Short-handed, undersized, victorious: Bucks 108 – Kings 107

Milwaukee Bucks 108 Final Recap | Box Score 107 Sacramento Kings
Johnny O’Bryant III, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -6

O’Bryant received the surprise start over Jared Dudley and looked like a rookie playing in his second NBA game. There was some good — two midrange jumpers, two made free throws, frustrating DeMarcus Cousins and setting wide screens — and some bad. A couple of passes sailed through his hands, and he only collected one rebound in 17 minutes. After Zaza Pachulia picked up his fifth foul with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, O’Bryant was pressed into high-leverage minutes at center against Cousins. On the first defensive possession of that stretch, the Bucks threw a double team at Cousins and forced a turnover. On the second possession, Cousins passed out of an isolation opportunity toward the top of the key. On the third possession, Cousins lowered a shoulder on O’Bryant and picked up an offensive foul, leading to a terse exchange of words. A few possessions later, O’Bryant fronted Cousins and forced an errant pass out of bounds. Eventually, O’Bryant faltered. Cousins scored over him and drew a foul to bring the Kings within five with four minutes remaining, prompting Bucks coach Jason Kidd to bring back Pachulia.

Zaza Pachulia, C 26 MIN | 2-7 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -7

With Sanders’ suspension, Pachulia was tasked with shadowing Cousins, who returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games with viral meningitis. Pachulia didn’t fare too well defensively — Cousins finished with 27 points on 12 shots and 11 rebounds, though he did turn the ball over six times. When Cousins ventured out of the post, Pachulia struggled to stick with him. When Cousins posted up, Pachulia often defaulted to fouling, picking up five in 26 minutes. Cousins shot 13 free throws and gave the Kings a 33-27 free throw edge. But Pachulia controlled Cousins for the final four minutes and scored Milwaukee’s last three points, including the game-winning free throw with 6.8 seconds left. He was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound on a Jared Dudley miss and made one of two from the line.

Brandon Knight, PG 38 MIN | 6-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | -7

The Bucks came out flat in the first quarter on the latter half of a West Coast back-to-back, but Knight did everything in his power to up the energy level in the second quarter. He pushed the ball and attacked, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the frame. As he’s wont to do, he drilled a three-pointer shortly before the buzzer to give the Bucks a 57-54 lead going into halftime. He was pretty quiet the rest of the night, but his energy and scoring in the second quarter helped set the tone for the rest of the game.

O.J. Mayo, SG 23 MIN | 7-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | -4

Mayo single-handedly kept the Bucks within striking distance in the first quarter. He scored their first 12 points of the game and finished the first quarter with 17 of Milwaukee’s 25 points. He hit a trio of three-pointers in the frame, and it appears he’s starting to get his jump shot back after a rare hiatus. He was quiet — and plagued by foul trouble — the rest of the night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 37 MIN | 4-5 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -10

Apparently Antetokounmpo wasn’t on a minutes limit against the Kings after rolling his ankle Wednesday night. He played 37 minutes and didn’t appear to be slowed down much, though he seemed a bit more reserved on fast breaks. He shifted to center in extreme small-ball lineups when Pachulia and O’Bryant were out, and he held his own. Offensively, playing center shouldn’t be much of an issue for him — he immediately drew a foul on Ryan Hollins when he first transitioned there. He showed off a new move in the third quarter, spinning and picking up his dribble at 15 feet, pump faking, watching Rudy Gay fly through and banking in a jumper.

Khris Middleton, PF 18 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +6

It was a very quiet night for Middleton, who missed all three of his field goal attempts.

Kendall Marshall, PG 19 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +18

Marshall has been a willing jump shooter this season — and for good reason: He’s now shooting 46.7 percent from beyond the arc on 30 attempts. It appears his sudden spike in three-point shooting last season, in which he shot 39.9 percent, was no aberration. That’s good news for a player who already has some of the finest passing skills in the NBA — as evidenced again by his six assists Thursday night. He kept the ball moving all night.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 29 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +12

Bayless provided the Bucks with much-needed playmaking off the bench, finishing with 17 points, five assists and four rebounds. He hit a couple of big corner threes down the stretch, though both were immediately answered by Derrick Williams. If you need any evidence that this year’s veterans are buying in to Jason Kidd’s ball-movement philosophy, Bayless may be the best case study. He’s attempting a career-low 9.6 field goal attempts per game. The only other season he’s attempted below 12 attempts per 36 minutes? His rookie year in Portland.

He’s also made 50 of 51 free throw attempts this season.

Jared Dudley, SG 33 MIN | 7-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | +3

With the Bucks’ frontcourt injuries, Dudley played all 33 of his minutes at power forward and center. Usually just a catch-and-shoot threat, Dudley took advantage of his matchups to stretch the defense and drive with surprising effectiveness. He didn’t get exposed on defense, either, though his minutes at center came against Jason Thompson — not Cousins. It was easily the most active game of the season for Dudley, who finished with a season-high 19 points and contributed five rebounds. And he continues to do the little things that don’t show up on the box score: boxing out, making the right reads, knowing when to pick his spots and being vocal.


Sanders missed the game due to a one-game suspension for pushing Nicolas Batum in the back on a dunk attempt Wednesday night.

Four Things We Saw

  1. The Bucks and Kings combined for one offensive rebound in the first half.
  2. There was one possession in which Gay pounded the ball for nearly the entire shot clock at the top of the three-point line, much to the chagrin of Cousins, who first called for the ball at the elbow and then dejectedly shook his head and neglected to cut, post up, set an off-ball pick or do anything. Gay responded by taking — and naturally, making — a contested three-pointer at the end of the shot clock. Despite the fact he appeared to have little intention of passing on that possession, he was clearly annoyed after the shot and motioned for Cousins to move on offense. It was all very Kings.
  3. With Sanders’ suspension and injuries to Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson, Kidd was forced to give significant minutes to Dudley and O’Bryant at power forward and center. The Bucks were outscored 48-26 in the paint and outrebounded 35-27, but they subsisted on their shooting and speed with 13 three-pointers and 18 fast-break points. The Kings, who reportedly fired their coach in part to play faster, scored six fast-break points.

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  1. At the risk of causing eyes to roll, and grumbles of, There goes Swisch again…

    While watching the game, my major observation was that the offense of the Bucks was so dramatically better with Kendall on the court, and so drastically worse with him off — but even I was somewhat astounded to see that he was +18 in only 19 minutes of play.

    It was, well, the difference between day and Knight. Brandon seemed somewhat clingy with the ball, I don’t think because he was selfish, but because he isn’t fine-tuned to the music of ball movement. He’s a natural as a highly talented shooting guard, but at least a little tone deaf as a point guard — and I’m not so sure he’ll ever be able to acquire the knack for it.

    Kendall is a maestro in the making, still learning his craft but already creating rhythm and harmony on the court, and orchestrating a pleasureable effect for the whole team, a sweet and satisfying production.

    I tend to see things in an impressionistic and imprecise way, but at least most of this seems so strikingly clear to me. Perhaps I’m living in an alternate universe, and others at this site can tell me what I’m missing — or maybe, just maybe, validate that there is some sanity left in this aging brain of mine. (Preston’s remarks above, and Sidney Moncrief’s commentary during the game — while not as effusive as mine regarding Kendall — give me some hope I’m on the right track.)

    • Sounds good to me. I just worry a bit about his defense. If there’s a somebody on the court for him to guard, get him out there.

  2. I truly wonder how long it will take the Bucks to recognize the obvious. Brandon Knight IS NOT a point guard. KMarshall is a point guard, Nate is a point guard, Brandon Knight IS NOT a point guard.

    I’m guessing Knight will continue to play point until Kidd is satisfied someone else can handle 30 minutes a night. Likely next year sometime – Maybe a trade?

  3. We need to sign Marshall a contract. Move Brandon to the 2, and start getting chemistry that way. I don’t know how Jason Kidd doesn’t realize that Brandon is a shooting guard, and Kendall is our best point. Would also like to see Bayless extended. He sure knows how to score and create plays when we need it.