Escaping the chilling winter temperatures as early as November, at least after their time in Minnesota, the Milwaukee Bucks likely enjoyed some time away from the snowy state of Wisconsin. Packed with intriguing matchups between world-class superstars, especially the one between Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Week 3 was going to be a treat for all NBA fans in these early season clashes.
Monday evening, the Bucks were in Minnesota in a battle against the thriving, yet depleted Timberwolves side. Their main superstar, Karl Anthony-Towns, was suspended in Week 2 following an altercation with Joel Embiid during a game. For this reason, the Bucks were favored heavily and this was deservedly so.
After battling somewhat for the first quarter, the Bucks pulled away with this one. They led the entire game and especially built upon their lead in the second half, outscoring the Timberwolves 70 to 49 and at one point sustaining a 32 point lead. In the end, they won by 28 points, scoring a whopping 134. Headlined by another monstrous 34-point night from Giannis, along with other good nights from Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton, there was a key performance off the bench. As predicted in the Bucks roundtable, Donte DiVincenzo would showcase his talent and sprout as a young talent for this Bucks side. He was 6/11 with 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, indicating to Buddenholzer that he may have to start considering him as a potential starter.
On Wednesday night, the Bucks were in Los Angeles with a much greater appreciation for the warmer temperatures. Battling Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, most would argue that this is a potential matchup for the NBA Finals this season. However, Kawhi Leonard controversially did not suit up for this game, meaning that the Clippers were without both him and Paul George.
Even without their top two players, the Clippers still posed a significant threat to the rather shaky Milwaukee Bucks side. They outscored the Bucks 28-30 in the first quarter but slowly fell behind in the second quarter. However, the Clippers fought back from being down by 17 points and tied the game midway through the third quarter. Despite the shift in momentum, another dominant performance from Giannis, who had 38 points, 9 assists, and 16 rebounds, paved the way for another crucial Bucks victory. Similar to Week 2, the Milwaukee bench shined yet again. George Hill and Kyle Korver were impressive with 24 and 17 points respectively. Given that at least one of the starters is prone to have a rough night, these bench performances are essential.
On Friday night, the Bucks flew out to Utah for their final game of the week. The Jazz, who unlike the Timberwolves and Clippers, were going to be a true test to the Bucks because almost all of their quality players were healthy. Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, along with new signings such as Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanović, were inevitably going to cause the Bucks some problems.
Although the Bucks were expected to win, the Jazz completely dominated the first half, outscoring the Bucks by 20 points in the first half. Down by 22 points near the end of the first half, it just seemed to be one of those nights for the Bucks. As some fans may have turned off the TV in disappointment, the Bucks tenaciously fought their way back into the game, scoring 39 points in the third quarter and cutting the deficit to 7. Demonstrating their will to battle, the Bucks managed to tie the game and even lead by 1 point with 5:47 remaining. Nevertheless, the Jazz pulled away and led 92-100 with just 1:31 remaining. Amidst this run was another frustrating and controversial sequence of events as Giannis managed to get his 4th and 5th personal fouls in a matter of just 40 seconds. As the Bucks fought back late, it was no surprise to see Giannis pick up his 6th personal foul and foul out of the game, ending with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
Down by 6 points without Giannis, the Bucks had under a minute to tie the game; that is just what they did. Paired with a couple of free-throw misses from Rudy Gobert, a layup by Bledsoe brought the Bucks to just a 4 point deficit. Next, brilliant defending by George Hill gifted the Bucks another chance and they took it graciously as Sterling Brown made it 98-100 with another layup. The Bucks were down two points with 29 seconds remaining, meaning that the Bucks did not need to foul. A miss by Bogdanović and a defensive rebound gave the Bucks a chance to tie it. To their support, there was a loose-ball foul on Rudy Gobert that brought Khris Middleton to the line to have a chance to tie the game. With thousands of fans screaming in his ears, Middleton sank both free-throws and brought the game level at 100. This meant the Jazz had a chance to win it with 8 seconds remaining. However, great defense from George Hill blocked Donovan Mitchell’s jump shot and the Bucks were gifted an unbelievable opportunity to win it with 2 seconds remaining.
As one may expect, Buddenholzer was going to draw up the play for Middleton to take the last shot. Coming off a screen from Brook Lopez, Middleton did receive the ball from the inbounder, but he caught it awkwardly and seeing a defender in his face midway through his jump shot, Middleton attempted to pass the ball to Lopez and in the process, traveled. Of course, he only shaved 1 second off the time clock and the Jazz had one final chance to win it. Out of a timeout, the Jazz gave it to Bojan Bogdanović who hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to leave the Bucks heart-broken.
It was another ambiguous performance from the Bucks because although the Bucks showed their hearts and determination, only three starters scored in double digits: Giannis, Bledsoe, and Middleton. The three players had a combined shooting of 26/64, which needs to be better. They needed more help from the other two stars and the bench.
While it was impressive to see them come out with wins in Minnesota and Los Angeles, given both games were away, it still must be said that each of the wins was against weakened sides. It is important to secure these wins, nevertheless, but they are not should no they should not be used as a basis for determining the success of the team so far. As we progress into the upcoming weeks, it will be interesting to see whether the Bucks can defeat teams that are at full strength. They definitely have the talent, but Giannis needs to be a little more careful with his fouls and the coaches need to draw up plays that are less predictable.
This is not to say that the Bucks are not performing well. They still are 6-3 on the season and bench players such as George Hill, Kyle Korver, and Donte DiVincenzo are continuing to show their talents as they fulfill their roles adequately.
The Bucks end their road trip tonight against the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder and look forward to returning to the Fiserv Forum on Thursday night against their rivals, the Chicago Bulls. Perhaps the most important game of the week will be on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers, who managed to acquire the Bucks’ young superstar in the making, Malcolm Brogdon.
David’s Milwaukee Bucks Week 3 Grade: B
Week 4 Schedule (November 10 – November 16)
- Sunday, November 10 at 6:00pm CT: @ Oklahoma City Thunder
- Thursday, November 14 at 7:00pm CT: vs Chicago Bulls
- Saturday, November 16 at 6:00pm CT: @ Indiana Pacers