Fresh off a brutal beatdown at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks were likely very eager to get back on the floor to face the Miami Heat the following day.
Indeed, for a good chunk of the contest, the Bucks looked quite motivated to get back into the win column, having built up a lead as large as 25 points. Yet, it seemed like Milwaukee got just a bit too comfortable late, as Miami made it a single-digit game in the final minutes. Thankfully, the Bucks held off embarrassment and finished this one out with a 122-114 victory.
Antetokounmpo, Lillard, and the bench shine as Bucks hold off Heat
As the leader of this team, Giannis Antetokounmpo knew he had to come out and set the tone after the team’s ugly defeat the night prior. He did just that by scoring the first 10 points of the night. Poetically, he also scored the final points of the game to seal the deal with a pair of free throws in the closing moments.
In total, Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points on 57.1 percent shooting to go along with seven boards, two assists, and a highlight-reel-worthy blocked shot.
Damian Lillard needed to have a bounce-back night after having one of the worst outings of his entire career the night prior. Thankfully, he did just that. Though he struggled to get himself into a groove early, Lillard started finding himself as time progressed. He’s still looking for that perimeter shot, having shot just 2-of-7, but Lillard was good elsewhere.
The veteran guard shot 5-of-7 on shots from inside the arc, and his aggressiveness also earned him 11 attempts at the foul line – he sunk nine. With the Heat hounding him at every turn, Lillard also got his teammates involved, having notched four sweet assists, two of which were to Giannis, as those two continue to build up their on-court chemistry.
They’re certainly still working out the early kinks, but the potential this duo possesses is shining through the cracks.
The third piece of this potential-filled trio, Khris Middleton, continues to be on a minutes limit and played just 17 minutes in this one. He’s still very much looking for his shot, having hit just one of his four attempts and scoring five points overall. Yet, he made an impact as a facilitator, dishing out five assists in that same span. Even if he’s not hitting shots, Middleton can help out.
Speaking of helping out, the bench came through big time against Miami. Bobby Portis checked in with a purpose and gave this team an immeasurable spark early. He shot 7-of-8 on 2-point looks, having made his presence felt down low and with his jumpers. He stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a blocked shot to go along with 16 bench points.
Cameron Payne, the newcomer, found his footing, having scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep in 13 minutes. The backup point guard could very well be a key cog for this Milwaukee team as a second-unit sparkplug, but they need him to keep knocking down shots like this. Hopefully he can build off this strong showing.
Jae Crowder and Pat Connaughton proved to be do-it-all reserves, with both tallying eight points, five rebounds, and two assists. Crowder also added a steal and a block. An extremely motivated Crowder has looked much better for the Bucks this season than he did last year, and Connaughton had a much-needed bounce-back game after struggling to find his shot early on in the season.
Milwaukee’s next opponent will be Toronto, where Head Coach Adrian Griffin will head back to the place where he was just an assistant. Hopefully Milwaukee can keep the ball rolling there.
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