ORLANDO, Florida — In their highly anticipated return to action, the Bucks took down the Celtics in the bubble, 119-112, while gaining momentum moving forward.
Milwaukee could not have started any hotter, forcing a timeout 3 minutes in with a 17-2 lead. Boston hung tight, shrinking the deficit to 6 at halftime. Despite an off night from Jayson Tatum, Boston gained their first lead of the game, 83-82, with 2 minutes left in the 3rd. Tied at 87 going into the 4th, it looked to be anyone’s game.
The Buck’s two All-Stars showed up when called upon. Khris Middleton drained a deep 3 with 1:03 to go up 6, before Jaylen Brown converted a 3 point play on the other end to cut the lead to 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 16 in the 4th, while sealing the deal with an and-1 with 37.6 seconds to go up 116-110. It was all but done after that.
Due to a surprising off night from Jayson Tatum (5 points, 2-18 FG) the Celtics could not establish a consistent attack. Marcus Smart led Boston with 23 off the bench with Jaylen Brown putting up 22 points, as well.
In other stats, Middleton finished with 18, Lopez with 14, and DiVincenzo with 10, all having to make up for no Eric Bledose and Pat Connaughton. In other words, this is a great sign, specifically for their defense.
What’s scary is the Bucks were without Eric Bledsoe, who is tremendous on defense. One of the NBA’s best point-of-attack defenders. Makes life hard on guards on the perimeter…even before they meet Brook Lopez and Giannis inside. A huge piece of their (far and away) #1 defense. pic.twitter.com/FbepH4iPTx
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) August 1, 2020
Giannis had a typical Giannis statline: 36 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists on 14-20 shooting. The most impressive statistic? All in 32 minutes.
Game MVP besides Giannis: Brook Lopez. Really? Really.
Brook Lopez finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds, but his most eye-popping stat was his 6 blocks, his most in a game since Feb. 22nd (8 vs. PHO). Possession after possession, Lopez met drivers at the rim with force, altering shot after shot. The blocks are on the stat sheet, but there were many times his presence was enough to effect change. Performances like this show his potential and just how important his defense can be down the stretch.
The Bucks play next against Houston on August 2nd (8:30 p.m. E.T.).