Giannis Antetokounmpo shines, reserves provide a jolt as Bucks beat Nets

Nov 6, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming off a nice win over the New York Knicks, the Milwaukee Bucks needed to build off of that performance as they visited the scrappy Brooklyn Nets.

It wasn’t the prettiest performance, as plenty of Milwaukee’s early season struggles on both ends of the court were on full display. This was a back-and-forth game from start to finish, as just when it seemed like one team was starting to pull away, the other team roared right back into the game and took a lead of their own. Let’s look at how it panned out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shines, reserves provide a jolt as Bucks beat Nets

Although seven Bucks finished with double-digit points, this was still one of those contests where Giannis Antetokounmpo was the driving force. The Greek Freak was excellent on both ends, ending the matchup with 36 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal, and two blocked shots. Needless to say, he was everywhere on the court throughout his 35 minutes of action.

Offensively, Antetokounmpo shot 14-of-20 from inside the arc, having asserted himself down low against the undersized Nets. Yet, that did not stop him from letting it fly from deep, as he heaved a whopping seven triple tries. He only made one, but it was a major one, having tied the game up at 115 with just under five minutes to play.

Defensively, he was everywhere, but his biggest play of the game came in the final seconds as he blocked Cam Thomas’ shot. At the moment, the Bucks had been up by three points, and Thomas, who had been red-hot all night, was looking for more. Antetokounmpo prevented that by denying his shot, which ended up in the hands of Lillard.

Giannis is still looking to get himself going after a hit-or-miss start to the year, but this is the type of performance that should help him find a groove.

Damian Lillard has been looking for his shot all year, and his struggles continued against Brooklyn. Though the guard had 21 points, he shot just 5-of-15 from the floor, which included 2-of-8 on his 3-point tries. Sinking nine of his 10 free throw attempts helped him score. With his shot not falling at all, Lillard served as a facilitator, having tallied a game-high seven assists.

All you can ask is Lillard to keep letting it go and staying aggressive. Even with his struggles, Lillard could have been more aggressive with the ball in his hands as he looks to get into a rhythm.

Rounding out the Big 3 was Khris Middleton, who remains on a strict minutes limit. Yet, that didn’t stop him from making an impact, as he finished with 15 points on 60 percent shooting while also handing out four assists. His jumper looked pure, and the forward had some pep in his step as he keeps working his way back to 100 percent healthy. Those are both very positive signs.

Outside of these three, most of the production came from the reserves. Jae Crowder continued his recent roll by notching 15 points, having hit four 3-pointers. Cameron Payne provided a significant jolt in his minutes, tallying 11 points and three assists. Bobby Portis had 11 points and six boards, having finally hit his first triple of the NBA season. Lastly, Pat Connaughton had 10 points.

On the other team, Cam Thomas lit it up with 45 points, as the Bucks had no counter to his effort. Mikal Bridges was right there with him, having scored 31 points of his own. Sure, Milwaukee’s play on defense wasn’t perfect, but these two also hit some crazy shots in this one, including one that was nearly at the mid-court line from Thomas.

It’s great Milwaukee got the win with a final score of 129-125, but it’s clear they’re still ironing out some issues on both sides of the ball. There were plenty of lapses on both offense and defense in this one that made this matchup a lot closer than it could have been. Ultimately, it’s a nice win, but there’s work to be done.

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