It wasn’t pretty, but the Bucks coasted home Monday night to post their fourth straight victory since firing head coach Jason Kidd. An excellent second half performance mixed with a little luck helped them round out 107-95 winners over the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers.
Here’s my five takeaways from tonights matchup:
- Jabari Parker Announces His Return!!- Yes, there was a game played tonight. Yes the Bucks came out on top. But undoubtedly the story of the night was Jabari Parker announcing his return to action on the Fox Sports Wisconsin broadcast. During the second quarter Telly Hughes got the scoop that Parker will return this Friday night, at home, against the New York Knicks. The return falls in line with the Bucks long standing plans for him to come back sometime in February. With the Bucks finding their rhythm and making their move up the standings leading into the All-Star break, adding an offensive force like Parker is an unbelievable bonus for the Bucks. Before going down last season Parker averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, knocking down 37 percent of his triples. Yeah, I think the Bucks will find a way to slot that production in.
- Bledsoe Goes Down: Unfortunately for Milwaukee, on the night they announce the return of one star, they lose another to injury. Eric Bledsoe’s ankle has come up a couple of times recently despite the fact he has been yet to miss a game. Bledsoe only lasted three minutes in this one before succumbing to the injury. It was announced that he was available to return if need be, but it wasn’t required. Bledsoe’s scoring since the turn of the New Year had dropped to 14.8 points per game, on 42 percent shooting from the field. The confirmation of an ankle issue certainly makes sense in this instance, and with the Bucks now having two days off before another back to back, it’s certainly questionable whether Bledsoe will be good to go.
- Points In The Paint: The Bucks were slaughtered in the paint last Saturday night against Phlly 32-62. You thought leading into this one that the absence of Joel Embiid would help the Bucks in that regard but it wasn’t to be. Maybe the Bucks defense relaxed without Embiid on the floor? It’s unclear, but Milwaukee still gave up an astonishing 60 points to the Sixers who are only averaging 46.9 in the paint on the season. Too often early in the game especially, the Bucks were caught napping on the perimeter allowing easy cuts and finishes at the basket. The Milwaukee defense has been much improved since the coaching changeover but this was a disappointing night for the most part on that end.
- Potent Second Unit?: All season long the Bucks bench has ranked near on last in points per game across the league. Certainly a part of this was due to the ridiculous minutes the starters were getting and the ever changing rotation that didn’t allow the Bucks reserves to get in a rhythm. Nonetheless, they are beginning to have an impact under Prunty and it is a joy to watch. Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova and Sterling Brown all scored in double digits, as the Bucks second unit poured in 38 points on the night. With this coming one game after they dropped 37 on the Nets, it certainly presents the Bucks with a far more positive outlook moving forward. Especially with the imminent return of Jabari Parker only days away.
- MVP Giannis: Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t play the last time these two teams met and boy did he (unsurprisingly) make a difference. In another MVP caliber performance, Giannis dropped 31 points, grabbed 18 boards and dished 6 assists in a box score stuffing performance. Given the fact Embiid had 29 and 9 against the Bucks last week, it’s fair to say the 34 point swing in result was majorly due to the change in lineups. For the record, Giannis is putting up 33.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists in the three games since returning from his two game hiatus with knee soreness. MVP caliber stuff indeed.
The Bucks now have two nights off before visiting Minnesota on Thursday, and then returning home for Jabari Parker night against the Knicks on Friday.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus