What an eventful game to come back to. Brook Lopez breaks a record. A Bucks’ legend gets the ceremony he’s deserved for years. Milwaukee shows that when their healthy, they will win. Everything came together on Sunday at Fiserv Forum and the home squad took home the win, 127-105 behind MVP contender Giannis Antetokounmpo who had 27 points and 4 steals. After a tough-fought game with Cleveland this past Wednesday, Milwaukee secured revenge quickly with the return of their star forward.
Brogdon, DiVincenzo, Gasol, and Mirotic remained unavailable for this contest but Giannis did make the starting lineup. Khris Middleton got the scoring started with a mid-range turnaround jumper on the first possession of the game. Brook Lopez followed that up on the next possession with a three to set the all-time record for threes from a center in a single season with 175. He just happened to set this record in front of the past record holder, Channing Frye, who now plays for Cleveland. As an encore, Brook hit another three immediately after to give Milwaukee and early 6-point lead.
Tony Snell hit a three to make the Bucks 3/3 from deep and Eric Bledsoe picked a lazy pass that led to a transition alley-oop to Giannis and Ty Lue had to call a timeout just three minutes into the game. The Bucks seemed to clearly remember what happened Wednesday in Cleveland and were taking it to the Cavs from the beginning. The timeout didn’t cool down Lopez who hit a 30+ foot three to push the lead to nine with eight minutes still in the first quarter. However, Milwaukee’s defense began to lose it’s edge and the once double-digit lead was back to six with five minutes in the first to force a timeout from Coach Bud.
An all-bench lineup got some serious minutes at the end of the first quarter for Milwaukee. Connaughton, Hill, Brown, Ilyasova, and Wilson comprised the Bucks five on the floor to try and hold off the Cavs for the final minutes of the quarter. Their defense was enough to please the crowd, but the offense lacked and Giannis checked back in for the conclusion of the first. He made Tristan Thompson look like a shooting guard and bullied him to keep Milwaukee’s lead at 32-27 after twelve minutes of play.
Sterling Brown showed the impact he can have to start the second by losing his defender and getting himself open for the wide open three on a pass from Giannis. Cleveland was giving it their all on offense and scored eight points in the first three minutes of the period but still remained down seven due to an overpowering of Giannis in the paint. Giannis’ first five made shots of the game were dunks, showing that there’s no one in Ohio that could stop him.
Tonight’s “Tony Snell did WHAT?” came after a timeout from the Cavs where Snell picked the point guard and had a Giannis-like transition slam. Snell got a layup to go on the next possession to give himself an early ten points for a guy averaging less than six a game. Cleveland’s offense slowed down a great deal in the latter half of the second quarter and the Bucks opened up a seventeen point lead with three minutes left in the half. Larry Nance Jr. finally hit a mid-range floater to end a 13-0 run for the Bucks. If it weren’t for a pair of Kevin Love threes to close the half, the difference would’ve been much worse. Instead, Milwaukee took a 68-55 lead into the locker room. Lopez led the Bucks in scoring with 14 on 4-6 from deep followed by 13 from Giannis and 10 from Snell. The Bucks shot 60% from the field compared to 47% from Cleveland in the half.
Bucks’ legend Marques Johnson had is #8 jersey retired at Fiserv Forum at halftime of the game. Johnson is currently 1st in offensive rebounds, 3rd in rebounds, 4th in points per game and field goal %, and 6th in points in Milwaukee franchise history while being just 9th in games played. Many Hall of Fame players and coaches, including Dominique Wilkins and Doc Rivers, gave praise to Marques throughout the week in anticipation of the honor he was given Sunday afternoon. Of course, Marques is still with the Bucks as a commentator for most home games.
Cleveland hit a three to start the second half and Giannis answered with his sixth flush of the game. The overall energy of the game seemed off in the first few minutes. Both teams were pushing in transition often and both defenses were slow to get back. The game was paused after Tony Snell rolled his ankle and remained down for a minute or so. He got up and walked off the court under his own will shortly after. Milwaukee really can’t afford any more bigs to go down at this point in the season so there was a sigh of relief when Snell popped up.
Kevin Love, the Cavs leading scorer in the first half, got his hot hand back and led Cleveland to a run that brought the margin back to single-digits. It got to as low as seven but a combination of Giannis and Wilson kept the Cavs at bay. Giannis forced Larry Nance Jr. to take a seat on the bench with his fourth foul and he reacted how all of Cleveland felt and that was frustrated. They didn’t have the same feeling Wednesday when Giannis didn’t play, that’s for sure. Another all-bench unit ended the third quarter, the same as the end of the first quarter. This time, they held their own much better and held a 90-77 lead after 36 minutes of play.
Ilyasova used a catch and shoot step-back move to hit a deep two to push the lead to fifteen for the Bucks at the start of the final period. Even with the large lead, Sterling Brown got the crowd out of their seats with a driving dunk and the lead was at seventeen for the fourth time in this game. After a Bledsoe three with eight minutes left, Ty Lue called a timeout to game plan one last push from Cleveland, down 104-87. But with the Bucks’ shooting like they were, there seemed to be little chance that there would be a lead change again.
Middleton had been relatively ineffective all game but he got his classic one-on-one jumper to go out of the break. Collin Sexton began to find openings in the defense and Bud didn’t like that and called a timeout with four minutes remaining, still up fourteen. Kevin Love showed his veteran skills in the closing minutes with a few post moves and a strip of Giannis in the paint. But as it always goes, Giannis followed the strip with a transition dunk, his eighth of the game. The game closed out without much drama except for Bonzie Colson’s first NBA points and the Bucks took home their 55th win of the season with a score of 127-105.
Giannis finished with 26/10/7 and 4 blocks on 11-16 from the floor despite going 0-4 from deep.
Khris had a rough shooting night but still finished with 17/5/3. George Hill was phenomenal off the bench with 17 points on 7-8 shooting.
7 Bucks players scored in double-digits.
From start to finish the Bucks showed domination over Cleveland. Sure, they got a few shots here and there but there was never any real stress for the fans of Fiserv. After having just 8 players available a few days ago, a nearly full health lineup proved that there isn’t much you can do to stop them when they shoot over 50% all game. Out of the 12 players that saw the floor for the Bucks, 11 of them scored. Only Tim Frazier didn’t get on the board because he didn’t take a shot in his two minutes on the court. Sterling Brown showed how helpful he can be when he’s healthy for the backcourt unit of Milwaukee as he went 5-8 from the field with 12 points and +16, second to Giannis who was +23. Sunday afternoon games have been tough for the Bucks all season but it wasn’t today. With the retirement of Marques Johnson’s jersey, Brook breaking the three-point record, and a Bucks’ win, it was the perfect Sunday.
Milwaukee is now 4 games ahead of Toronto for the best record in the NBA with 8 games remaining. They take on the Rockets next, who hold the 3-seed in the West. Tip is at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.