MILWAUKEE – It’s been a week since the Milwaukee Bucks fired Jason Kidd as their head coach, and so far, it has paid off. The Bucks beat the Philadelphia 76ers at home by a score of 107-95 to win their fourth straight, remaining undefeated since the organization’s coaching change.
Former assistant coach Joe Prunty is now the man in charge, and he seems to be pushing all the right buttons for this team. Although Prunty has been aided with scheduling throughout this stretch with games against the Suns at home, Nets at home, Bulls, and Embiid-less Sixers, the Bucks are beating teams that they are supposed to beat, which was a problem throughout the Kidd era, specifically this year on a team with high expectations.
With a record of 4-0, the results speak for themselves, but it’s more than that. Rotational players like Sterling Brown and Matthew Dellavedova are playing with high confidence, and John Henson looks like a different player and his playing his best basketball, scoring in double figures in every game since Prunty has taken over. It’s a small sample size, but he seems to have mastered the spacing for this Bucks team, who shot just under 40% from deep against Philadelphia.
A huge reason that Kidd was fired was because of Milwaukee’s defense, or lack thereof. Since Prunty has taken over, Milwaukee has only once allowed over 96 points in a game, and that was the day the coaching change was announced. The team’s defense didn’t look good to start on Monday night, but was much better in the second half, and was absolutely terrific on defending Philadelphia from long range. Although Philadelphia missed a few open looks, the Sixers shot just 2/26 from beyond the arc (7.7%), which was the second worst percentage by a team in the NBA this season.
Coach Prunty was asked about shutting the 76ers down from the three-point line, and had a lot to say after the game. “We obviously defended the three-point line extremely well. In some cases, they put up shots that they missed, but overall, the effort to go out and cover, that was really good.”
Defensive improvement was a main topic of the postgame press conferences, including with John Henson, who stated, “Defensively, we’ve been playing a little better. Giannis has been tremendous, and brings a toughness to us. We just got to keep it up.”
Antetokounmpo was his usual, incredible self, finishing with a relatively quiet 31 points, whopping 18 rebounds and six assists, all of which led the team. Antetokounmpo really is improving every game, showed by his passing in this contest, where the Greek Freak made some transition passes and kick outs that truly reminded one of LeBron James, one of the best passers and players of this generation, but at the same time not forcing it too much.
Dellavedova added 10 points off the bench to help lead the team with a +17 plus/minus, and Henson, Brown, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell all scored in double digits as well. Although the game was pretty close throughout, there was certainly the feel that Milwaukee was the much better team, and they were finally able to crack the game open and show that in the last 15 minutes of the game, thanks to big three-pointers from Middleton, Brown and even Giannis as the shot-clock expired.
Milwaukee gets more good news this week, as their 20 ppg scorer, Jabari Parker, is set to return to the court Friday night against the Knicks, adding even more fire power to one of the hottest teams in the league.