Coming off an outright dominant win over the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks welcomed the other team from the 2022 NBA Finals to Fiserv Forum, the Golden State Warriors.
Some air was taken out of the matchup just hours before it started with the announcement that star guard Stephen Curry would be out for the Warriors due to rest. They were on the second night of a back to back after beat the Chicago Bulls the night before. Still, the Bucks could not take this team lightly because, as they showed, they can still be dangerous.
For the first three quarters, these two teams went back and forth in terms of who grasped the lead. However, Milwaukee got it together in the final period and distanced themselves, having never fell behind again. The Bucks walked away with a 129-118 victory in what was a great all-around effort.
Big 3 shines, rookie notches huge achievement as Bucks beat Warriors
This was perhaps one of the biggest examples of all of the members of the Milwaukee Bucks' top trio all clicking at the same time.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was in attack mode, having tallied 33 points on 59.1 percent shooting from the floor. Lillard built off a strong showing against Boston by scoring 27 points and dishing out seven assists with just one turnover. Yet, despite strong numbers from those two, perhaps the game's most eye-catching performance from these three belonged to Khris Middleton.
The forward had it going from the moment he stepped on the court. His jump shot was pure all night, having shot 10-of-13 for the game en route to 24 points. Not only was it an excellent showing of his scoring prowess, but Middleton showed off his facilitating prowess with 10 assists and his defensive awareness by tallying a block and a steal each.
It has been an up and down season for Middleton thus far, largely due to him being on a tight minutes limit due to an off-season procedure, but he's truly started to get comfortable lately. It's a welcoming sign, and there is still room to improve.
Outside of these three, the big story of the night was the play from rookie Andre Jackson Jr., who had an impressive performance, to say the least. In 27 minutes, the wing gave Milwaukee a massive spark, providing energy, scoring, and rebounding.
In the scoring department, Jackson was doing damage close to the hoop, catching lobs from center Brook Lopez and attacking with authority. The big highlight was a thunderous putback dunk where it seemed like the entire Warriors team forgot to box him out.
In addition to his scoring production, Jackson was a rebounding machine, especially on the offensive glass. He tallied 10 boards overall, six of which were offensive boards. Several of those were simply due to effort. On two occasions, Jackson got his shots blocked, but he stayed with it, got the board, and put the shot back up to score. That's energy and effort that cannot be taught.
On that same point, Jackson had a massive block in the third quarter, meeting Warriors big man Trayce Jackson-Davis at the rim to reject his shot. Defense immediately turned to offense, as the block led to a Damian Lillard triple to put Milwaukee up by three.
In total, Jackson finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and a block. It was the first career double-double for the rookie in what was undeniably an impressive showing. Jackson's 28 minutes were the second most he's played in a game this season, and it was not surprising to see him have a productive night with the expanded opportunity. There's so much potential waiting to be unearthed.
On Golden State's side of things, Jonathan Kuminga led the way with a 28-point outing off the bench, while Brandin Podziemski, a Wisconsin native, put together an impressive performance with family in attendance by tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds. Klay Thompson had 21, but the Bucks did their part to limit him, as he shot just 7-of-23 from the floor.
Overall, it was a good win for the Bucks, who have gotten themselves into a nice groove over these past two games. There's still plenty of work to be done, but it seems like the Bucks are trending up.
Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.