The Bucks have had the opportunity to play in front of their home crowd just twice in the month of November. With their third opportunity against the struggling Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee was determined to put on an offensive show for the fans and they did just that. In the absence of Damian Lillard (back), Hassan Whiteside (hip) and Khris Middleton (leg), the mostly healthy Bucks narrowly escaped the depleted Blazers, 137-129.
Each team had an aggressive mindset off the tip and it was an effective plan, as both teams shot over 47% from the field and scored their most points so far this season. Milwaukee started the game by scoring 17 in the first three minutes but the Blazers quickly fought back and it was and up and down battle the rest of the way.
CJ McCollum, Skal Labissiere, and Carmelo Anthony led the Blazers offensive attack without their best scorer and rebounder. The three combined for 77 of their 127 points and nearly pulled out a spectacular win. Portland cut it as low as two early in the fourth quarter but threes from Brook and Wes put an end to that hope immediately. It never got closer than six after that.
The Bucks played unlike any game they’ve played this season, both in good and bad ways. Leading the charge, as always, was Giannis Antetokounmpo who finished with 24/19/15, three blocks, and a steal in 37 minutes. Not only is that insane on a back-to-back, but Giannis achieved a number of milestones.
He became the first Buck to have 20/15/15 in a game, his 15 assists was his career-high, and he remains at the top of the league in double-doubles with one in each of this season’s 15 games. What’s even crazier is Giannis was just 9-27 shooting on the night, way below his usual efficiency. This very well could’ve been a 40/20/15 night. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Another unique feature of this game was Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe has been on a tear lately on both ends of the court and Thursday was no exception. Bled scored the most points for Milwaukee with 30, the first time he’s led the team this season. His consistency as a primary scorer without Middleton has been the biggest reason Milwaukee finds themselves on a six-game win streak and ten of their last eleven.
Nearly every player who saw the floor for the Bucks had something noteworthy on the offensive end. But the ones who stole the show in my eyes were Pat Connaughton, Wes Matthews, and Donte DiVincenzo. Pat scored a season-high 18 points on 7-10 shooting, Wes found his stroke once again by going 4-7 from deep, and Donte continued to build on each start by scoring 16 on 7-15 shooting.
Milwaukee hasn’t played to their potential yet this season and yet they find themselves now atop the Eastern Conference standings, a half-game up on the Boston Celtics. Just as the Green Bay Packers are doing this season, it’s greatly preferred to iron out issues on either side of the ball/court when you’re winning rather than struggling. Only a buzzer-beating three has topped Milwaukee since Halloween and that has been largely without secondary star Khris Middleton.
The Bucks look to continue their streak with another home game Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.