|Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 4-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +8
Ersan had the tough task of checking Carmelo Anthony for the majority of the evening. It didn’t go … great. ‘Melo is always going to get his points and he did that, with 36 points on 25 shots. Ilyasova wasn’t an ideal matchup on Anthony late in the game and his lack of foot speed allowed Anthony an open 3-point look that tied the game with 19 seconds to play. But for the most part, Ilyasova played okay. He was functional, which is more than we’ve been able to say after many Bucks games this season. It seemed to help him that the Bucks had an obvious big man rotation and his role was clear.
|Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +10
Splash. Splash. Splash. Splash. Splash. Three after three fell for Middleton, who really capitalized on Milwaukee’s seemingly improved ball movement all night long. He was open over and over, whether it was in the halfcourt or as the last man coming up as the Bucks started to get into some offense.
|Larry Sanders, C Shot Chart 30 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +11
Never has there been a Bucks player more entertaining in failure than Sanders. Not to say this game was a failure for him, as his energy was obvious and his rebounds important all night. He battled Tyson Chandler to a draw, at the very least. But when he picked up three quick fouls (within a minute of game time of each other) leading to his disqualification, he took his time leaving the court. He waved his hands above his head, signaling for the crowd to come alive and stay alive. He high fived fans sitting on the baseline. He was theatrical and passionate, as most like him to be.
Larry Drew insinuated that the team was lucky to avoid a technical foul or delay of game as a result of those actions though, and said he would talk to Larry about dialing down in the future. He began the answer with a laugh and a rub of his head though, the way a parent might react when you ask them about their charismatic child that accidentally knocked over a fire hydrant and then took off.
|Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 46 MIN | 10-23 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 25 PTS | +2
Never more evident was the development of a Bucks player this season than it was when Knight described his game winner.
“I didn’t want to get in a situation where they either switched it or trapped me at the end,” he said. “It’s better to go one on one from that point.
It’s happened a couple times in late game situations, where I’ll call a screen and they’ll either switch it or trap it and it puts our team in a bad situation. So for me, I remember that and I think that’s why the play was successful tonight.”
These plays have been disastrous for Knight all season long, but he’s used those failures as an opportunity for growth. He didn’t call for the screen at the end, because he liked his matchup against Ray Felton and knew the Knicks would switch and he may not get as good a look if he had a screener. Kudos to him and his recognition skill that we’ve all mercilessly mocked game in and game out. He still had his share of bad turnovers again on Monday, but, for at least one play, he was way more aware of his surroundings than we expect him to be.
|Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -3
Wasn’t bad, but was overshadowed by well played games from Knight, Middleton and another rookie on the team. He had his running bank shot game working a bit, which is always nice to see.
|Caron Butler, SF Shot Chart 15 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -3
On a 3-point attempt/shot-clock violation in the fourth quarter, Butler came down wrong on his left ankle. Milwaukee announced he sprained his left ankle and his status has yet to be determined. He didn’t have much of an impact, aside from a stretch in which he was overmatched when playing the four against Amar’e Stoudemire.
|Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -8
Both Giannis and Knight credited Pachulia’s presence with a renewed vigor and fight on the Milwaukee bench. His awareness on the court was evident in two sweet fourth quarter assists, one to a backdoor cutting Knight and another out of a pick and roll pass from Giannis over to Ersan. His physicality gave Milwaukee someone other than Larry Sanders capable of getting physical, which was a must against Tyson Chandler.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-9 FG | 5-8 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -9
Rarely does a stat line so undersell an impact a player made. Two assists? CHECK THOSE NUMBERS YOU THIEVING STATISTICIANS. I counted 24 or so. More realistically, he may have only had two, but the way Milwaukee’s offense operated when he was prominently involved was so much better than the way Milwaukee’s offense has usually operated this season.
For example: Milwaukee went up 10 points with 8:04 to play after a Giannis/Zaza pick and roll led to an easy dumpoff from Zaza to Ersan for a layup. Giannis failed to get a touch on four of the next five possessions and the Knicks chopped the lead down to one point. Then Giannis found an opening and connected on a crazy reverse layup to put the team back up three. Aside from maybe Zaza, no other Bucks player so actively looks to find openings for his teammates. Passing is a last resort for many Bucks, but it’s Giannis’ most basic need.
Milwaukee ran out of timeouts with 4:45 to play in the third quarter. They had one left, but it had to be saved until the final media timeout, with under three to play in the fourth. Drew recognized that this was a tough spot, but said, “I just really felt that I had to use our time outs the way I used them to try to keep the game where we would be in a good position.”
It worked out and Milwaukee’s offense did not crumble down the stretch, as it so often has in the past. For tonight, Drew was what he needed to be as a strategist and leader. It helps quite a bit when guys execute late.
Three Things We Saw
- Giannis’ parents were at the game. If you glanced at any sportswriter in Milwaukee’s Twitter account during the game, you heard about this. Drew felt Giannis’ take himself to another level for them. “I’m sure glad his family made it in today,” he said. “I know he wanted to really impress mom, and impress dad, and impress his brothers. I thought tonight was one of his most energized performances.”Giannis said they will now be living in America. Everyone is super jazzed.
- The Bucks 11-for-18 on threes in what was one of their finest shooting performances this season. Middleton and Knight were huge and the Bucks rode the hot shooting to a rare first half lead.
- The Bradley Center really enjoyed this win. There was far more energy in the building Monday night than there had been in weeks. The recent memories of poor showing after poor showing at home seemed more distant than they had any right to be. Sanders’ enthusiasm helped. Giannis helped. Knight’s total ecstasy after connecting on his game winner helped. The Bucks being in a game helped. The Bucks winning helped. Everything came together in a way it hasn’t very often this season and the team and the fans really seemed to share a nice moment when Knight put the team ahead with 1.4 to play. A mixture of relief and excitement was palpable. Finally the Bucks had done it. Nine wins isn’t much to get excited about, but one win in one night rarely has felt so good.