Tons of points, tons of fun: Bucks 128 – Rockets 121

Houston 121 Final
Recap | Box Score
128 Milwaukee
J. Parker 40 MIN | 16-25 FG | 1-1 3FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 36 PTS | +3 +/-

Parker had success from the moment this game started. He scored 10 of Milwaukee’s first 16 points and had 14 by the time the first quarter finished. He made four of the nine jumpers he attempted and even hit his first 3-pointer of the season, a shot from the corner that came off of a sweet pass from Giannis. He threw an alley-oop off the glass in the open court to Giannis. He attacked the rim whenever he saw a sliver of daylight. He was incredible.

Again, Parker didn’t live at the stripe or outside the arc to get his points. I’ve criticized that in the past and written off his efficient nights as blips that would be too hard to replicate. But he’s been putting these games up with a regularity of late. His explosion to the rim off the ball has been exceptional in the second half and set him up for one good look after the next.

G. Antetokounmpo 42 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-1 3FG | 4-11 FT | 17 REB | 11 AST | 4 STL | 2 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | +13 +/-

There isn’t even a question about whether or not Giannis is the best point guard on the Bucks roster anymore. He handled the ball and ran the offense on about 80% of the possessions he played. It seemed like he went up and grabbed every rebound, then began initiating the offense. He showed a tremendous ability in this game to take the temperature of an opportunity after a rebound. He knew when to push for a chance at a quick score and when to pull the ball back out and set something up.

Giannis and Jabari throwing lobs to each other is about as much fun as can be had this season. They had two or three and even though they don’t always work out, you can almost feel the fun they are having when they get rolling.

M. Plumlee 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -4 +/-

Plumlee had his work cut out for him trying to defend Dwight Howard, who was engaged and occasionally dominant. Howard ended the evening with 30 points. Plumlee at times was effective at staying between Howard and the rim or cutting off passes to him and provided Milwaukee with some mobile physicality.

K. Middleton 44 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-3 3FG | 15-15 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 30 PTS | +4 +/-

His sense of assurance, control, and balance fit nicely alongside Giannis and Parker, who occasionally do get ahead of themselves. On four or five possessions, Middleton bailed the Bucks out simply by catching the ball late in the shot clock, measuring out a jumper off the dribble for himself and connecting. On the other end, his hands seemed to find every other Rockets pass, resulting in five steals and a few more deflections.

He was often matched up with James Harden, who hit some very tough shots that could have demoralized Middleton and the Bucks. But for every Harden basket under duress, Middleton seemed to respond with a jumper or take that resulted in free throws, which he refused to miss.

O.J. Mayo 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | +0 +/-

Mayo wasn’t very notable in this game. I can’t remember anything he did especially well, but I do remember a bad pass and his technical. That’s never a sign of a good night.

J. O’Bryant III 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3 +/-

A handful of rotation minutes that amounted to one 15-footer, two separate slip, and falls and nothing more.

G. Monroe 20 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +10 +/-

With Giannis and Jabari operating at MAXIMUM FUN LEVELS as they did, there didn’t seem to be much of a need for Monroe. He did put a few nice moves on Dwight Howard, but he was no more effective in keeping him off the offensive glass or out of the rim than Plumlee was. Monroe picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter and rode out the rest of the game on the sideline.

J. Bayless 35 MIN | 6-10 FG | 5-8 3FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +8 +/-

What a difference Bayless made. His reliable jump shot, and interest in keeping the ball moving made him a perfect compliment to Giannis and Jabari Monday night. He didn’t force up any shots and was primarily happy to launch open threes or take advance of obvious driving lanes. He didn’t spend much time holding the ball and seemed very comfortable operating off the ball when Giannis was in with him.

R. Vaughn 14 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -2 +/-

All three of the high arcing jumpers he lofted up found the bottom of the net, which is always fun to watch.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Rockets are built to counter Milwaukee’s aggressive defense. On what felt like every possession, the Rockets flipped a long pass into the weakside corner to an open player behind the 3-point line. Milwaukee defenders scrambled out to the perimeter to get up contests, but more often than not couldn’t get there in time. 19 of Houston’s 35 threes came from the corners. Fortunately for Milwaukee, they only connected on eight of them.
  2. The Bucks watched a 13 point lead dip to four points with 40 seconds to go and responded by turning the ball over. Late game execution was an issue for the Bucks. Twice in the last two minutes, they abandoned Middleton on one side of the court after he picked up his dribble. Milwaukee shifted the ball into Middleton’s hands down the stretch while the game was tight. It seems like they still haven’t figured out how they want to handle close games when each of their most talented players has it going. They got stuck in isolation mode late after moving the ball and playing off each other was what produced their best results early on. I suppose it may be good to have something to work on after such a successful game.
  3. This play.

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7 Comments

  1. What an exciting game! This was a little taste of the future and boy was it great! It was the Jabari and Giannis show with Middleton still throwing up 30. Awesome. I must say Plumlee seems to be anchoring the defense under the rim as well. Sort of Zazaesque. Speaking of future, if the Bucks need a pg, who does everything think they should be looking at in this coming draft? Or possibly as a trade/FA move? Also if they decide to move on from Plumlee or Henson, they should also be looking for a big man in the draft. Their second round pick seems to be where AJ Hammons is projected to be available. I like his defensive ability and think he should absolutely be someone the Bucks take. True 7 foot bruiser with enough muscle and big body to not give up anything easy to the Dwight Howard like centers of the league. Henson is good, but I am doubting he would have been as effective against Howard as Plumlee was (and Howard still had 30!). Is this too early to be thinking about the draft?

  2. I’m excited about our Big Three of Khris, Giannis and Jabari, and building around them for a fantastic future.
    The alley-oop off the backboard from Jabari to Giannis (shown above) encapsulates this excitement and hope for the Bucks, because if these guys are not only talented, but play well together, perhaps even like each other, then we’ve got something really good going in Milwaukee. I would add John Henson to this corps of keepers, and go from there, holding onto any other guys who fit the future of selfless and enthusiastic team basketball, and adding on accordingly.
    Kudos to Saul for getting the discussion going (in his comment above) about possible future moves. I’d like to know who the best pass-first point guards are in the draft, perhaps available in free agency or trade, and also in the D-League. If we do get a young guy at point, I hope we get an older guy as well, so that the young guy doesn’t have to carry too much responsibility for leadership and facilitation right away.
    As amazing as Giannis has been with the assists, I’m not sure if he’s the guy to carry the point duties in crunch time. That’s when you need a guy with the rare ability to be both creative and careful with the ball, under intense defensive pressure.
    Finally, as fun as it was against he Rockets, I’m really concerned about playing our Big Three 40 minutes a game (except on very rare occasions). I don’t want any physical breakdowns! Plus, my hunch is that all the minutes leaves our stars gassed for the closing minutes, and that’s a major reason why we tend to struggle in crunch time, along with the lack of a true point. Please, let’s preserve our guys, now and always, for their sake and ours.

    • 40 minutes is way too much to do day in and day out. I think it is an indication of how bad the bench is. Bayless and Monroe are great. Vaughn is good at times, other times he is just a body. JOB and Ennis can’t be counted on to contribute anything. Henson and Vasquez being hurt also hurts the bench. Last year we had a good second unit of Mayo, Henson, and Bayless. This year there just isn’t any production and its forcing the coaching staff to play the starters heavily.

      • Saul, maybe you’ll agree with me that it’s better to play the bench than to endanger our starters.

        • Yeah. Especially if they are playing a team like philly, NY, Brooklyn, LA. I’m thinking (hoping) the playing time will change when they get Hensom back. 30-35 mins should be their average playing time.

  3. Giannis next step might be him taking up the ball and running the offense like he did tonight. Any pg the Bucks get would have to be good off the ball and low usage.

  4. Kris Dunn would be a very good choice for us in the draft.Very talented point guard can do it all.Hes a top 8 talent for sure and that is where we will most likely be drafting. Second round I think it would make since to pick a guy that has some shooting ability so we could have more options to space the floor.