By the time Khris Middleton and Blake Griffin got up off the ground and were separated, it was clear this wasn’t the typical basketball game the Milwaukee Bucks had played this season. Griffin took exception to Middleton crawling on him in an attempt to corral a ball that was considered loose. There was some jawing, a little bit of pushing and shoving. It wasn’t anything major and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in this game, which was a bit out of the ordinary itself.
By far, this was the most physical game the Bucks had been involved in this season. From Griffin’s constant arm hooking and Matt Barnes near flagrant takedown of Giannis Antetokounmpo to Chris Paul’s hand-checking/jabs to Brandon Knight’s ribs, the Bucks took plenty of blows on Saturday. But Milwaukee didn’t shy away from the contact or let it affect their composure. As the Clippers pushed and prodded them, the Bucks went about their business and made a bunch of shots (56.6% to be exact) and did as well as they could have hoped defending Griffin (4-12 FG, 10 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and Paul (10 points, seven assists, six turnovers).
Was it a learning experience?
“Any time we put on a uniform, it’s a learning experience. No matter if the game is physical or finesse.” said Coach Jason Kidd after the game.
Well, okay. So we’ll say this just happened to be one of the more enjoyable learning experiences to watch.
|Larry Sanders, C 28 MIN | 7-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +15
According to ESPN’s shot charts, Sanders did not take a shot from further than a foot away from the rim, which is a great thing to see. Even better was seeing him finish with real consistency. His most difficult shot was a floating hook over DeAndre Jordan in the fourth quarter, hit just before a Bayless three put the Bucks up five. Additionally, he played a role in keeping the Clippers from going nuts on the offensive glass.
|Brandon Knight, PG 31 MIN | 6-14 FG | 7-9 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | -15
I’d put this game up with any of Knight’s best. Not only did he make most of his free throws down the stretch and a very deep three to give Milwaukee a 10 point lead with under a minute to play, but he never backed down from the always physical, sometimes dirty, Chris Paul.
|O.J. Mayo, SG 11 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -5
Mayo started hot, hitting his first three shots in the first quarter, but didn’t see much time after picking up a pair of early fouls as well.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 31 MIN | 8-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 20 PTS | -12
He matched his career high in scoring and was feeling great about himself and his team after the game.
“I’m just trying to drive it hard and I try to put my shoulder in them,” Giannis said about how he’s attacking the hoop when he has an isolation matchup. “Because if they don’t try to block the shot, they’ll try to foul me and if they don’t foul me I try to score and it’s up to me. At the end of the day if I miss the layup or make a bad play, it’s me. It’s my fault, because I think they cannot stop me when I try to drive.”
Yeah, Giannis is feeling good these days. This was not playful or fun, this was a serious Giannis letting us all know he feels like he can’t be stopped. This is getting good.
|Khris Middleton, PF 22 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +12
Catch, shoot, make. That was Middleton’s game for the majority of the night. He’s hit roughly 55% of his shots over his past five games, a stretch in which he’s averaging almost 12 points to go with about 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s thriving off the bench right now, even when thrust into some minutes at the four position. And Middleton seems to be involved in more and more scrappy situations, a testament to the effort he’s giving on both sides of the ball.
|Zaza Pachulia, C 20 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -3
He could not hit a free throw line jumper all night, which limited how hard the Clippers had to guard him and freed up Jordan to focus his attention elsewhere.
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 27 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +1
The Marshall/Bayless backcourt destroyed the Clippers reserves and helped swing this game in favor of Milwaukee. Bayless made a few jump shots and helped keep the ball moving throughout the evening.
|Kendall Marshall, PG 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +20
Marshall looked great spearheading Milwaukee’s bench unit. He never ceases to try and find open players to advance the ball up the court quickly to or swing it to the other side to look for new opportunities offensively.
|Jared Dudley, SG 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +9
His impact wasn’t as obvious as that of his teammates, but he was in during some strong runs for Milwaukee.
Kidd said the team had some physical practices over the previous two days and it seemed to really help a rested team prepare for a tough matchup against the Clippers.
Three Things We Saw
- Social media tells me that the Bucks have now scored over 100 points in nine consecutive games for the first time since 1991. They’re moving the ball well on offense and looked much better finishing, specifically in the paint, against the Clippers than they did against the Thunder. Milwaukee racked up 39 fourth quarter points!
- The Bucks have now won four games against the Western Conference. That did not happen last season. They won three such games last season.
- Giannis and Matt Barnes had quite a battle. Barnes came down hard on Giannis’s arms as he went up for a breakaway layup/dunk near the end of the first half. This made Barnes an enemy of the people in Milwaukee. Later, Barnes had a dunk over a couple of Bucks and was hit with a technical for staring at his opponents. Barnes finished with 26 points to Giannis’s 20.