Milwaukee returned from their three day break to fall to New Orleans 108-115. The game was close throughout as the two playoff hopefuls exchanged small leads, until the Pelicans took over late in the fourth quarter.
1. Finding Boogie: John Henson did a much better job shutting down DeMarcus Cousin’s dribble-drive game than I expected. Boogie isn’t shy around a good turnover, but still the Bucks forced him into six first half turnovers. Henson picked his pocket as he tried to shimmy his way to the rim multiple times. Coming into the game, I figured what you figured, Boogie would bully ball his way to dominating the Bucks front court, but Henson and Thon both embraced the All-Star match up. They were able to frustrate the big man deep into the third quarter obviously affecting his game. Unfortunately, Boogie worked himself out of it, and completely dominated the Bucks in the fourth quarter. He did end the game with nine turnovers, but was able to pull the sword out of the stone, then stab the Bucks in the chest with it. When Boogie was ready to take over, he took over, like any good bully.
2. Giannis Star Responsibilities: Sometimes stars are required to take things personally. The ultimate goal is to win the game, but stars want to win their team the game against other stars. Giannis looked motivated to take on two blue chip Kentucky, NBA All-Stars, and show that he (the skinny no-name, ‘four years from contributing off the bench’) is in fact, better than both of them.
Well, tonight he was the best player on the floor for most of the game, finishing with 32 points, nine rebounds, four assists, five steals, and one block. The Bucks star wasn’t able to win the game for his team, but he won the individual battles.
3. The Compliments: Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton both struggled from the field tonight, leaving the Bucks to rely on Giannis’ scoring ability to win the game. The two Bucks stars combined to shoot (10-33) from the floor, (5-17) from three, (4-5) from the line, for a total of 29 points. Hard to win when neither of them is cooking, but it was just one of those nights, both players showed up to play.
Middleton was able to record ten assists, only turning the ball over once. He by no means had a poor game, the shot just wasn’t there. Bledsoe was a little sloppy with the ball, assisting on five buckets to go along with his five turnovers. But to his credit, he got Giannis going with a sweet over the shoulder alley oop, and grabbed himself four steals.
4. Brogdon: If the Bucks want to win games when their best players are off, their bench needs to pick up the scoring load. Right now, the bench is missing too many key players to be relied on. Malcolm Brogdon is being asked to be the initiator, usually playing alongside one of the Bucks big three. He’s not at his best when the defense knows he’s a primary option. That’s when his quickness becomes a big disadvantage. In New Orleans, he scored 11 points on 12 shots. He was his normal steady self, but asking him to put points up alongside Liggins, Vaughn, Thon, and one of the big three, is like asking Jimmer Freddette to be Steve Nash. Without perimeter movement or a post presence to feed, he’s not able to dissect bench defenses with his doctor like basketball IQ. Hopefully Jabari can create the gravity necessary for Brogdon to be the rookie of the year again.
5. Thonny Boy: In his first action since his most recent Kevin Garnett B12 shot, Thon focused on his defense. Matched up against Cousins, Thon tried to out hustle the All-Star. He gave up some buckets, but also made the Pelicans front court work for their food. Maker has been moving around the floor much more fluently. Early in the season, he looked like a deer on ice, his legs seemingly ready to jump into any direction they may need to go any instant. Now, he seems confident in where he’s going, staying in front of his man, keeping his balance so he can’t be easily moved. His stats are very similar, but his game looks much more leveled off. I think he’ll build off the baby step, and come on late in the season, as he did last year.
Milwaukee returns to action Friday night (7 PM), hosting the Chicago Bulls.