The Pistons came into this one 10-3 and on a five game winning streak of their own so we knew it was always going to be a four quarter battle.
Here are my five takeaways from the matchup:
- The defense was ferocious yet again: The Bucks much maligned defensive scheme has been torn apart equally as bad off the court as it has on the court in the Jason Kidd era. Outside of the Zaza/Dudley year, it’s been a mess to put it politely. None the less Kidd has stuck to his guns, strong in his belief that it can be an effective if not dominant scheme. In the first 10 games this season, Milwaukee was all at sea giving up 108.7 points per game, slumping to the 29th ranked ranked defense in the NBA. Simply unacceptable for the personnel on this roster. Since the Bledsoe trade, including tonight the Bucks are giving up a paltry 93.7 points per game. Detroit was held to 35.3% shooting from the field and had 16 (!!!) shots blocked as the Milwaukee defense sent the Bradley Center crowd ducking for cover avoiding swatted balls sent soaring into the courtside rows. It was a dominant night defensively in what has been a dominant four game stretch. Refreshing.
- Khris Middleton role adjustment continues: Khris has had a cold to start the season, we all know that. A perennially bad early season shooter, Middleton has stayed true to form so far in a typically frigid start (as discussed here on creamcitycentral.com). The addition of Bledsoe however, should help ease Middleton back into form. We’ve already seen Khris start to take and knock down far more catch and shoot triples, a significantly more suited role then the heavy dribbling, iso ball we’ve seen far to often. With 27 points tonight including 3-7 from deep Khris had his second consecutive strong shooting night from three, a huge but not surprising development when you look at the shots he is getting now. In the first quarter a Henson block led to a Bledsoe push up the court with the trailing Middleton not far behind. Bledsoe simply pushed the ball, got the defense on the back foot and then turned and shovelled the ball back to Middleton for the wide open trailer three, beautiful Bucks offense at its best. This is the Khris Middleton we want to see, and I expect we will.
- Henson the enforcer? I am resisting getting sucked in for as long as i possibly can with John Henson, scarred from getting burnt in the past. That being said, credit where credits due, Hook is playing very, very good basketball right now. With 10 points and 10 rebounds Henson chalked up his first double-double of the season, but that only tells part of the story. Facing a formidable task tonight, handling Andre Drummond, Henson was active and intense from the opening tip. Throwing his body around and battling on the glass, grabbing 5 offensive boards in the process, this is indeed a Henson we have rarely seen. Somehow, Hook only got credited for 2 blocks (it felt like 10) but it wasn’t just the shots he did block but the ones he altered and made the Pistons pass up. Henson did a great job of warding off penetration without fouling, it was a great performance and one I hope becomes the norm.
- Bledsoe’s strong finish: Bledsoe, still finding his legs after an extended break from the game in Phoenix, as well as playing through a knee contusion that had him questionable last start, was monumental in the Bucks being able to close this one out. Despite having another rough shooting night, Eric stamped his authority on the game offensively when it was needed most. With the Bucks leading by only 3, 90-87, after starting the fourth up by 15, Bledsoe decided it was his time. First, with 2:44 left, knocking down a straight away triple, followed by a 15 foot jumper to break a 93-93 deadlock with 0:42 left. Finally, Bledsoe effectively iced the game with 2 cool free throws. Seven straight points and the first real Bledsoe offensive takeover had just been witnessed in Milwaukee. When combined with his elite defense all night, the late scoring outburst confirms that the box score will not tell the whole story about tonight, Bledsoe was huge.
- The Kevin Garnett effect: In a much publicised visit to the Bucks practice facility yesterday, Kevin Garnett once again spent a lot of time working with Thon Maker. In what is becoming a regular occurrence, KG worked on Thon’s offensive game, general positioning and footwork with his well renowned intensity. Maker’s effort levels have appeared to crank up a couple notches in the last two games but he was noticeably fired up and engaged in this one from the moment he hit the floor. Finishing with 4 blocks, a season high, Maker was in no mood to let the Pistons get easy buckets at the rim, each block drawing a fist pump from the beanpole rim protector. In the space of a week it feels like the Bucks center rotation has gone from deplorable to effective, this level of play may not be sustainable but it genuinely feels and appears like Thon and Henson are simply bringing the intensity and effort more regularly then before. Those are the type of traits that can be sustained, lets hope thats the case.
Well, there hasn’t been two many times in the past four seasons that i could give my five takeaways from a victory and not mention Giannis but its a pleasant change and one that holds the Bucks in good stead going forward. Antetokounmpo casually had 21 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks mind you, you could say a rather ho-hum performance by his standards!
Next up for Milwaukee, a Saturday night road game against the struggling Dallas Mavericks. On paper, it looks like a fifth straight victory, let’s hope so!
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus