In an impressive manner, the Bucks handled business against the defending World Champion Denver Nuggets, 112-95.
The Bucks turned the stove on high to begin this one, igniting the scoreboard with a 9-0 run to kick things off. However, the Nuggets stormed back to snatch away the lead with just over three minutes in the period. Despite the momentum being seized by the visitors, Milwaukee was able to regain the lead while both Giannis and Dame were off the floor. Headed into the second quarter, the Bucks held a 28-23 lead.
The Bucks firepower continued on offense. Giannis started to cook, etching out 26 first-half points. It padded Milwaukee’s lead to the double-digit category and even separated things by 22 points at one point. At intermission, the Bucks held a 60-44 advantage.
Bobby Portis began to come alive in the third, finishing the period with 13 points off the bench. It was a big reason behind Milwaukee maintaining command of things. Headed into the fourth quarter, the Bucks pieced together a 91-63 lead.
That lead remained well intact. It was only a matter of time before both teams pulled their starters, shaping the way for a well-earned 112-95 victory for Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was all over the stat sheet in this one, erupting for 36 points, 18 rebounds, and five assists. Damian Lillard contributed with 18 points.
Nikola Jokic was brilliant himself, flirting with a triple-double. He ended his outing with a 29 point, 12 rebound, eight assist performance.
The Bucks now take on the Miami Heat at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night to conclude their four-game homestand.
What Did We Learn?
The Bucks are really beginning to thread things together on the defensive side of the basketball. Last night marked the first time this season that they’ve held an opponent to below 100 points in consecutive games. I was curious about what’s been driving the change in defense for Milwaukee and asked Damian Lillard what he’s seen as the biggest improvement since Doc took over:
“I think we’ve just taken a lot of time to simplify things. We’re doing a lot of walking through. Just walking through scenarios and situations and different things that teams might try to do against us when we’re on the defensive side of the floor…some things that we could do well. And I think we’ve just embraced it. I think the walkthroughs and the small attention to detail type things that we’ve been going over time and time and time again and we do it in film. I think it’s really starting to help us. Like I said, we had a carry over and it’s something we were able to sustain over the course of the game.”
As for Doc himself? He says that he’s worked on defense with the team 70% of the time for sure in practice. Here’s another quote of what he said:
“Yeah, just steady progress. Believing in your D. Trusting it. Clarifying it — what we want to do. You know, as I said five, six games ago…Don Shula — if you ever read his book — if you have time, it’s a good book — but he always talked about, “The fastest player is always the one who doesn’t have to think.” And the more we can get our guys to know exactly what they’re doing, they can pull at full speed and that’s what we’re trying to do is simplify so we can play with fire.”
It’s obviously working. Milwaukee is light years ahead of where they were just a month ago. In fact, how about this stat?
The Bucks have now given up fewer than 100 points in their last two games. It’s the first time Milwaukee has held its opponent to under 100 points since April 22-24, 2022 against Chicago in the playoffs.
Since Doc took over, the Bucks are giving up just 111.8 points per game.
— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) February 13, 2024
Brook Lopez continues to impress.
In his pre-game availability, Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone talked about how impressed he is by Brook Lopez’s defensive IQ. Doc Rivers talked about that as well postgame and highlighted how Brook knows what he can’t do. He highlighted how Brook did a magnificent job of stopping the ball and then getting back, calling it “pretty good stuff.” Jokic ended up with 29 points, but again, it took him 25 shots for him to get there. That shows just how hard Lopez made him work to get those points. He never ceases to impress on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, he knocked down several threes on the evening, continuing his hot shooting streak.
Giannis was a roamer.
One of the things we’ve seen in the past on the defensive side of the ball has been his ability to roam and scope things out. Last night, he was doing lots of that and it worked out, as he was able to make many disruptions through his help defense. Postgame, Doc discussed what he brought to the table in that category:
“When we can get away with it, we want Giannis on someone on the other team that he can just roam. Like, he’s like a football free safety — he’d be an amazing free safety. He does a great job roaming around. He got the one steal from the backside. He’s always at the rim. What it gives us is we always have rim protection — either Brook or Giannis. And now that our guards are up on the ball and we’re taking guys off the three, you know, taking them off the three with rim protection creates in-between contested shots. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Giannis also continues to rack up some wild stats.
Antetokounmpo shot 73.7% from the field (14-of-19 FG), marking his league-high eighth game of the season scoring 30+ points on 70% shooting. His eight games are now tied with the eight he had during the 2019-20 season for the most he’s tallied in a season in his career. Right out of the gate, he made an immediate impact. It really helped dictate how this was going to unfold, as the Nuggets couldn’t match the firepower he brought. That was absolutely crucial in getting such a dominant victory.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- I really miss Denver’s sky blue and gold jerseys. I get why they went to navy blue and maroon to complement the gold, but to me, the sky blue symbolizes the Nuggets. I’m sure that’s nostalgia because that’s what I grew up with, but man…sky blue is always the best sports color.
- Milwaukee did a strong job at limiting Jamal Murray’s influence in this one. He’d end up leaving the contest due to the injury, but prior to that, he only scored several points on 1-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes of action.
- Giannis shouted out Pat Beverley in his postgame, talking about how he’s telling him all the places he needs to be on defense. We’re only two games into the Pat Bev era and he’s already making a massive influence.
- The Bucks dished out 30 assists last night. They’ve now reached that number 17 times this season and in three of their last six games. They’re 14-3 when hitting that metric.
- Last, we received another fantastic Giannis quote:
Giannis on the scratches on Nikola Jokic’s body: “I think you see scratches because he has a lighter skin than me. I have a lot of scratches on my arms too. My significant other thinks it’s sexy so I love it.”
— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) February 13, 2024
First appeared on www.brewhoop.com