The Milwaukee Bucks improved to 4-2 on the season by defeating the Brooklyn Nets in a thrilling 129-125 affair on Monday night. It was a close game from the time the ball was tipped with Brooklyn holding the lead for most of the first half. Milwaukee, though, took charge in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter with a slim 96-94 advantage.
The fourth quarter saw both teams go on extended runs, each leading late in the game. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo and a balanced Bucks’ offense proved to be too much for Brooklyn (now 3-4) to overcome.
The Good: Giannis Antetokounmpo Is Getting Back to Form for the Milwaukee Bucks
It is no secret that the two-time MVP is still getting into game form after having offseason surgery on his knee. While he has been healthy enough to play, it is clear that he is not yet as comfortable with his game as he usually is at the start of the season.
Despite this, Giannis put up a season-high 36 points to go with 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks.
The Good: Free Throw Shooting and the Bench
After starting the season shooting poorly from the free throw line, the Bucks combined to go 21/24 from the charity stripe against the Nets. Giannis was an impressive 5/6 from the line and Damian Lillard went 9/10. Lillard leads the NBA in free throws made per game and is shooting over 90% from the line this season.
Milwaukee’s bench stepped up in a big way with four of their five substitutes scoring in double-figures. Jae Crowder, the Marquette alum, led Bucks bench scorers with 15 points. Bobby Portis had and Cam Payne had 11 points apiece while Pat Connaughton added 10.
The Bad: Brook Lopez and Malik Beasley Struggled
After a huge game against the New York Knicks, Brook Lopez struggled mightily against the Nets. He scored just four points on 2/6 shooting, including going 0/3 from three. Lopez also failed to record a block in this game despite head coach Adrian Griffin continued use of him in drop defense.
Malik Beasley went just 1/5 from the field (all three point attempts) scoring three points. He played just 14 minutes, the fewest of any Bucks player that got playing time.
The Ugly: Three Point Defense and Stopping Opposing Stars
A big reason why the game was so close was because the Bucks, particularly the starters, struggled to hit three’s. They were a combined 16/48 (33%) from beyond the arc. Giannis was just 1/7, and one has to assume that his attempting seven three’s in a game is not a normal part of the game plan.
Damian Lillard was just 2/8, Lopez was 0/3, Khris Middleton was 1/4, and Beasley was 1/5. The bench, however, shot well from beyond the arc, led by Jae Crowder’s 4/9 night. Cam Payne was 3/4.
Another reason why the game was so close was because, as a team, Milwaukee struggled to slow down the Nets’ two best players: Cam Thomas and Mikal Bridges. Thomas dropped 45 points and Bridges added 31.
Milwaukee continues to try to find a defensive identity, but the good thing is that Coach Griffin is constantly adjusting trying to find the right way to use his players. They did enough to win on this night, but it sure wasn’t pretty.