Bucks Lead

Matthews’ Defense Propelling Bucks Back to Win Column

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You know that thing that I started the Week in Review with two weeks ago about how the Bucks had not yet lost since I began writing these? Well, how the turn tables, as Michael Scott once said. The Bucks’ 18-game winning streak did come to an end this week, but whether against the league’s best or the bottom-feeders, Milwaukee did a good job in responding.

12/16: vs. Dallas

Result: 120-116 L

A couple days before this Monday nighter, basketball fans got bad news, as Dallas’ Luka Doncic suffered a high ankle sprain that would keep him out for multiple weeks. This put to bed all hopes (for now) of a Giannis-Luka showdown in Milwaukee. So, how did a Luka-less Mavericks team take Milwaukee to their limit, even handing them their first loss since in over a month? Well, with a combination of factors.

For one, the Bucks did seem to be looking ahead to their next contest in the first, being down 14 after that frame and as much as 16 in the first half. Second, the Bucks would struggle mightily from the field, shooting just 30.7% from the field outside of Giannis and Kyle Korver. Now, this is taking no credit away from the Mavericks, who played one heck of a game without their superstar and MVP candidate. The question, now, turned into how the Bucks would respond.

Top performers

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 48p/14r/4a/1s/1b

Kyle Korver: 17p/2r/3a/1b, 5/7 3P

 

 

12/19: vs. LA Lakers

Result: 111-104 W

Thanks to a loss of their own against Indiana two days before to put an end to their seven-game win streak, all things had began anew for the Bucks and Lakers. One of the biggest games of the year so far, this game certainly lived up to the hype. Once again, though, the Bucks would make their way out to a big first-half lead, leading by as much as 21.

Little by little in the second half, though, the Lakers would chip away at Milwaukee’s lead. Up just eight after the third quarter, the game never really felt out of hand though, as the game was punctuated with a Giannis three-pointer with 9:05 to go, his fifth of the night and one that put his team up by 14. Giannis would add to this moment by seemingly “crowning” himself, a bold move. LeBron would tip his hat to the Greek Freak after the game, but was this a passing of the torch?

Defense was another huge part of this win, too. Wesley Matthews once again was assigned to guard the opposition’s best offensive option in LeBron James– and he didn’t disappoint.

Top performers

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 34p/11r/7a/1s/1b

Wesley Matthews: 13p/4r/2a/3s/1b, lockdown defense on LeBron

George Hill: 21p/3r/1a, 3/5 3P in 27 minutes off the bench

12/21: @ New York

Result: 123-102 W

Second verse, same as the first, as the Bucks would have little trouble in taking care of the lowly New York Knicks, this time in the world’s most famous arena. With Wes Matthews sitting out and the starters barely touching 25 minutes, Milwaukee relied on the “Bench Mob” to primarily get things done, as five reserves played 15 minutes or more, with Korver leading the way at 17 points of that group. It was Giannis, though, who shined once again in MSG, recording a triple-double while playing just 26 minutes and taking only 10 shots. A nice tune-up for the Sunday night contest against Indiana, the Bucks did exactly what they had to do in a game in which they were expected to cruise.

Top performers

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 22p/11r/10a/2s, 8/10 FG in 26 minutes (3rd triple-double of season)

Khris Middleton: 23p/6r/5a/3s/1b, 7/7 FT, +35 in 24 minutes

12/22: vs. Indiana

Result: 117-89 W

Since the Bucks win streak began back in November, one of the biggest critiques of it was always that they were not exactly playing the most difficult schedule in the world. While this may very well be true, at the end of the day, you play the teams that are put in front of you, and the Bucks had their fair share of quality wins. Look no further than Utah, Portland, and chiefly among them, the LA Clippers.

So, when the Bucks laced up against the Pacers on Sunday night to wrap up their pre-Christmas slate, they would be playing one of their toughest tests yet. Malcolm Brogdon returning, a tough division matchup, how did the Bucks fare? Pretty darn well, as they took home another dominating win, shutting down Brogdon (10 points) and Myles Turner (11 points) in the process. On the Milwaukee side of things, George Hill continued his stellar stretch with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists off the bench and Wes added a team-high 19 points on top of once again shutting down Indy’s top option (Brogdon) to lead to the W.

Top performers

Wesley Matthews: 19p/more lockdown D

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18p/19r/9a/2b/2s in 30 minutes

Brook Lopez: 17p/8r/2a/2b, 3/6 3P, +26 in 26 minutes

The Week Ahead

A holiday tilt with Philadelphia waits as the Bucks will tip off at 1:30 on Christmas Day in the City of Brotherly Love. Then, and say it with me now, another road/home back-to-back finishes out the week for the Bucks for the second week in a row with a trip to Atlanta followed by the Magic coming to Milwaukee.

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