outside perspective to what’s been going on on the court with the team. Just we get to use his outside POV and all his wisdom he has. It’s going to be very beneficial for us.”
“Great voice. Someone obviously who’s had success in this league, who’s got respect in this league. Big name coach. Top-15 coach of all-time. You can go on and on. But I feel like he’s a great fit. Obviously, his number’s in the rafters here so what better team to coach than having your number in the rafters. That’s cool, being on the sideline, then look up, see your name up there. That’s dope in itself. Great guy. Talked to him today. He’s on board with us and knows that the expectations of this team is really high and I think he’s ready for it.”
Then, Pat Connaughton had a couple of quotes. First, he summarized what Doc said to the team prior to the game against Cleveland:
“I thought he was great. I think sometimes less is more. He said a few sentences and they were powerful. He talks about just being able to have that identity that we should have as the Milwaukee Bucks. He talked about the talent we have on the team...teams should be a little bit more afraid to play us. I think right now, with the way our defense has been playing, the way we’ve kind of been up and down in games specifically — I know we have a great record — I don’t think teams have really been worried about coming in and playing us whether it’s at home or on the road. So, making sure that we have that chip on our shoulder that we’ve had for a while since I’ve got here. Six years ago, we played with a chip on our shoulder and teams knew it was gonna be tough when they were playing the Bucks. I think that was a great start for him as a leader and I think everyone’s bought into that. It’s just about continuing to get better and growing every single day, learning from them as quickly as we can — a crash course if you will — then continuing to learn over time and I think all of the guys are excited about it.”
Then, he talked about the perception that Doc and his previous teams’ playoff finishes have had among social media:
“The interesting thing to me is...I know a bunch of talking heads will talk about some of the negative things because that’s what social media is and they like to do but you talk about the success that he’s had and the ability that he’s had to get teams into positions to win, whether they’ve closed or not. I look at our team and I look at the situation that he’s coming into. We get to those situations, I think we’ve got a great a really good chance to close. I think his ability to come in, his ability to command respect immediately, his ability to lead because he’s led for so long. He’s led all different types of personalities, all different types of guys in the NBA. He’s led through different eras of the NBA. I think that will be stuff that will be super helpful to everybody on the team. But I think it will also have the ability to add some structure and add some consistency to what we’re doing and I think he’ll be able to really mentor, see things from a perspective that not a lot of guys on our team maybe will have been able to because they haven’t been in the NBA for 25+ years as a coach, let alone his playing career as well.”
There will be more material from other players following tonight’s game against the Pelicans.
This was a physical game.
Right from the opening tip, both teams were bouncing off one another. I wouldn’t say it had a playoff atmosphere, but the physicality was on par with what you might see in a series. We’ve seen the Bucks get dealt this before. In his postgame presser, Brook Lopez mentioned how they can look at film and find ways to play better, citing a need to play quicker. He was optimistic that the team will be able to figure it out.
The Bucks’ offense struggled to find a groove.
Coming into last night, the Bucks were averaging a 124.6 ppg this season (the 2nd-highest in the NBA). They couldn’t get that same firepower ignited this time around, scoring just 100 points. It was an off-night for the team, as nobody scored over 22 points on the night. It surely won’t be an issue that will linger around. We all know how lethal this squad can be. Damian Lillard couldn’t find a groove either, going just 2-of-10 from downtown. That won’t be the case many times. Expect the Bucks to shake this one off and come out stronger against New Orleans.
Jarrett Allen continues to pose problems for the Bucks.
Prior to last night’s game, Allen was averaging 13.1 rebounds in the last ten games. Against Milwaukee, he boasted 12.2 in his last five games. He’s been a double-double machine as of late and he continued that trend last night by piecing together a 24 point and 14 rebound performance. He’s one of the best young centers in the league and always provides a spark for the Cavaliers. Cleveland remains without Evan Mobley, who is rumored to be returning next week sometime. In the meantime, Allen has been holding down the fort quite well for them.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Here’s the Doc Rivers video that the team put out:
Welcome to Milwaukee, Doc Rivers! pic.twitter.com/G14xZ8R7WP— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 27, 2024
- Joe Prunty continues to be an absolute electric factory:
joe prunty was waving his hand emphatically for a challenge like he was an umpire that just called a HR fair in game 7 of the world series lol— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 27, 2024
- Malik Beasley didn’t take a single shot until late in the fourth. He’d connect on a three, but those were his only three points.
- Donovan Mitchell was getting buckets. When he’s on one, he’s on. One of the most exciting players to watch in this league.
- Last, it appears that some of the new assistants were already in the building:
Now, I’m off to head home and get some sleep. It’s past midnight and I’ll be at Fiserv for over 12 hours covering Doc’s presser and the game against the Pelicans. You can follow me on Twitter / X for immediate coverage. The grind continues!