To wrap up a gauntlet of a week, the Milwaukee Bucks took care of business against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, 141-117.
The Bucks used a 17-6 run to string together a 36-32 advantage after a quarter of play. Damian Lillard was a big part of that with a pair of threes to get the wheels going. It helped Milwaukee snag a 36-32 advantage after the opening frame.
Hot shooting was the theme of the first half for the Bucks. At the break, they were boasting a 60.4 percentage from the floor. Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis were the leading scorers at the break for the Bucks, helping the team carry a double-digit 75-63 lead into halftime.
The double-digit advantage for the Bucks continued throughout the third. Giannis, Dame, and Bobby all sat above the 20-point mark, paving the way for the Bucks to maintain a safe lead going into the fourth, 112-87.
It was pretty much done from that point. There was no way back into this one for New Orleans. Instead, the time just melted away and Milwaukee put the final touches on a lopsided 141-117 victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished as the leading scorer in this one, going off for 30 points and 13 rebounds. Damian Lillard hit several threes en route to a 26 point outing and Brook Lopez had a significant scoring output with 24 points. Bobby Portis came off the bench with 20 points as well.
For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram led the way with 26 points. Zion Williamson finished with 23 points.
The Bucks now hit the road on a west coast road trip where Doc Rivers will make his coaching debut. They’ll return to Fiserv Forum on February 8th.
What Did We Learn?
The Bucks continue to respond well against adversity. Given the circumstances of this hectic week, going 2-1 is quite respectable. Everyone complimented one another on a job well done during postgame availabilities, with Giannis even going as far as saying this about Joe Prunty:
Giannis on Joe Prunty: "It's crazy that he's never been a head coach in this league. It's insane."— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 28, 2024
He talked about how Prunty made everything simple, ranging from shootarounds, to gameplans, to walkthroughs — everything. Now, the transition goes to Doc. In addition to this week, the Bucks are now 6-1 on the second night of a back-to-back and have won their last five games when playing on zero days rest.
The ball movement was popping.
This was the key to victory for everyone. When Joe Prunty was asked what he liked about the on-court performance, that’s immediately what he highlighted. When the basketball pops around, good things happen. Milwaukee’s 141 points marked their league-high-tying eighth game of the season with 140+ points. They’re now 8-0 when scoring 140+ points and 21-1 when scoring 125+ points. Looking at the scoring, it was a balanced effort across the board. Giannis Antetokounmpo (30), Damian Lillard (26), Brook Lopez (24), and Bobby Portis (20) each scored 20+ points. This is just the second time this season Milwaukee has had four 20-point scorers in the same game (Jan. 14 vs. SAC), improving to 2-0 when doing so.
We got some further commentary from the players on Doc Rivers.
Last night, both Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo provided their thoughts to the hiring of Doc Rivers. Here’s what they had to say:
“Obviously, it’s a coach that’s a legend. You can tell there’s great energy about him from the first meeting that we had to the second meeting that we had, it was all about the team — how can we keep each other accountable, how can we touch one another, how can we come together as a team, how can we move the ball. From just the energy he has, it gives you a lot of confidence. I think it gives the locker room confidence. I can’t wait.”
“We all know what he brings. We heard his voice from coaching other teams. We know he’s had success. He played in this league. He went to school in this city. He’s been around a long time as a coach. He’s coached a lot of great players. You’d have a hard time thinking of something that he hasn’t experienced in this league from playing to coaching to talking about the game being on all these different broadcasts. There’s nothing he hasn’t experienced and I just think his voice, how he’s able to motivate teams...he’s a strong voice and he’s gonna demand more from our team. He’s not gonna be afraid to challenge myself. He’s not gonna be afraid to challenge Giannis. He’s not gonna be afraid to challenge Brook and Khris and all the way down the line. I think when you’re dealing with a team that’s full of vets and as talented as we are, I think that’s something that you need if you want to reach the level we want to reach and I think he’s the perfect person for it.”
Oh, and how about this?
Postgame, Giannis told us about the first ever NBA game he watched. It was on an old TV that he had to hit on the side to work. It was the Lakers vs. Celtics 2008 Finals that featured Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, KG, Paul Pierce...and Doc Rivers.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 28, 2024
16 years later, Doc is his coach.
Doc will officially get his first opportunity as the team’s new head coach Monday night in Denver. In case you missed our coverage of his introductory presser, you can view it here.
The coolest moment of the night didn’t even come during game action.
I mentioned this during my Rapid Recap, but man...this was awesome:
So cool. Tonight at halftime, the Bucks held a naturalization ceremony for 21 candidates from 15 countries. Congrats! pic.twitter.com/s9NMVjOVtG— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 28, 2024
Now that’s a stat line. This is the second consecutive year that the Bucks have had a naturalization ceremony at halftime and it remains just as powerful as it was last year. It was really neat seeing Giannis take the floor for his typical halftime warmup routine, only to delay it a little bit and stand and watch the remainder of the ceremony unfold. In my video above, you can see him applauding the recipients. It was all so neat on so many levels.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Damian Lillard began this one with confidence. The first basket of the game was a three on the wing where he stopped in transition a bit behind the perimeter and fired it in without hesitation. It set the tone for him on the night, as he finished the first quarter with a quick dozen points.
- Brook Lopez really brought it on the offensive side of the floor, erupting for 24 points on a very crafty 8-of-11 shooting. That included six threes as well. I asked Joe Prunty about his performance postgame and he praised Brook for his versatility on the offensive side of the ball. Just a very solid night overall for the big guy.
- Cam Payne also had a great night. Coming off the bench, he hit some timely threes for the team. All in all, he totaled several threes en route to 11 points.
- Giannis was also honored with the Bob Lanier Community Assist Award for December. Here’s what he had to say on that:
Giannis said this award means more than his other ones.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 28, 2024
"Like I've won a lot of awards but this is the only award that my mom texted me, "Good job, son." https://t.co/6Jz1XU19Hj
- What a great tweet from the Bucks:
- You may have seen Giannis holding a phone up late in the game. That’s because the Pelicans missed on consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter, which gave the fans free wings. Here’s what he had to say on the matter postgame:
Giannis postgame: "I didn't get my chicken. I wasn't fast enough. I couldn't get the QR code. Maybe my mom or Mariah got some." https://t.co/Ru2wMRqf00— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 28, 2024
- Last, I’m going to sincerely miss Joe Prunty’s pressers. They’re simply the best. Nothing beats them. I’m telling the truth. We all talk about it among the media. It’ll be great to have Doc’s perspective and insight moving forward, but Joe Prunty is a special guy:
Joe Prunty on how everyone has handled the emotions from the last few days now that it’s all over and Doc is the head coach:— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) January 27, 2024
“Well, the end of it’s an important game! And you can tell how important it is because my voice went up about ten octaves.”
Gonna miss Prunty pressers.