Game in Review: Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets – January 22

Jan 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward Trevor Ariza (1) and forward Terrence Jones (6) defend against Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22) during the first half at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward Trevor Ariza (1) and forward Terrence Jones (6) defend against Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22) during the first half at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks gravy train slams to a halt as the shorthanded Houston Rockets grab the W behind the star of James Harden.

Starting Lineups – Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris MiddletonGiannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe

Houston Rockets: Jason Terry, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Clint Capela

With the recent news of Jason Kidd‘s imminent return to the sidelines for the Milwaukee Bucks after hip surgery in December, the Bucks are set to get back to full strength in the midst of a nice winning streak. As interim coach Joe Prunty sets himself for some of his final nights at the helm of the roster, one can only hope that the current magic holds long enough to continue the current three game winning streak.

Their current road trip has proven to actually be an unexpected surprise, and the run of luck looks set to hold tonight with the Houston Rockets being down plenty of men, most notably prolific center Dwight Howard. Trying to contain James Harden, the one obvious weapon for Houston, would then be critical.

While maintaining the high level of play seen over this past week may have been unrealistic, Milwaukee came out noticeably short of energy trying to keep pace with a quick-moving Rockets team.

Houston also began to get some heavy body blows in early as well with excellent three-point shooting from Ariza and Harden as their men were decidedly short in closing them out. Jabari Parker saw the bench in a hurry due to such mistakes, and Jerryd Bayless would get his first minutes of the night.

While Milwaukee started to find some rhythm, the highlight of the night thus far had to be the arrival of Josh Smith, who had been traded from the Clippers to Houston earlier in the day, on the court with ~4:00 left.

Khris Middleton seemed frustrated by the refs early, and he decided to make Houston pay as he put Milwaukee on his back, grabbing 9 speedy points as the Bucks stood behind, 28-31.

Milwaukee went with a primarily bench lineup to start the second, and Rashad Vaughn got plenty of shine as one of the primary creators on offense. The subs held their own and briefly grasped the lead from Houston on a Vaughn three, though Houston’s Ty Lawson took it right back with a bomb of his own as the Bucks struggled to sustain another run.

The home team ripped off a quick 11-0 run, forcing a Bucks timeout with 6:43 remaining. Even with the starters back in, Milwaukee looked to be fading in a big way as the second progressed, and the interior for Milwaukee on O was completely sealed. This, obviously, created some… uhm… problems for the Bucks. Though, this JOB dunk was nice:

Increasingly, James Harden attacked both in transition and in set offenses with ease as he piled his way to an impressive 21 points and three assists in the first half. Somehow, someway, Milwaukee was only down at the break, 45-57.

Some very solid defense by Milwaukee put the clamps on Houston and movement off-ball on offense kept the Rockets in disarray as the Bucks fought their way back into things in a hurry. MCW played plenty above the rim and a competitive game was once more in sight.

On the whole, in regards to energy, execution, and general play, Milwaukee appeared to be in a state of calm control throughout the third. Another strike by Houston on consecutive possessions in transition forced another time out and another breather for the visiting team.

Surprisingly, the Bucks were in the bonus before half the quarter was gone, and taking advantage of the threat of getting to the line loosened things up on O. Back to back open threes for Ariza once more, however, killed any positive momentum. Things looked increasingly bleak for Milwaukee as everything appeared to be heading in Houston’s direction.

Middling play begets middling results, and Milwaukee remained firmly behind, 66-79.

Unfortunately for the viewing public, the Bucks of old and earlier in the year were on full display in the fourth, and some pretty sad play did little to inspire confidence in a potential final shot at a comeback.

To illustrate, the Bucks were the beneficiaries of a four on two fast break led by Bayless. Instead of attacking and capitalizing on the numbers, Bayless walked to the right wing, looked at Jabari, and then threw it past him out-of-bounds for an unforced turnover. Long story short, it wasn’t pretty.

Once again, though, the heartbreak kids decided to get hopes up reeling it in to an 82-88 game, but another Harden three shut things down once more. Many of the starters appeared to quietly put together nice nights with each member besides MCW breaking into double-digit scoring, and their play would be needed to grant a chance at a W.

Of course, another Harden three with 4:26 left looked to be the dagger. He would finish with 30 points, eight assists and five rebounds, but horrid play by Houston late kept Milwaukee alive. With :13.5 on the clock, the Bucks down five, Middleton drained a gigantic three to drag things to 98-100. The missed opportunities of old, however, would prove enough to keep Houston above water as they sunk freethrows to win, 102-98.

89. Final. 102. 169. 98

Milwaukee will look to try to get things going once again tomorrow evening against the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis in Louisiana.