The Milwaukee Bucks began their West Coast road trip in Sacramento Wednesday night and of course it went to overtime. Luckily for Bucks’ fans, it was worth staying up as the away team came out on top 141-140. While Giannis is usually the story, his minutes were limited and other guys needed to step up against quick and hot shooting team. Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton all took the step and had collectively big nights to will Milwaukee to their 9th straight win on the road.
The Kings have a lot of young talent, arguably the most of any team in the NBA. Between Willie Cauley-Stein, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Frank Mason III, Buddy Hield, Caleb Swanigan, and Yogi Ferrell, there’s bound to be a couple names that have impactful careers. Their youth showed in the form of hustle in the first quarter. Sacramento was all over the floor, often getting out into transition and making the Bucks play faster than they like. This, coupled with poor shooting, left Milwaukee down at the first timeout 17-10 just 5 minutes into the game. Brogdon was the only bright spot with a perfect 3/3 shooting.
Coach Bud went to his usual bench player when the energy is low in Pat Connaughton along with Nikola Mirotic. Pat’s first involved fouling Cauley-Stein to give him an and-1 so Bud went even deeper in the bench and brought in Isaiah Canaan. This is before DJ or Ersan have seen the floor. A couple threes from Mirotic and Khris brought the Bucks right back into it and with 3 minutes left in the quarter Milwaukee trailed by 2. Khris, Nikola, and Malcolm kept the three party going and gave the Bucks a lead after the first quarter, 34-33. Milwaukee went 6-15 from deep led by Malcolm 3-4 and Mirotic 2-2. The Bucks went 10 deep in the bench, leaving out DJ, Wood, and Bonzie.
Sacramento came out firing from three in the second quarter to regain the lead in less than 3 minutes. Malcolm wasn’t going to let it get away and pushed his point total to 15 to again take the lead. Milwaukee seemed more aggressive than they did in the first quarter and it opened up more outside looks and driving lanes for the guards. The pace was still faster than their average game but it began to slow down and the Bucks settled into their comfort zone. DJ finally entered the game at the first timeout of the second quarter leading by 6. Bledsoe assumed the primary scorer role with Giannis, Khris, and Malcolm on the bench and kept the Bucks afloat when the Kings were threatening a run.
The first half had no shortage of scoring and Milwaukee again topped 70 points in a half, leading 73-62. Malcolm led the way with 15 points on 6-7 shooting followed by Khris with 13. Bledsoe was on triple-double alert early as he entered the locker room with a line of 10/6/6. Nikola led the bench scorers with 10 and a pair of threes. The real surprise of the first half was Giannis only playing 10 minutes and not making an appearance in the final 8 minutes of the 2nd quarter. But if the Bucks can still lead by 11 without him, they will take advantage of that every time considering their upcoming schedule.
The second half began with a Giannis three attempt that just missed followed by a Giannis block on the other end. Nothing came of it and Brook missed shots on the next 3 possessions. Sacramento quickly cut the lead down to 6 in less than 2 minutes. The halftime rest revamped the Kings starters and the pace had increased again to a point that left Milwaukee a little flustered on offense. Out of the first timeout of the third quarter, Bledsoe found Lopez for a slow but powerful alley-oop and followed that up with a Bledsoe three to bring the lead back to 11. A Giannis dunk brought another timeout from Sacramento and Milwaukee was threatening to pull away with this one.
The second unit for the Bucks held their own and put pressure on the Kings. Canaan brought a new spark to the offense and Mirotic was finding the open spots on the perimeter. Everything was clicking for Milwaukee as we’ve come to expect from them this season. The complete bench unit of Snell, Pat, Ersan, Nikola, and Canaan pushed the lead to as high as 18 before Buddy Hield and the Kings hit a few shots on consecutive possessions to trim it down before the end of the third quarter, now 104-91. Before the buzzer, Giannis got in his mandatory jaw-dropping dunk on the assist from Brogdon in transition. Bledsoe was just one assist away from a triple-double and the Bucks’ other starting guard Brogdon led the team with 20 points on an efficient 8-9 shooting.
Sacramento began the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run and Coach Bud was forced to call a timeout with 9:42 left in the game, Bucks lead now down to 6. Giannis was one of two starters in the game but wasn’t receiving the ball. Out of the timeout, Giannis was on the bench. Bledsoe, Khris, Lopez, and Mirotic were back in with Snell to try and throw something different at the Kings on the defensive end. Eric Bledsoe got his 5th career triple-double on The Tony Snell Play followed by another three from Nikola Mirotic and the lead was back up to 12 with 7 minutes left. Mirotic was proving to be everything the fans of Milwaukee could’ve hoped with his quick release and willingness to pull from anywhere.
Giannis checked back in with 5 minutes left when the Kings shrunk the lead to 10. The lead was cut to 6 again when Coach Bud was forced to call a timeout with 4:24 to go. The Bucks came out with a small lineup, presumably to match the pace the Kings still had going. Giannis ran the 5 with Khris at the 4 and luckily Giannis was able to do Giannis things to keep Sacramento out of the paint. Lopez got back in and the Kings immediately took advantage of the slower defender and found Bogdanovic wide open for three. Another layup followed and the lead was down to 3 with 2 minutes to go.
Bledsoe found Giannis in the paint for a layup late in the shot clock. Harrison Barnes hit a three on the other end to cut the lead to 2. Giannis attempted his second three of the game and it rimmed out which led to a Bogdanovic layup to tie it up with a minute left. Coming out of another timeout with 46.4 seconds left, Milwaukee brought out their starters. De’Aaron Fox picked off a Bledsoe pass to Giannis and went the other way for a layup. Brook altered the layup but the rebound was picked up by Cauley-Stein and put back for the 2 point lead. Bledsoe brought it back with an impressive layup with 11.4 seconds left and another Sacramento timeout. All of this in just a minute of game time.
Out of the timeout, Fox called for the iso on Bledsoe for the final shot. Bledsoe showed some of his best defense of the season to stop Fox and eventually pick him clean to run out the clock for overtime. Khris, Bledsoe, and Malcolm each had 20+ points in regulation while Giannis had 17 in just 24 minutes. Giannis seemed poised to be the guy in overtime.
Giannis didn’t start, and instead Mirotic took his place. After the game, Coach Bud revealed Giannis had reached his minutes restriction of 24. Milwaukee won the jump and Bledsoe hit the three on the first possession to continue his dominance in this game. A minute and a half later, the next basket of overtime was scored by none other than Nikola Mirotic for a transition three to put the Bucks up 6 with 3 minutes left in the first overtime. A Bogdanovic floater cut it down to 4 but Bledsoe answered with another layup. Buddy Hield continued to lead the Kings on offense and a jumper extended the back and forth battle. Bogdanovic hit a three with just over a minute to go and Milwaukee held a single point lead. Brogdon missed a pull up three attempt and Sacramento brought it the other way. Cauley-Stein was a victim of jitters and threw the ball out of bounds without much reason to give the ball back to the Bucks.
Khris Middleton had exited the game a bit earlier with an apparent injury, later called a cramp, so Milwaukee was without an All-Star for the remainder of the game. But as we know, the Bucks aren’t short of shooters. Connaughton found Brogdon for three as the shot clock expired with 16 seconds left. Immediately after, Bogdanovic was fouled on a three attempt by Pat. Giannis entered the game for the first time in overtime with 12 seconds remaining. Bogdanovic hit 2 of 3 and were forced to foul Brogdon, Bucks up 2. This put Milwaukee in the bonus and Mirotic was the first to go to the line, under 10 seconds to go. He hit both and the lead was back to two possessions. Buddy Hield rebounded his own three point miss and made a layup with 4 seconds left and another timeout was called. All a Bucks fan could hope for was a pair of free throws. Giannis inbounded the ball to the best free throw shooter in the NBA, and Brogdon hit both. Bogdanovic had just enough time to hit one final three, but that obviously wasn’t enough and the Bucks took the game, 141-140.
Eric Bledsoe led the way with his best performance of the season and his first triple-double, 26/12/13.
Malcolm Brogdon had 25 points on 9-11 from the field.
Khris and Mirotic had 21 each, with Mirotic going 5-8 from deep.
Giannis finished with 17/7/2 in 24 minutes of game.
Buddy Hield finished with 32 points on 29 shots, Bogdanovic had 28 on 5-8 from three, and 6 other Kings finished with 9+ points. Sacramento’s record falls to 31-30 and they sit in the 9th seed in the West.
Milwaukee extends their lead back to 2.5 over Toronto and a league best 22-9 away record. They are currently on a 9 game road win streak, their second longest in franchise history and a 6 game win streak, the longest currently in the NBA. The Bucks visit LeBron in LA for another late start Friday night at 9:30 p.m.