Even with Giannis Antetokounmpo missing due to the joyous birth of his first son, Liam Charles Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks still mustered up a victory over the Sacramento Kings 123-111. Now, they have one last game awaiting before most of the team gets a prolonged break during All-Star Weekend.
My word folks, having written a great number of these “Bucks Updates,” and having a great number of them be recollecting this team treating others like they would not want to be treated on the court, it is such a pleasure to see the outrageous success this team has had in the first half. Their 123-111 win over the Kings came, as mentioned before, without Giannis, but still featured a comeback from their supporting cast and a stellar 1-2 punch with Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combining for 56 points. Each of them nearly tallied a triple-double to boot. Plus, Brook Lopez had his shooting groove going and Sterling Brown found some redemption with 11 points in his 23 minutes. The good vibes around this team are infectious. At least once a quarter I burst with glee at a pretty passing combination they sling together. Their matchup here is with a potential second-round opponent in Indiana, who have finally gotten back to full strength with the arrival of Victor Oladipo. The Bucks have also obliterated this Pacers team twice this season, so we’ll see if Oladipo provides any extra pop to make this a fair fight.
The Pacers won’t have to contend with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will miss another game for obvious reasons while George Hill and Kyle Korver will sit it out too.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
He had a quiet night, just 12 points on 5/12 shooting, when last Milwaukee destroyed the Indiana Pacers 117-89 on December 22. However, he’s been a torch for this team lately, decimating opponents from all areas of the floor. I expect him to size up the Pacers wings and take them to task handily, including several of his unguardable pull-up triples. T.J. Warren can’t stick with him. With no Giannis, he will need to continue to pick up the scoring slack.
Even with the triumphant return of Oladipo, this team has been anything but triumphant in their last five, all of which have been losses. During this current skid, they’ve blown a massive lead to the Raptors (and lost a subsequent time to streaking Toronto) and most recently dropped a tight 105-106 game against the Brooklyn Nets. Spencer Dinwiddie nailed a game-winner, but the Pacers went just 7-30 (23.3%) from behind the arc. Their starting backcourt of Oladipo and Brogdon went just 8-25 for the game combined en route to 18 points. Not a great look for your backcourt of the future. Clearly, they are still figuring out how exactly the offense will function best with Oladipo’s athleticism contrasted with Brogdon’s methodical approach, but they have plenty of kinks to still work through.
Player to Watch: Victor Oladipo
If for no other reason then to see how exactly he looks coming back from that ruptured quad tendon that kept him sidelined for a full year. The matchup of Brogdon-Oladipo versus Matthews-Bledsoe defensively is a fascinating one, and I’m curious to see if Oladipo is able to beat either of Milwaukee’s backcourt defenders off the dribble. I haven’t seen if his first step is quite back to what it was pre-injury, but I’m guessing he’s still trying to regain confidence. In his six games back, he’s shooting just a shade under 30% overall, including only 23% from deep on 6.5 attempts per game. Rough stuff for the Pacers franchise player.