The Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117-124 on Monday night at the Quicken Loans Arena. Milwaukee’s recent trend of inconsistency continued, again, tonight.
1. Milwaukee got thoroughly outmuscled tonight against the Cavs. As we know, Milwaukee is the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and it showed tonight. Cleveland won the rebounding battle by 10. Cavs big man, Ante Zizic (???) killed the Bucks on the offensive boards, and got whatever he wanted around the rim. He finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds (really). Kevin Love also torched the Bucks, which is nothing new. In his first game back from nursing a broken hand, he lit up Milwaukee’s “defense” 18 points and he canned 4 triples. Milwaukee’s bigs had no answer for the Cavs, specifically John Henson and Thon Maker. They combined for a paltry 5 rebounds.
2. Eric Bledsoe was god-awful tonight. You take the good with the bad with E-Bled, but he was all bad against Cleveland. This was a great matchup for him, but he didn’t step up. He finished with 13 points on 5-15 shooting. He also committed 5 turnovers, and he was a non-factor in transition. Instead of giving the ball to Giannis in the open floor, Bledsoe decided to take matters in his own hands. It resulted in a bevy of turnovers and a few offensive fouls. His shot selection really haunts the Bucks at times, opting for tough midrange jumpers and three-pointers. Tonight, the ball stuck to his hands which resulted in the shot clock dwindling down to 10 seconds before he initiated any sort of offense. Is he really the answer for the Bucks at the point guard position? The jury is still out.
3. Khris Middleton balled out tonight. The heavily scrutinized Middleton put up 28 points on 11-14 shooting from the field. Matched up against LeBron James, Middleton gave the Bucks the boost they needed. Unfortunately, though, it was all for not. This was a huge game for the Bucks, as they try to make up ground in the playoff race, and Khris stepped up in a big game. It is very rare that the Bucks lose when he scores 30 points, but aside from him and Giannis, no one seemed interested. He’s been one of Milwaukee’s most consistent players, albeit his three-point shooting percentage is way down. He played 38 minutes on Monday night and continues to prove that he belongs.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo relished the opportunity to go up against LeBron James. Like most nights, Giannis brought it from the opening tip. He was very impressive tonight, resulting in a multitude of close-range shots for him. The Greek Freak put up 37 points, hauled in 11 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and shot an impressive 13-20 from the floor. He had a number of impressive finished around the rim tonight, none more notable than an alley-oop he converted with his back to the baseline (!!!!). Giannis continues to amaze in all facets of his game, but the team play as a whole is still straggling behind. Opposing defenses are making it increasingly more difficult to score for him, but he still makes it look so easy. He scored 37 points without hitting a three-pointer. Wow.
5. Milwaukee’s defense continues to disappoint. After looking like they turned the corner after an amazing win at Toronto after the All-Star break, the Bucks defense has been on a rapid decline. The Bucks give up way too many open looks from behind the arch, and they left Kevin Love and Kyle Korver wide open on multiple occasions. Cleveland unleashed a barrage of threes on the Bucks defense, which was clearly the difference in the game. The Cavs made 15 three-pointers, which is almost impossible to recover from. Jason Kidd’s defensive strategy is still very prevalent even though he was dismissed. Things will not change until the offseason, unfortunately.