Greg Monroe and his 24 points off the bench are instrumental in a big victory for Milwaukee
Remember that sleepwalking disaster against Denver on Wednesday? Of course you do. Somehow the Bucks rebounded with a 112-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers (yes, the Clippers) in a performance many didn’t see coming. Basketball is a weird sport and the Bucks are a weird team, but that’s why we love them.
Giannis Antetokounmpo galloped back in a big way tonight, gallivanting around the court with a renewed vigor to finish with 24 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. His compatriots were a spry Khris Middleton, who looked up to his old tricks with 19 points, four rebounds, nine assists and four steals alongside Greg Monroe who ended at 24 points, five rebounds and five assists. Delly posted his second straight solid shooting night too, going 6-9 for 15 points and eight assists.
For the Clippers, their big three provided typical highlights. Blake Griffin nearly reached a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and an incalculable number of petty grievances. Chris Paul reached 21 points, three rebounds, five assists and six theatrical complaints with Deandre Jordan chipping in 14 points, ten rebounds and an extended petulant protest in this losing effort.
Milwaukee’s bounce back performance saw them shoot 55.0% to the Clipper’s slightly better 56.3%, but Milwaukee finished with 16 more shots than LA on the night. The Clippers seemed to start their spring cleaning early this year, repeatedly disposing of the ball to Milwaukee defenders for 23 turnovers. That lackadaisical play gave Milwaukee a gaping 41-12 advantage on the night in fast break points. It looked to spark their offense considerably, giving them simple transition buckets that have been hard to come by of late. Lastly, they fell one assist short of tying their season-high for a game with 35 tonight. 79.5% of their buckets were assisted tonight, another mark just short of their season-high 80% in a win over Indiana in February. All in all, a statistically delightful affair for Milwaukee.
Unlike the dumpster fire performance last game, the Bucks actually scored more than 20 points in the opening quarter, a much appreciated change for Bucks’ fans. It also featured a lot of intriguing defensive matchups, the most noteworthy being Giannis vs. Blake Griffin. Antetokounmpo showed some impressive athleticism when he soared to block a DeAndre Jordan alley-oop attempt, but was unfortunately called for a foul.
It was great to see the team come out with a sense of urgency and effort to start things off. The defense was flying all over the court and it didn’t seem as if any players took plays off like on Wednesday night. In fact, it provided the Bucks a 34-19 (!!!) lead at the end of the first quarter (I promise this isn’t a typo). It was 12 minutes of play that saw Milwaukee shoot at a 56 percent clip. They took advantage of a Clippers bench that produced close to nothing (only two points from Austin Rivers). Meanwhile, Moose contributed with eight first quarter points of his own that helped establish a lead.
With their 15-point advantage, Kidd rolled out a lineup of Delly-Brogdon-Terry-Teletovic-Moose to begin the second quarter. Remember that 15 point lead? At one point, the Bucks built it up to over 20! (Not lying). After consecutive Clippers turnovers, Thon responded by slamming one home on the other end. Whenever Thon does anything good, the Bradley Center erupts like Vesuvius. What a folk hero.
Those L.A. turnovers were instrumental in the Bucks crafting their gigantic lead. By the end of the half, Milwaukee had scored 30 (!!!) points off 16 Clippers gaffes. It was clear to see Los Angeles was frustrated throughout, and it eventually resulted in Chris Paul picking up a technical foul and having to be restrained from the referee. In fact, I was surprised he didn’t get tagged with a second one, to be honest (Disclaimer: That shouldn’t have been a foul on Chris Paul. It should’ve been on Middleton and I still don’t know why it was called that way). One could definitely see where Paul was coming from.
Jason Kidd highlighted improved communication on the court as the driving factor in the improved Milwaukee defense and consistent offense.
“I think it’s all predicated just off communication,” said Kidd. “Guys talking to one another. It’s not always going to be perfect. They’re trying to solve their own floor and I thought deflections and steals were high, but the passing was contagious. I think we had 35 assists tonight, which has to be a record for us, but just the trust, guys moving the ball and guys getting wide open shots and knocking them down.”
At the end of 24 minutes, Milwaukee held a 66-47 lead. The 16 turnovers were massive, but it also helped that the Bucks shot above 50 percent (54.2 percent to be exact) and didn’t squander any chances they were presented. Greg Monroe was a beast off the bench, going 8-of-10 from the floor with 16 points.
Kidd opted to roll out the same starting lineup that began the game to start things in the second half. Things could’ve gone better, as the Clips opened with a 7-0 run that trimmed the Bucks lead to 12 and forced them to call a timeout. Dellavedova and Monroe were quickly subbed in for Brogdon and Maker. Milwaukee would finally score their first points of the third quarter at the seven minute mark, which allowed L.A. to slash the deficit to single digits.
Chris Paul was a major impact in the third quarter, totaling 14 points. He knocked down four 3-pointers that helped deflate the Bucks’ lead to just three at the 1:41 mark. An injury hampered his ability to make his presence felt even more, as he asked to be removed while he was holding his left wrist. His brisk absence was noted by the Bucks going on a quick 5-0 run, followed by a silky smooth Giannis and-one that pushed their lead to nine heading into the fourth.
The Bucks immediately re-established their double digit lead in the opening minutes of the quarter, including a Giannis throwdown that caused Doc Rivers to call a timeout and chew out his son like any good ol’ father-son relationship. Following the timeout, 3-pointers from Jason Terry and Khris Middleton created a 95-78 edge.
A slam by Greg Monroe would extend the Bucks’ lead to 17 with 4:34 to go and caused both teams to confront each other. It wasn’t really chaotic at all, as only Moose and Griffin jawed at one another, but it stopped play and Kidd came out to separate the two. After the replay, the refs ruled a double technical on the two.
It was odd being in a position where a win was inevitable for the Bucks, but that’s just what happened in the final four minutes of play. They never wavered or dozed off but instead slammed the door shut, constantly flirting with a double-digit lead before ending it at 112-101. Very nice to see.