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Milwaukee vs. Detroit: Bucks Outmuscle Pistons

SB Nation logo SB Nation 1/5/2021 Andrew Goodman
a basketball player in front of a crowd © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks let the short-handed Detroit Pistons hang around in the first half but began to percolate offensively in the third, and pulled away for a 125-115 home victory to improve to 4-3 on the season.

Detroit was outmatched before the game began with Blake Griffin and Josh Jackson out, and provided little to no resistance in the painted area. Mason Plumlee was their last line of defense...that man had a rough night defensively.

It is still clear that the Milwaukee Bucks have kinks to work out on both ends of the floor and I appreciated the timeout head coach Mike Budenholzer called in the third quarter after a defensive lapse by Bobby Portis. Mind you, this was the first possession following a TV timeout. It was encouraging to see that and use it as a teaching moment even though the Bucks were ahead.

What Did We Learn?

Donte DiVincenzo...the ultimate playmaker (h/t @Mitchell_NBA)

The manner in which he facilitated the offense and moved the ball was otherworldly on Monday night. My favorite #DonteDime was his two-handed bounce pace in the first quarter which was placed perfectly to a streaking Khris Middleton who made an impressive layup for the hoop plus the foul. This was one of the many flashes Donte showed versus the Pistons as he continued his strong start. He finished the victory with five points and nine assists. His shot was not falling (2-of-9) but he more than made up for it.

Three Bucks

The Detroit Pistons could not do anything to even moderately contain Giannis Antetokounmpo Monday night. It was like watching Giannis go up against toddlers while playing on a Little Tikes hoop. As stated previously, Mason Plumlee patrolling the paint defensively ended as we all expected...with open layups! Even though this was the best matchup for Giannis to exploit, his attitude/energy seemed “different” (in a great way) from previous games. The majority of the time it looked like he wasn’t even trying...just making it look easy. He established himself as the alpha offensively and finished with 43 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. 30 of those points came in the first half and ended his performance making 17 of 24 shots. He was especially great moving off-ball and slashed to the paint for easy scores on multiple possessions. What I enjoyed the most was his patience down low. He worked patiently for an open window and opted for a short step-back in the paint which was effective. This was hands down his best performance in the early going.

Jrue Holiday...the ultimate craftsmen. Like backcourt mate Donte DiVincenzo, Holiday’s passing ability was on full display. He was patient and did not force the action and was able to find the open Buck throughout the contest. His prettiest sequence was off a missed three-pointer by Antetokounmpo. Jrue made an array of crossovers deep in the paint before launching a pinpoint pass to Giannis. He did a solid job defensively on rookie Killian Hayes (before Hayes left with an injury) and forced a handful of turnovers. He totaled 15 points, six rebounds, and seven assists (one turnover) in 34 minutes while finishing plus-16. This Bucks team is already potent with Jrue at the helm, just wait until he is fully acclimated.

D.J. Augustin...welcome back! It took a few weeks for him to get settled after signing with Milwaukee in a shortened offseason and sustaining a minor calf injury. He played 19 minutes off the bench and added 11 points and six assists while converting on 4-of-5 shots and all three of his triples. He was consistently in the right place and the right time offensively but my only gripe is that he has been timid and passed up a few open three-point shots. Augustin was one of those players who always played well against the Bucks and adding him to the roster will only help them in the long run.

Bonus Tidbits

  • Khris Middleton was quietly efficient offensively, making 7-of-10 shots for 19 points in 36 minutes. While his shotmaking was there, his passing was not, to say the least. He committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers and the majority of them were errant passes.
  • Bobby Portis, serviceable big man! He has a ways to go defensively, but he has done his job well on the offensive end. He has a great nose for the offensive glass and it looks like he knows where the ball will come off the rim. He contributed 10 points and eight boards on 5-of-8 shooting (plus-5).
  • Jordan Nwora early minutes? Jordan Nwora early minutes. He was unimpressive in his eight minutes off the bench which included him fouling a jump shooter. He is going to need some time to adjust.
  • Has Bryn Forbes met a shot he doesn’t like? He is a microwave scorer off the bench who will take some bad shots, but his three-point shooting has given the Bucks a big boost. He added 10 points while sinking 2-of-4 tries from deep.
  • Brook Lopez was seldom heard from offensively but wreaked havoc defensively with his active hands.
  • The Bucks finished with 57.6/41.2/81.3 shooting splits
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