|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 40 MIN | 12-15 FG | 1-2 3FG | 8-8 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 33 PTS | -14 +/-
When the Milwaukee Bucks played the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs last season, I recall hoping that Giannis would have a breakout series. I wanted him to lead the Bucks in scoring. I wanted him to assert his will as often as he could or at least make an attempt at taking over games. I wanted Milwaukee’s offense to run through him. None of that stuff happened, so when the series was over, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for out of Giannis. He still had some good games, but it felt like the series or even any of the individual games never belonged to him.
Thursday night’s game against Cleveland, the one where the Bucks were back on national TV in the regular season for the first time since 2002, belonged to Giannis. A few of his buckets were of the scrappy, off-the-ball cutting or offensive rebound variety, but he served as Milwaukee’s first offensive option a number of times. He created offense for himself via timely attacks and opportunistic jump shots. It’s not a stretch to say this was the best game of his career.
|Jabari Parker, SF 31 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -11 +/-
The spotlight was on Giannis after the game, but Parker played very well in the shadow of his younger teammate. He had another big dunk, once again over the ground-bound Kevin Love. But he also displayed his ball-handling skills again when he crossed over James Jones on the perimeter en route to drawing a foul at the rim.
We see more and more flashes of what will likely be consistent offensive production out of Parker with each passing game. He had some tougher moments defensively. After Jones had hit a couple of early threes, Parker had to close out hard on him, opening up driving lanes that James Jones hasn’t seen in years, but eventually Jabari will probably get better at closing out hard without losing the ability to defend against a drive.
|Greg Monroe, C 34 MIN | 7-14 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-7 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -2 +/-Another game where Monroe was pretty good out of the post. Another game where Monroe led the team in rebounds. Another game where the Bucks struggled defensively. Another game where the Bucks struggled to rebound defensively as a team. The last two things aren’t necessarily his fault, but he’s heavily involved.|
|Michael Carter-Williams, PG 27 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -5 +/-
A lot of people were complaining about MCW’s turnovers on Thursday night, but he only had two. He wasn’t loose with the ball or anything. Foul trouble forced him out early in the second half, so his minutes were more limited than usual.
More and more after watching Bucks games I come away asking myself, “What does MCW do well?” He’s tall, and he posts up sometimes, which does lead to some good looks and occasional baskets. And he’s capable of getting into passing lanes. He’s an okay finisher. He’s been a better shooter within 10-feet than Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade or Jeff Teague. But there’s nothing very fun about watching him and when he attacks, you rarely see a guy who is attacking and able to find teammates out of it. He’s just going in there to make something happen for himself.
|Khris Middleton, SG 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-1 3FG | 7-7 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +5 +/-
Before Middleton fouled out in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee began running a lot of 1-2 pick and rolls with him and Greivis Vasquez or Jerryd Bayless. They were very efficient in getting Middleton either open catch-and-shoot shots or an opportunity against Matthew Dellavedova in the post. It was great to see, because in the first quarter it felt like Middleton was getting zero opportunities to catch and shoot. He’s been a find shooter when Milwaukee’s done something to get him open this season and he’s struggled when he’s had to create a little bit of offense on his own.
|Johnny O’Bryant III, PF 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3 +/-
Basically invisible for six minutes.
|John Henson, PF 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -15 +/-
Basically invisible for 11 minutes, aside from one nice block.
|Greivis Vasquez, PG 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | -10 +/-
Can you see a common theme from the guys on the Bucks bench yet? As noted before, he and Middleton worked well together to help Milwaukee creep back into the game in the third quarter against the Cleveland reserves, but Vasquez didn’t bring much aside from some pick and roll control with Middleton.
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -12 +/-
With OJ Mayo back, Bayless wasn’t quite the offensive force he’s regularly been off the bench this season, but he was still Milwaukee’s most valuable reserve. But at one point he was matched up with Lebron James defensively, which was not good. He had to cover Lebron for a few possessions late in the double overtime game last Saturday after Giannis fouled out and that wasn’t ideal, but he held up okay. But Milwaukee decided to defend Lebron with Bayless on Thursday night a few times, and at least once, it cost Milwaukee a shot at a defensive board and led to an offensive rebound tap by James to Love for an easy bucket. That came after a well-defended possession too.
Milwaukee’s playing a lot of undersized basketball this season, and sometimes it results in good looks offensively. But it seems to be costing them dearly on the defensive end, as they haven’t been able to find any consistent rebounders outside of Monroe, and they’re often left with mismatches like Bayless on James.
|O.J. Mayo, SG 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -14 +/-
In his first game back Mayo wasn’t too much of a factor. He had a nice pass or two that reminded me of why I like to watch OJ Mayo play. He displays a creativity and willingness as a passer that not every player has. But it looks like he’ll need some time to get going after missing the first 11 games with a hamstring injury.
He got a little bit creative late in the game by rolling out an ultra small lineup that had Giannis at center and Jabari at power forward. This gave his two young forwards huge matchup advantages on offense, as they were able to drive into open shots against Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. But overall the Bucks continue to look stagnant offensively very often, relying only on pick and rolls and post-ups rather than much player movement to create good shots. And things are still a total mess defensively.
Two Things We Saw
- Factoid dropped by Marv Albert during the game: This was the first game in four years in which the Bucks had all 15 players on the active roster healthy. Sounds about right, given Inglis’s foot injury last year and Delfino’s injury the year before. Tyler Ennis and Damien Inglis were left inactive.
- I made jokes about Dellavedova during the game and boy did Cavs fans let me know how good he is. He ended up being a difference maker late in the game by hitting an open three, tossing a behind the back assist and canning a floater in the matter of five or six possessions. But it still feels to me like they need to be better prepared in case Kyrie Irving struggles with injury once again this season.