Milwaukee Bucks: Young Stars Aren’t Afraid Of Taking Big Shots

Apr 15, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) looks to pass the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the first half in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (13) looks to pass the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the first half in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks young players have shown a willingness to take the big shots throughout the season, and more importantly it’s continued in the playoffs.

There were just two minutes left in Game 2 against the Toronto Raptors when, with the Milwaukee Bucks down by three, Giannis Antetokounmpo tossed the ball to Thon Maker, got it back, checked the shortening shot clock as it wound down to under four seconds, and pulled the trigger on the three-point attempt.

This season has seen young Bucks step up in a number of ways. Rookies currently occupy two of the starting positions. Not a single starter is over 25, and four are still on their rookie deals. While they might not be savvy veterans, these young Bucks aren’t ones to shy away from big time shots, though.

Giannis is a good example. Although his efforts on Tuesday weren’t quite enough to push the Bucks over the edge, they wouldn’t have even been in that position without him. Antetokounmpo tied things up by scoring the Bucks’ last five points of the game. He’s shown a willingness time and time again to be the player creating opportunities at the end of games.

Few fans could forget the memorable Giannis buzzer-beater against the Knicks earlier this year. The budding superstar has grown, and taken upon himself the task of being “the man” for the Bucks, especially at the end of games.

While some might shy away from taking the last shot, Giannis has started to accept and embrace his role as a star, and stepped up to take hold of those opportunities.

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But even though he’s only 22, that’s the expectation when you’re one of the best players in the NBA. Those shots belong to stars. Additionally, Giannis has the most NBA experience out of any 22-year-old in the league with this being his fourth year. He’s had time to realize his role on the team.

What’s more impressive is the willingness from rookies Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker to step up when called upon. For much of the early part of the season, Brogdon was a bench guy, as he only started 28 games this year, despite playing in 75. Maker wasn’t even a part of the rotation until the latter part of the season, and even then played around 10 minutes or less many nights. Still, neither player has shied away from taking clutch shots.

Maker had less than 500 minutes played when the Bucks took on the playoff hungry Detroit Pistons on Mar. 31. He was having a good game with 11 points already, which was then his third highest total of the season, when coach Jason Kidd called on him to go in for Monroe with eight minutes left in the fourth. Thon would then hit three more shots, including a dunk that tied the game at 95 and sent it to overtime, to help the Bucks to come back after failing to hold a lead at all in that quarter.

That wasn’t the end of the night for Thon. He got the nod over Monroe for overtime, and proved he belonged there. Late in the extra period with the game tied at 99, Maker got the ball for three straight possessions. Every time, he pulled the trigger on threes, resulting in a miss, a make to put them ahead, and a miss. While they didn’t all go in, Maker wasn’t phased. Even after watching the first one bounce off the rim and into the hands of the Pistons, he wasn’t scared to put another three up early in the shot clock on the either of the following possessions.

The biggest clutch time performance of the season, without a doubt, belongs to the other rookie, Malcolm Brogdon, though.

The Celtics, who would end up having the best record in the East, had tied the Mar. 29 game at 93 with 2:46 left. With the “King of the Fourth”, Isaiah Thomas as his assignment on defense, Brogdon pulled one of the best late game performances we saw from any Buck all season on offense.

Even with  Giannis and Khris Middleton both having efficient scoring nights, the rookie wasn’t afraid to take the game into his own hands. On the next possession, Brogdon took the ball up the floor, only to have it poked into the backcourt and almost out of bounds by All-Defensive First Team guard Avery Bradley. With plenty of poise but not plenty of shot clock remaining, he went the length of the court to drive straight into Bradley towards the rim.

Shortly after the two minute mark was announced, Brogdon drove into the lane and put up a floater. The Celtics made two free throws next, but Brogdon responded by making a tough bounce pass to a cutting Giannis for two more points.

Not a team to go away, the Celtics kept pace. On the next possession, Brogdon found Monroe after a pick-and-roll to get his ninth assist of the game and put the Bucks up by five. Thomas lived up to his nickname, scoring on the next two possessions to close the lead to just one with less than 30 seconds to go.

Brogdon got the ball with just four seconds left on the shot clock, dribbled to his right, and with one of the best perimeter defenders in the league draped over him, hit a long, off balance two-point dagger to put the Bucks ahead for good.

Even with the year Giannis had, he never put up an end of game performance like that. Brogdon scored or assisted on each of the Bucks last 10 points. He’s showed poise beyond his rookie status all year, and it was on full display that night.

The Bucks are still young, and it’s easy to see at times. Thon Maker is still so skinny he disappears when he turns sideways. It’s fair to doubt the ability of any starter to grow a beard. Their youth was one of the reasons suggested for the team’s early season struggles in the clutch.

What’s certain is their youth hasn’t kept them from stepping up in clutch time situations. While, as with any player, the shots wont always go in, they aren’t afraid of the opportunities. When Brogdon’s three attempt rattled out on Tuesday night, the heart of every Bucks fan sank. We’ve seen Brogdon make many a shot like that, and while you can’t make them all, there’s few that we’d rather see taking that shot.

This team is still young, and there’s a long way left for them to grow, but the poise the youngsters have shown under pressure has to be encouraging to fans.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: Series Opening Win Was No Fluke

The greatest victories and the most heartbreaking defeats come at the hands of last second shots, but with this special group leading the way forward, the Bucks know they have a core that will rise to the challenge of taking and making those big time shots.