Tanking can eat my shorts. This was fun.
|Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 32 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +12
He was really one of two Bucks to show up in the first half, scoring 14 of his 16 in that period. The rest of his performance was reminiscent to the Ersan we knew in the better times as he banged around enough to collect the rebounding end of only his 7th double-double of the season.
|Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 5-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +11
I was gearing up to say some things about Middleton after a first half where he went 1-for-5. However, he turned it on after that, hitting 4 of 5 threes and finishing with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. In particular, he drilled two threes as a part of the Bucks’ rally to take the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. After the game, he dropped a “Shooters gotta shoot” line, saying coach Larry Drew and his teammates were telling him that. I sometimes question the accuracy of that statement, but it definitely worked for him in this game.
|Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -1
The only starter to end up in the red on +/-, Zaza ceded a large portion of the playing time at center to John Henson in the second half. He was steady, although I did watch him throw a pass directly into Nikola Vucevic’s elbow at one point. Suprisingly, it did not result in a turnover.As an aside, he’s shooting 37% on the year. That’s bad for any player, but horrid for a big man.
|Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 44 MIN | 9-23 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +18
The only knock on his performance is that his 24 points came on 23 shots. Knight was definitely the spark plug of the Bucks’ fourth quarter rally, scoring 9 consecutive points to open the quarter and mixing in a quite emphatic dunk.Throughout the quarter, the Magic simply could not keep him from driving to the rim. It happened on 3 or 4 possessions in a row. The extra gear that Knight possesses, combined with his rough three-point shooting (1-9 on the night) lead me to believe that he’s far more effective on the drive than he is with the jumper. Still, his sheer physical ability gives him something that not many other NBA players have.
|Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +4
Wolters was supplanted in most of the second half by Ramon Sessions, who didn’t give Larry Drew any good reasons to take him out. Nate scored efficiently in his time, but you’d hope that he could muster up more than one assist as the nominal point guard.
|Jeff Adrien, PF Shot Chart 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -14
Curiously, on the night that Larry Drew mentioned in his pregame quotes that Adrien deserved minutes in the rotation, the forward played only five minutes. After the game, Drew admitted that Adrien covering Tobias Harris was a bad matchup. That passed the eye test, as Harris scored 11 points in the first half with Adrien guarding him and none in the second with Middleton or Ilyasova on him.
|John Henson, C Shot Chart 30 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6
Given 30 minutes for the first time since the last matchup with the Magic in mid-February, Henson responded with an efficient 10 points and 8 rebounds. It’s unfortunate that Henson often occupies the center position when he’s put in the game, because I get the feeling that he’s more suited to play power forward. Nonetheless, he battled successfully against Vucevic in the post and may well be on his way to more steady minutes with a couple of solid performances in recent games.
|Ramon Sessions, PG Shot Chart 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +6
In an effort to put the game away, Drew went with a backcourt of Sessions and Knight for large sections of the second half and fourth quarter, specifically. He responded with one of the better point guard-type efforts the Bucks have had lately and helped to secure the victory with free throws at the end. He knows what he’s about – driving to the rim and drawing fouls. That helped out tremendously as the Bucks looked to hang on for the win.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +4
I keep hoping that Giannis will spend more time driving to the basket when he gets the ball at the top of the key. Use that length, son!
|O.J. Mayo, SG Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -11
Played, shot, sat.
He took blame after the game for creating bad matchups that led to the Magic’s quick start (as well as the Bucks’ slow one). To his credit, Drew corrected that issue in the second half, rolling with a small lineup featuring Middleton as the nominal power forward. That move payed off in big ways as the Bucks rallied around that lineup to grab the victory.
Three Things We Saw
- The game was largely decided by the actions of two players — Knight and Middleton — under the age of 23. Who came over in a trade for this guy. It was encouraging to watch a win buoyed by the “core” players who still hold potential for significant improvement.
- Brandon Knight commemorated the one-year anniversary of this with a symbolic posterization of the Magic during his nine-point run in the fourth quarter. The play was highlighted by a touchdown heave from Giannis to set that play up. While recounting the play after the game, Knight singled out the awareness that Sessions showed in serving the ball up for him. I couldn’t agree more. It was a great play that brought the entire crowd to its feet.
- The topic of Sessions’ play came up in Drew, Knight, and Middleton’s comments after the game. All three were impressed by his quick adaption to the team and the knack that Sessions has both for managing the offense and threatening the opposing defense with his ability to get into the paint. I hope Knight is paying attention, because that’s a pretty good model to follow.