Game in Review: Milwaukee Bucks v. Houston Rockets – February 29

Feb 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball away from Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22) in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball away from Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22) in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Jabari, Giannis and Khris put together a stunning performance as the Milwaukee Bucks trounce the Houston Rockets.

Starting Lineups – Milwaukee Bucks: O.J. Mayo, Khris MiddletonGiannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari ParkerMiles Plumlee

Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith, Dwight Howard

First things first, happy Leap Year Day to everyone! Now that that formality is out-of-the-way, let’s get to the important stuff; namely the ever interesting game this evening between the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.

The Rockets have been borderline unwatchable for most of the year since their glacial start to the year, firing of head coach Kevin McHale, and tension between stars James Harden and Dwight Howard.

They’re still sitting just on the cusp of a spot in the playoffs, but there is not guarantee that they’ll be anything more than Warrior fodder come the post-season.

31.3 3-PT field goal attempts would end up being the key number heading into tonight. That’s the league-leading number of shots from distance Houston attempts on average nightly, and stopping the inevitable bleeding due to scheme would be the difference maker.

While the young guys looked a little hesitant Saturday night, Jabari looked unable to miss from mid-range right out of the gate putting up 10 points in the first six minutes of play.

He didn’t fare nearly as well on the other end as he failed to keep on his guy or in poorly closing out on three attempts, but his production was enough to keep the boat afloat.

Surprisingly, at least for a majority of the first half, it wasn’t the outer shooting, but rather the athleticism of Dwight Howard which was enough to keep Milwaukee on their back foot. His aggressive play cause plenty of issues for Miles Plumlee; interestingly, Greg Monroe did a great job of frustrating Howard on defense (probably due to size?) who turned it over multiple trips down the floor.

Offense was as usual the pace setter, and a 32-26 lead for Milwaukee looked promising after one.

Rashad Vaughn led the way with fantastic touch within the offense as the subs did their best to push the limits on an increasing lead. The offensive flurry wouldn’t be denied with the young guys leading the way across the floor.

Houston began to roar back on the back of their shooting, but the Bucks only had to hold on until their starters were brought back in.

Issues with the bench have been common throughout the year and continued this evening. Even with Jabari having himself one helluva night, lack of help for stretches unraveled leads with alarming speed. Oh, and Houston began hitting their shots. A lot of them.

Some broken defense later, and the Bucks commanding lead was down to one at half, 65-64.

Honestly the second half was all about Jabari in every single way. The guy was doing work regardless of whoever the Rockets decided to match up on him, and he obviously had no fear attacking from every angle.

He did benefit a bit from nice passing, but for the most part it was his personal work that made tonight possible. Jabari even had some playmaking with his best pal:

One helluva night for a guy who daily looks to be morphing into the all-around scoring threat we all imagined when he was drafted.

The other two components of Milwaukee’s three-headed hydra didn’t do half bad themselves either. While Giannis wasn’t the main scoring threat, he began to work his way once more to another triple-double, a feat he appears now able to reach on a nightly basis if he likes. Khris Middleton backed things up big from the free throw line and shot conversions to back Jabari’s assault up.

The three would combine for 84 points (!!!), 23 rebounds and 20 assists. Yup. It’s happening.

Poor defense still had a chance to derail another big night, and having Jerryd Bayless in to run the offense didn’t fire much confidence. Pleasantly, Bayless came up big defensively, and allowed his teammates to do a lot of the work.

Something just switched for the team as a whole, and everything went their way on both ends. Bayless drained a couple of back-breaking threes to give Giannis his second triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) on the year (!), Jabari flat-out couldn’t miss and was as acrobatic as ever (!), and Khris flowed within the offense with zero issues (!).

Tonight was simply a glimpse into what this team can be around this core, and damn me if it wasn’t exciting to watch!

Some really really fun to watch basketball later would nearly be ruined by a late 9-0 Houston run thanks to five straight MKE turnovers. Milwaukee would put together solid defense to eliminate the threat, thankfully, late.

The Bucks look more and more like they’re arriving, and they head off tonight with a W, 128-121.

89. Final. 121. 169. 128

The Bucks may not have had enough juice to outrun the Rockets, but they’ll give it another go at home this Wednesday when the Minnesota Timberwolves come to town.