The highly-anticipated showdown between the Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard was spoiled by load management, but the Milwaukee Bucks still had to scratch and claw for their win in Los Angeles. Behind the MVP and a couple of supporting players, the Bucks defeated the Clippers 129-124.
Without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers were left with a similar roster they played with in last season’s first round of the Western Conference playoffs where LA took Steph Curry and the Warriors to six games. The absence of their stars gave way for Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to hold their team at a competitive level with the completely healthy and active Milwaukee roster.
The game largely favored the Bucks on the scoreboard for the first three quarters. Even throughout the final quarter, the most the Clippers could muster up was a four-point deficit. You would assume this would be due to Milwaukee’s depth overcoming LA but that was far from the case. Four players and four players only played well for the Wisconsin squad. The Freak, Bled, Hill, and Korver.
Giannis, as he always does, pushed the Bucks through offensive slumps and was imperative to this win. His 38/16/9 was his third straight game of at least 34 points and 15 rebounds. This game also gave him 200 points, 100 rebounds, and 50 assists through the first eight games of this season, something NO ONE has every accomplished. Aside from all of that, he went 4-7 from deep after going 4-23 to begin the season and had two blocks and two steals AND 14-18 from the free strike. Giannis was the complete basketball player and has been all season.
Eric Bledsoe and George Hill became a polarizing point guard duo for the night, combining for 44 points on 17-24 from the field and 10-15 from three. Hill started 5-5 from three himself and had the game sealing put back dunk in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Without these two stepping up in an unexpected way, the Clippers surely get the best of Milwaukee.
Finally, Kyle Korver was the crowd-silencer the Bucks needed on several occasions. He had 14 points on 5-9 and 4-7 from three but his four threes were incredibly timely, namely a pair he hit consecutively early in the fourth quarter when LA was making a push. His quick release isn’t something we’ve seen in Milwaukee in a long time and has already proven to be a huge improvement to the team from last season.
These four guys shot 32-58 (55%). The rest of the team shot 10-40 (25%). And the Bucks won by four. Without each and every huge shot the big four had Wednesday night Milwaukee doesn’t survive the very winnable game at the Staples Center.
The Clippers got nearly all of their scoring from their starters. Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams had 34 a piece, Patrick Beverley with 20, and Landry Shamet with 14 to account for 102 of LA’s 124 points. Milwaukee also won the turnover battle 19-15 and had eight more blocks than the Clippers.
Make no mistake, this was a big win for Milwaukee despite the absence of LA’s most important pieces. They extended their win streak to four games, including the first two of the current four-game road stretch to improve to 6-2.
Next up, the Bucks will face the Utah Jazz Friday night at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. The Jazz defeated the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night before Milwaukee’s game began to improve to 5-3. Friday’s game is set to tip at 8:00 p.m. CT.