Hosting their Central Division rival Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks looked in control with just under 10 minutes in the third quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo just threw down a thunderous dunk over Isaiah Stewart to put Milwaukee up 13 points. Apparently, the staredown Antetokounmpo hit Stewart with after the slam was a bit too vicious, as it caused the Greek Freak to earn his second technical foul of the night, which led to just the fifth ejection of his NBA career.
The ejection caused a monumental momentum swing, as Milwaukee’s 13-point lead turned into a double-digit deficit fairly quickly. The Bucks dug themselves into a hole in the second half, and the adversity of this group would be put to the test without not just Antetokounmpo but also another key piece in Khris Middleton, who was out from the jump due to injury recovery.
Bucks overcome controversial ejection through clutch heroics vs. Pistons
Thanks to a much-needed Cameron Payne triple at the third-quarter buzzer, the Bucks trailed by just five entering the fourth quarter. MarJon Beauchamp got things started in the period, hitting a pair of shots to keep the Bucks within striking distance. After that, it was time for Damian Lillard to take over.
With Detroit leading 102-94 with 9:37 to play, Lillard checked in. He had 16 points to that point, but he immediately added to his total by sinking a 3-pointer and hitting a tough fadeaway within around the first minute he was in. He certainly wasn’t done there, as it was just the start of what became a tremendously clutch performance.
A few minutes later, with Milwaukee down 10, Lillard hit a tough and-one, converting on the free throw to keep the Bucks alive. The next trip down the floor, he was fouled once again and earned two free throws. He sunk both, which was also the case just a few minutes later, where he buried a pair to pull the Bucks within three with three minutes to play.
Over the next two minutes, Lillard hit two layups and a fadeaway jumper that gave Milwaukee a lead of one. After he struggled to find his shot for most of the night, Lillard flipped the switch with the game on the line and delivered, as the Bucks escaped with a 120-118 win. In total, he finished with 34 points, three assists, and three steals in another clutch performance.
Speaking of clutch, Brook Lopez needs his flowers for the final 42 seconds. Not only did the center knock in a deep triple to put the Bucks up four, but after Detroit’s Cade Cunningham buried a three to put Milwaukee up by just one, Lopez blocked the guard’s shot with 12 seconds left in the game. The ball ended up in Malik Beasley’s hands, and the Bucks got free throws, which helped seal it.
Lopez tallied 14 points, six rebounds, and four huge blocked shots.
Sticking with the bigs, Bobby Portis had a big game off of the bench. Most of his production came in the first half, but he finished with a tally of 18 points on 50 percent shooting and five rebounds. MarJon Beauchamp and Jae Crowder joined him by delivering nice performances of their own, with each of them pouring in 10 points apiece. All three have been playing good ball as of late.
Malik Beasley’s minutes have been up and down throughout these first few games, but he saw a decent amount of time against Detroit, and he took advantage. With no Antetokounmpo, he was placed in the closing lineup, which led to him stuffing the stat sheet. In the final period, he tallied two points, two rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He continues to do a bit of everything.
A nice surprise from this game was seeing Andre Jackson Jr. get on the court outside of mop-up duty. Though he only played 3:39, the guard still showed glimpses of what he’s capable of doing, playing tough defense and just providing energy. The potential is there, and he should be getting some legitimate minutes nightly for this team.
It was a grind-it-out win by the Bucks, who were challenged by their Central Division rivals after the ejection threw off Milwaukee’s momentum. Cunningham had a quality game with 33 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, nearly willing his team to victory. Meanwhile, Marcus Sasser had a career night off the bench, tallying 26 points on 64.7 percent shooting. Good game, Detroit.
Following wins over the New York Knicks, the frisky Brooklyn Nets, and Pistons, the Bucks have won three games in a row.
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