Coming off consecutive losses against the Indiana Pacers, the Milwaukee Bucks desperately needed a win.
They had a chance to get back in the win column against the San Antonio Spurs in a game that had a lot of eyes on it for many reasons. For one, it was on national television. Two, it marked the first game that would feature both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Wembanyama after the latter missed the first outing due to injury.
Although the Spurs have not been world-beaters this season, they put up a heck of a fight against the Bucks and had them on the ropes for much of the contest. However, the Bucks were able to prevail in the final minutes to secure a 125-121 victory. The biggest reason for that was the contributions from their two leading stars.
How clutch were the Milwaukee Bucks' stars in win over Spurs? This stat says it all
On Milwaukee's side of things, the first six points of the fourth quarter belonged to Malik Beasley and Cam Payne. After that, it was time for the team's two stars to take the reigns. With the Bucks trailing by three with just under nine-and-a-half minutes to play, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 of the team's final 26 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was surgical down the stretch, scoring 14 points and shooting 5-of-6 from the floor. His two biggest shots of the game were surprisingly from behind the arc, as he nailed one with the Bucks trailing by three and then immediately hit another one to put them up by three. Yet, he showed that he was still dominant down low, having thrown down a massive and-one dunk soon after.
Damian Lillard was right there with Antetokounmpo, pouring in 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. His lone triple was in transition and was so deep that announcer Kevin Harlan said it was from El Paso. Outside of that triple, Lillard attacked the basket with authority consistently, having made a number of tough shots right at the rim.
The lone point in this run that didn't belong to Antetokounmpo or Lillard came from Pat Connaughton, who sunk a free throw in the closing moments to ice the game entirely.
Games like those showcase that even if the Bucks are trading blows with a team all the way through, they have two guys, sometimes three, but not in this one, who can get the job done in the clutch to will them to a victory. That's undeniably always a welcoming thing to have.
In total, Antetokounmpo had another MVP-worthy performance with 44 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block. Lillard was also great with 25 points on 52.6 percent shooting and 10 assists. There's a reason these two have been among the top vote-getters in the early going of 2023-24 NBA All-Star fan voting.
One possibly troublesome stat for the Bucks was that Khris Middleton was the team's third-leading scorer despite just playing in the first half. It was the first back-to-back for the forward in a long time, and the team seemingly wanted to be cautious. He looked good in the half, scoring 12 points and dishing five assists on 62.5 percent field goal shooting.
Malik Beasley had a decent game with 10 points, but outside of him, no other player could really get it going, particularly from the bench. Bobby Portis shot just 2-of-6 for five points, Cam Payne missed all three of his shot attempts, and MarJon Beauchamp shot just 3-of-8. Connaughton had a fine contest with seven points, and it was great to see him hit multiple triples for the sixth time this season.
Still, question marks continue to loom over this bench and whether the current members can give the team what they need to succeed.
On the other side of things, Wembanyama lived up to the hype in his first matchup with the Bucks, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds, and five blocked shots. Still, Devin Vassell was the team's leading scorer, having finished with 33 points after making tough shot after tough shot.
Ultimately, the Bucks did what they were supposed to do and beat a lesser team. It's good to get a win, but there is more work to be done.
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