The Bucks head into the break off a sloppy 134-123 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Mike Malone led Nugs hit an amazing 24-40 from three, as they looked completely locked in for four quarters. Milwaukee heads into the break as the sixth seed at 32-25. They’ll return to action next 2/23 in Toronto, which should be a matchup worth waiting a week for.
1. Giannis Slow Start, Good Performance He started the game a step slow, turning the ball over twice via uncatchable passes. He quickly shook out of it and helped keep his team in the game despite Denver’s 74 point first half burst. He ended up having one of his more impressive first halfs of the season, putting up 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, and a block. He maintained his pace in the second half, as did Denver. Antetokounmpo finished the game with 36 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, three blocks, and five turnovers.
2. Parker heads the bench. With the injuries to Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, and Malcolm Brogdon, Jabari has had the pressure of scoring for the bench thrown on him. He usually gets to play alongside one of the Bucks big three, but is still looked on to create offense for himself and his teammates. He scored 12 points on 5-7 shootings, to go along with five rebounds and one steal. He made a few nice passes throughout the game, and continues to look great within his minutes restrictions.
3. Bledsoe continues to shine defensively. Despite Denver’s perimeter showcase, Milwaukee’s starting point guard continued to give his team transition opportunities by jumping the passing lanes. As with most steal kings, he also gave up his fair share of easy opportunities from being too aggressive against the ball movement oriented Nuggets. Even so, it’s hard to imagine where the Bucks would have been without his efforts.
The rest of his game went smoothly, scoring 27 points on an efficient 9-14 from the field, to go along with three rebounds, and eight assists on three turnovers. The mid season acquisition has been playing great since his ankle has bounced back.
4. Nikola Jokic Schools Bucks. The almost 23 year old Serbian, and former second round pick, put up a 16-11-12 triple double on Milwaukee in the first half. Jokic didn’t do all of his work on Thon Maker, but he did most of it, as you would expect. He didn’t necessarily even bully Thon, he just used his body well, had a clear skill advantage, and the Bucks perimeter defense wasn’t finding the Nuggets shooters. Jokic didn’t need to run the Bucks out of the gym in the second half, but still finished with 30-15-17.
5. Middleton Struggles. Mike Malone had a smaller quick defender on Khris for most of the night. The Bucks tried to take advantage of the size difference with the midrange iso, which worked for a while, but Middleton went flat in the third quarter. He only shot three, three pointers in the game, which obviously put the Bucks in a deeper hole with Denver having a near NBA record night from behind the arch. He finished the night with 17 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and one block on 6-15 shooting. I like that Middleton isn’t purely a 3 and D wing, but it can start to hurt his team if he isn’t using the midrange to set up his three point shot.