What looked like a Milwaukee rout early turned out to be one of those loses that leaves a person hanging their head in disappointment and asking why. Both Milwaukee and New Orleans are now two-for-two in games going to overtime since the All-Star break. The Bucks went from getting everything they wanted to not being able to catch a break. Such is life in the NBA.
1. It’s time to move Jabari Parker into the starting lineup. There’s not really any downside at this point to keep Jabari coming off the bench. They can still limit his minutes. I mean, just because he starts doesn’t mean he has to play 36 minutes or anything. And it’s not like Tony Snell has been setting the world on fire. We’re way past the point of worrying about who plays what position. A Bledsoe-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Paker-Henson is perfect for today’s positionless brand of basketball, except that lineup could use a bit more outside shooting ability (but that’s something you could say for every lineup in the NBA outside of Golden St.).
Plus, The Bucks are entering a very interesting offseason concerning Jabari Parker. Being a restricted free agent, the Bucks will have the right to match any offer that comes Parker’s way. But in the meantime, it’s imperative they try and find out what they have and what kind of player he is at this point. And all of that needs to come in the context of how he fits next to Giannis. Milwaukee also can’t risk souring Parker to the organization, or the staff – even if said staff is ultimately replaced, which is likely. The situation between the Bucks and Parker seems fine for now, but it’s going to be a bit of a tightrope walk. And it would be easy to understand if Parker is getting antsy to get back into the starting lineup.
2. Anthony Davis is as tough a matchup for Giannis as anyone in the league. There are very few players in the world that can as much as bother Giannis Antetokounmpo. Anthony Davis is one of them. By Giannis standards, the Greek Freak was pretty mediocre today. Credit Davis for that. Antentokounmpo still scored 20 but took 18 shots to get there. Adding six assists, four rebounds, and two steals would be great for most players but is relatively sub-standard by Giannis measurements. In fact, the rebounding number should be just as – if not more – concerning than anything. Eric Bledsoe led the Bucks in rebounding against New Orleans with nine. He’s a good rebounder for his size, but relying on him to lead the team in boards is not a winning recipe. Davis and Antetokounmpo offering a tough matchup for the other opened the door for Jrue Holiday (who finished with a game-high 36) to be the best player on the floor for this game.
3. It was a tale of two halves. That’s sort of the cliché about basketball games that go from one extreme to the other. But perhaps a more fitting version of that idea for this game would be: it was a feature of four quarters. Milwaukee simply dominated the first two quarters. Leading to a 66-49 halftime edge. That was all erased after New Orleans outscored the Bucks 38-19 in the third frame. The malaise of the third was palpable into the start of the fourth. The Bucks were far superior for the first 24 minutes and played the Pelicans to a relative stalemate for the fourth quarter and overtime. But the 12 minutes of the third quarter undid all of that good work outside of the third.
4. It was one of Eric Bledsoe’s worst games as a Buck … until it wasn’t. Bledsoe’s defensive effort is usually beyond reproach. But Jrue Holiday had a game-of-his-career type contest and Rajon Rondo was two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Trying to get a good double-team on Davis might have led to those guards being left open, but it’s pretty obvious the Bucks fell short of whatever their defensive game plan was. Offensively, Bledsoe was bad throughout much of the game. Even as Milwaukee sprinted out to the big first-half lead. At one point Bledsoe missed six consecutive shots and had a couple turnovers in the same span. But the point guard made a few big shots late in the fourth quarter that kept the Bucks afloat and made overtime possible Ultimately, Bledsoe finished 7-15 from the floor, good for 20 points, and added the team-high nine boards, five assists, and a steal.
5. Although it didn’t fall, the Bucks get good shots with the game on the line. An open, step-back jumper by your best player is a more than acceptable shot with the game on the line. Hypothetically, it could be better, but in that situation, beggars can’t be choosers. Giannis has proven to be able to make big shots, as has Middleton in the past and even Bledsoe to some extent. If you want to nitpick about the last possession, perhaps try to envision a scenario in which Jason Terry makes a more aggressive move to meet the ball instead of waiting for the ball to get to him in the corner. He might’ve gotten a shot off in time. Mental mistakes like that at the professional level are more inexcusable than execution mishaps. If a game is decided by a banked-in three from Rajon Rondo, it’s probably just not your day. It’s easy to place blame on a last-second shot not going in for a loss, but there’s always plenty of reasons why it came down to that in the first place.