Knight shines on Hollywood Night: Bucks 94 — Lakers 79

The Knight Show (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Knight Show (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Milwaukee Bucks 94 Recap | Box Score 79 Los Angeles Lakers
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 33 MIN | 7-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +24

Ilyasova came out with a flourish, scoring the game’s first six points while looking healthy and unflustered for the first time in eons. But then Larry Drew stuck with his lifeless bench deep into the second quarter and Ersan looked a bit rusty by the time he got back in. Personally I would have ridden with Ilyasova longer in an attempt to let him shake loose of a season-long slump … but 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds is a nice prelude to slump-busting 2014.

Larry Sanders, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-4 FT | 11 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +18

He’s missing a lot of shots when he catches the ball high around the rim and brings the ball down while waiting for the defense to set up. It’s not a huge hitch, but one that’s just big enough to allow for the guarding of what should be uncontested shots.

His work as a rebounder and rim-protector was vintage Larry.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +30

I still don’t understand the point of Luke Ridnour, starting 2-guard, but he did mesh seamlessly with the starters. And like each of the Bucks’ other four starters, he was diving around for loose balls in a game that seemed to have more than its fair share.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 15-25 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 37 PTS | +17

Knight played a great all-around game and he did a good job of pushing the ball in transition and finishing those pushes when he outran his teammates and the defenders trying to slow him. But his 18-point third quarter was an absolute blur. He was making shots from everywhere.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +25

He fell hard on his tailbone in the game’s final minute after being undercut on a rebound by Shawne Williams. He got up, smiled, and hit his free throws, but it will be interesting to see if he plays in future games on this trip.

In the second half, he was skying for rebounds that never got within 11 feet of the ground.

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 17 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -11

I hope he doesn’t catch the defensive malaise that’s plaguing the current members of the Bucks’ bench. And he needs to be playing more than 17 minutes per game.

Caron Butler, SF Shot Chart 8 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | -6

Not feeling the defensive effort here. Perhaps Larry Drew felt the same way, as Butler had never played fewer than 9 minutes in an NBA game prior to this one.

Miroslav Raduljica, C Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5

Pau Gasol sailed around him like he was a buoy on one 2nd half dunk, but it’s hard not to like the sequence where Miroslav plucked the ball out of Nick Young’s hands like a parent taking away a toy from a naughty child.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 14 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -11

It looks like he’s still battling plantar fasciitis. It haunts him on defense and when he tries to elevate after driving into the lane. I don’t understand the rush to have him playing if he’s not fully healthy.

With Ridnour starting, Drew made Neal the backup point guard. Nate Wolters didn’t play in the game.

O.J. Mayo, SG Shot Chart 9 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6

If the New Year’s holiday is all about fresh beginnings, O.J. Mayo is probably chomping at the bit for 2014. I want so much more for him. He’s too much of an offensive wizard to be flirting with Club (Nine) Trillion.

Larry Drew

His job got tougher when his bench expanded to 8 players. Tonight he doled out the DNP-CDs to Ekpe Udoh and Nate Wolters, while also limiting the minutes of Mayo and Butler. It’s not going to be easy navigating the sensibilities of guys who think they should be playing more minutes, but for now Drew seems to be doing it well.

Three Things We Saw

  1. At the beginning of the season, the Bucks were forced into using Udoh, Mayo, and other shaky rebounders more often than they would have liked. But with the return of Sanders, Ilyasova, and Knight, and the emergence of Antetokounmpo as a starter, Milwaukee can roll out starting lineups with four or more strong rebounders. It showed in this game. The Bucks had a 51-39 edge on the glass, and the fact that they only allowed 9 offensive rebounds helped them gain a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint.
  2. The Lakers wore their black jerseys for their ‘Hollywood Nights’ promo.  The Lakers have lost six games in a row, including the most recent three against Utah, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee — a.k.a. teams with the three lowest winning percentages in the NBA. The black jerseys would have been more fitting attire for a wake theme. Also, it’s probably best not to hail this win as a great turning point for the Bucks. L.A. is a mess.
  3. Elevation. It’s 2014. Cheers.
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(Photo credit: Twitter/Bucks)

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    • Agreed. Though I hope Middleton’s minutes aren’t going to become a trend. He’s still been arguably our most consistent player this season. If Drew wants to bench him in favor of Ridnour, fine. It seemed to actually work out pretty well against the Lakers, though their team is an even bigger mess than ours at this point.

      But he (Middleton) needs more than 17 minutes a night, even if it’s coming off the bench.

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  2. Absolutely!!! Middleton has easily been the most consistent all around player for this BUCKS team. He has earned his minutes,and should be considered a key part of the BUCKS rebuilding project. As a fan,I am aware of the need to put a WINNING combination of players on the court-but taking opportunity away from Middleton should be considered a mistake!!!