Following a disheartening end to Week 3 in Utah, the Bucks had somewhat of a lighter week with just three games. As the Celtics and Heat surge in the East, the Bucks knew that they could not afford to lose in close games. Starting off the season with a 6-3 record, which I am sure Bucks fans would have been thrilled about five years ago, Milwaukee had to adjust their mechanics to live up to their high expectations.
The first game was on Sunday evening in Oklahoma City against the new-look Thunder, led by Chris Paul. Despite being away, this was definitely a winnable game for the Bucks and it was going to require quality defensive performances from the Milwaukee guards to slow down Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder.
While the Bucks started off well, near the end of the first quarter, the Thunder built a small lead and were able to maintain it for the majority of the second quarter. It was Dennis Schroeder off the bench for the Thunder causing the Bucks problems. However, in the second half, Giannis and the Bucks picked up the tempo and after trailing by 9 points, they climbed back into the game. The Bucks outscored the Thunder 71-63 to secure a slim 2-point win. Antetokounmpo led the way with 35 points and 16 rebounds and Bledsoe piled on 25 points to carry the Bucks to a 7-3 record.
Next, the Bucks had a rather lengthy break as their next game was at home against their I-94 counterparts: the Chicago Bulls. Given the Bulls are in a rebuilding phase with a great deal of young talent, a title contender in the Bucks were hoping to cruise to their victory in this one. Nevertheless, Milwaukee was without Giannis’s side kick, Khris Middleton who is dealing with left thigh contusion and will be out for roughly 4 weeks.
Even though the Bucks were the favorites, they struggled yet again in the first half. Without Middleton in the lineup, Buddenholzer started both Bledsoe and DiVincenzo in the guard positions, figuring it would work well against the young Bulls side. But not until midway through the third quarter, mirroring the game earlier in the week, the Bucks regained their composure and pulled away with another victory. They outscored the Bulls 49-59 with the same two leaders for the Bucks, Giannis and Bledsoe. Giannis matched Marques Johnson with his 6th straight 30+ point game, finishing the night with 38 points and 16 rebounds. Bledsoe was unstoppable with 31 points on 12/14 shooting, continuing to impress Bucks fans.
The final game of the week was perhaps the most important one. Squaring off against an up and rising Indiana Pacers side, the Bucks knew they had to win this game to stay in good standing in the Eastern Conference. It was a rather emotional game for Malcolm Brogdon, who was facing off against his former team for the first time. The controversy surrounding Milwaukee’s decision to let him walk will certainly still come up in banter between Bucks fans.
Many would argue that this should have been the most difficult game of the week for the Bucks; however, after a back-and-forth first quarter, the Bucks pulled away with the game and ended up winning with a considerable margin at 19 points. Even though Giannis “only” scored 26 points in this game, it was a team effort with five players scoring in double digits, including a monster performance from Brook Lopez, who recorded 5 blocks in the game.
Aside from some of the poor first half performances in Week 4, the Bucks performed well this week. Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to assert his dominance and is looking just like the MVP we saw last year. Without Middleton for roughly the next month, it is important that both he and the rest of the Bucks’ starters continue to maintain their good forms. Furthermore, it was nice to see Donte DiVincenzo secure the last two starts with the team as he must embrace this opportunity with a major starter missing in the lineup. Moving forward, he will likely serve a more significant role with the team.
The Bucks have a more concentrated Week 5, scheduled to play in four games. On Monday night, the Bucks will travel to Chicago to play the Bulls for the second time in five days. Then, they will travel down to Atlanta to take on Trey Young and the Hawks, who are struggling with a 4-8 record. Next, on Thursday night will come back home to face off against the Portland Trail Blazers. This will be arguably the most difficult game of the week and perhaps most exciting with Portland’s new signing of Carmelo Anthony. Finally, the Bucks will close off the week again at the Fiserv Forum against the Detroit Pistons. Given that Blake Griffin is healthy again, this could be another tough game for the Bucks.
David’s Milwaukee Bucks Week 4 Grade: A
Week 5 Schedule (November 17 – November 23)
- Monday, November 18 at 7:00pm CT: @ Chicago Bulls
- Wednesday, November 20 at 6:30pm CT: @ Atlanta Hawks
- Thursday, November 21 at 7:00pm CT: vs Portland Trail Blazers
- Saturday, November 23 at 7:30pm CT: vs Detroit Pistons