The Bucks met with a familiar foe Monday night in their third straight division game and second with the Chicago Bulls in the past five days. The result was similar to last Thursday’s meeting in Milwaukee, as Giannis leads the Bucks to victory in Chicago, 115-101. In fact, this marked the eighth-straight game Milwaukee has taken from the Bulls, the most for either team in this rivalry.
The final score appears lopsided but the game felt anything but. Milwaukee had a number of opportunities to pull away throughout the game but scoring droughts by the Bucks didn’t allow for much comfort. Led by second-round rookie draft pick Daniel Gafford and an array of alley-oops and put-back dunks, Chicago kept themselves within striking distance nearly the entire game and even taking a brief lead late in the fourth quarter.
Luckily, the Milwaukee Bucks have better players, are better coached, and have more experience and when all of those things are working in your favor it makes it very difficult for the opponent to overcome. It’s especially impressive for the Bucks without Khris Middleton’s ~20 points he would add each game.
While Kha$h is a necessity for this team to achieve its long-term goals, his healing timeframe gives Coach Budenholzer the opportunity to give the young guards a more prominent role in the offense and create chemistry with the rest of the starters. Arguably, assuming that Khris Middleton comes back at full-health, Milwaukee will become better in his absence.
One factor that seemingly never changes no matter the circumstances is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s impact on both ends of the court. I won’t include it all here, but if you look at nearly any advanced stat it shows Giannis at the top of every board. To select a single stat, Giannis is the only player in the NBA in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating (essentially how much you outscore or are outscored by your opponent while you’re on the court, adjusted for possessions). No other player in the NBA is currently top 20 in both.
Giannis remained the beast of the East against the Bulls and put up 33/10/2 with a pair of threes on six attempts, three steals, and a block. While these numbers would be a career game for a lot of players, Giannis struggled in some areas that he did in the first few games of the season. He had eight turnovers, a number he had significantly reduced since the first four games. He also racked up five personal fouls, all of which were offensive. That’s far too many fouls for Giannis to have but I would argue in this game it was pretty unjustified on a number of calls. In any case, that number needs to go down in case games head to overtime.
I mentioned Kha$h’s injury allowing other players to see more minutes and no one is taking advantage of this more than Donte DiVincenzo. With proven veterans struggling as of late such as Ersan Ilyasova, Robin Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Kyle Korver, Donte has improved on his previous performance with each game. In Chicago, Donte dropped 15/4/4 with three steals and showed hustle the entire 29 minutes he saw the floor. While he can still get ahead of himself from time to time, one can see the raw talent DiVincenzo has and his potential fit in the future of Milwaukee.
Sterling Brown may not have earned the open-starting spot, but he’s another young guy that is seeing the floor a lot more in Middleton’s absence. He only scored eight points tonight, but his confidence has spiked recently and it’s made him an asset rather than the liability he was at the end of last season. It also helps that veteran guard George Hill is around to lead the way for Sterling and Donte. Hill led the bench scoring with 18 points and 4-7 from three. His production seemingly hasn’t skipped a beat since he turned it up down the stretch last season.
Milwaukee (10-3) extended their current win streak to four games and will look to make it a fifth when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Wednesday. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.