Bucks talk ball movement in season tournament points differential
Bucks talks ball sharing and points difference in season tournaments with win over Hornets
The Milwaukee Bucks won their fourth straight game on Saturday night, topping the Dallas Mavericks 132-125 in an offensive showdown at Fiserv Forum. It was the Bucks’ first game against a Western Conference opponent, and the Mavericks tied for the conference’s best record. The loss dropped them to 9-4, while the Bucks improved to 9-4.
“It was a painful win,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said. “You need these wins to build some character along the way and our guys will know what it’s like to play in games like this and come out with a win.”
The Bucks were on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off a win in Charlotte on Friday. The Mavericks were eliminated on Wednesday after a win over the Washington Wizards.
Box score: Bucks 132, Mavericks 125
Star players take center stage for Bucks, Mavericks
Saturday night’s game featured four of the best players in the NBA: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and Dallas’ Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, and the quartet took turns imposing their will on the game.
“I mean, when we all see each other, we obviously know what kind of night it’s going to be,” Lillard said. “Ultimately you want your team to come out on top. But I think we all did that, especially myself, Kyrie and Giannis – Luka is a little bit younger than us – but we’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Antetokounmpo and Dončić were central in the first half. The MVP candidates almost went basket-by-basket, with Antetokounmpo scoring 20 points on 15 shots and Dončić shooting 17 of 14 in an up-tempo half.
Antetokounmpo chopped up a porous Mavericks defense with Eurosteps and spins, scoring all of his first-half points in the paint on 10-of-11 shooting. Nine of those brands came to the brink.
Dončić hit three three-pointers and added six in the painted area while dishing out five assists. For his part, Antetokounmpo said he didn’t get caught up in the moment.
“I’m trying to be okay with myself and the game I can play and the way I can help my teammates and try to play within my strengths as much as possible,” Antetokounmpo said. “The moment you start comparing and trying to play three-man or go basket-for-basket, he’s probably maybe one of the best shooters in the league; Kyrie can make any shot he wants, Luka can make any step he wants, Damian can shoot from the crazy logo.
“Like, how can I go from basket to basket with those guys? I can not. I just have to play my game, rebound the ball, defend, attack as much as possible, create play for my teammate and just play within my strengths.
Meanwhile, Irving went just 3-for-10 for six points and Lillard went 3-for-7 for 10 points in the first 24 minutes.
Dončić was able to keep the pace going in the third quarter, scoring a 13-0 run to give the Mavericks a 71-60 lead. The Dallas guard had 10 points in that stretch, while Antetokounmpo missed his first four shots of the quarter.
Irving also got going in the third quarter, going 7-for-10 for 18 points. Lillard didn’t get a lead like the other three, but gradually built momentum, scoring 17 in the second half to help the Bucks overcome a 12-point deficit.
There was also an 85-second fourth quarter in which the four players each scored a point. but it was Antetokounmpo who made a pair of free throws to put the Bucks ahead after Dončić missed two.
“It’s not so much about the stats – it’s about who can come up big in the moments that matter and win the game,” Lillard said. “I’ve had a lot of games where I had 50 points, nine assists or whatever, and at the end of the day sometimes you think, man, we didn’t win.
‘I think we understood that tonight. Those guys are great scorers, two of the best scorers in the history of the game and they see the ball go in a few times (and) at that point you really can’t do anything about it. So it comes down to making the stops when you need them and being able to execute offensively. I thought we had a couple of stops when we needed those guys and we were able to execute and win the game. That was the most important thing.”
Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 40 points on 18-of-26 shooting. He also had 14 rebounds and seven assists. Lillard scored 27 and dished out 12 assists.
“I think this is what the fans wanted: to see Dame and Giannis, so elite at the end of the game,” Griffin said. “And your fourth quarter has to be your best quarter. Especially when you’re playing against a great team like Dallas. I mean, well coached, there are superior players. So this was huge. Especially going down and finding a way to come back and win that game was great.
Irving scored 39 on 16 of 29 shots, while Dončić scored 35 on 15 of 26 shots.
Irving agreed with Lillard that there is a bit of fun in games like these.
“Yes, absolutely,” Irving said. “It’s incredibly exciting when you play against other stars in the competition. You want to play your best. You want to play well against them individually, but at the end of the day you want to come out with a win. And they did that tonight. So you have to give them credit. They made timely shots. If Luka and I have it like tonight and other guys fill it in, our job becomes a lot easier and we feel better as a team. We’ve done that in spurts, but we just have to continue to build on our consistency when it comes to our possessions.”
Pat Connaughton and Brook Lopez earn the Bucks win
Yes, the lights were bright with the stars. But down the stretch, the Bucks also got two free throws from Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton hit two 3-pointers to earn the victory as Dallas’ stars continued to shoot – and miss.
The last Dallas player, aside from their two stars, to score was Tim Hardaway Jr., with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.
“Especially when we were able to take the lead, we didn’t want to give up the three,” said Griffin. “If you give up the three, they come back into the game. We had to choose our poison – that was Kyrie going one on one. He makes cool shots, he gets in the paint, great body control, just out of this world. That’s what he does. But if you send multiple bodies every now and then and they start squirting around (passing), and the three balls get them back into play. So you have to pick and choose sometimes and maybe if we play from the back with a few minutes (still) in the game, we’ll probably have to run a few bodies at him and try to get the ball out of his hand, but we scored and kept the lead.”
Added Lopez: It was just a total team effort. It started with the point of attack, with our guards obviously guarding them, and then those guys who knew they had to give their best effort put all their energy into that and trusted that guys like Giannis and Pat and everyone else would have their backs. .
On the offensive side, Lopez gave the Bucks a 122-117 lead with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left with a strong move to the basket, resulting in free throws. Connaughton then knocked down a three at 2:12 and another with 1:05 to go to effectively earn the victory.
“Those two guys demanded and demanded a lot of attention, and rightfully so, and to their credit they were able to get away from it,” Griffin said of Antetokounmpo and Lillard. “Some superstars aren’t like that. They want to make those shots regardless of whether there are two or three people hanging on them. I thought it was just high character basketball from Giannis and Dame.”
It was quite a finish for Connaughton, who played almost the final 21 minutes of the match.
“Pat is a pretty impressive specimen physically, so I don’t want to underestimate him too much, but that was very impressive,” Lopez said. “I didn’t know it was twenty minutes, but wow. He definitely did what he could, did his job, made things difficult for Kyrie and Luka, ran around, jumped, blocked shots, got rebounds like he does, fell to the ground and still had the energy and composure to get high. and stay high and knock down those threes like he does.
Connaughton had 16 points while Lopez finished with 12.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing through a right knee injury
A day after enduring the remnants of a right calf strain, Antetokounmpo was listed on Saturday’s injury report with another condition: treatment of right knee injuries. He underwent left knee surgery in the offseason.
Antetokounmpo missed the team’s win in Toronto on Wednesday due to a right calf injury, but played 28 minutes in the Bucks’ win over Charlotte on Friday. He said he was not 100% but hoped the disease would continue to improve as the days passed. He doesn’t appear to have come out any worse when it comes to the calf, but this is the first time this season he’s been listed with a knee problem.
His knee also looked good, especially when he slalomed through the Mavericks defense for layups and Derrick Jones Jr. chased for a vicious block in the open field in the first half.
Giannis timeline: Antetokounmpo’s injuries during his NBA career and how quickly he bounces back from them
Khris Middleton held steady with injury management
It’s not surprising that the Bucks Khris Middleton vs. shut out the Mavericks. He is still on a minutes restriction and played 21 minutes against Charlotte. He hasn’t played a back-to-back yet this season. He had already missed the first game of such sets twice, but the Hornets game was part of the In-Season Tournament and there was an emphasis on that match.
3-2 Bucks face teams with a record of .500 or better on the date they played.
3 Three-pointers hit in the corner by Dallas forward Grant Williams. Williams went 4-for-10 from behind the three-point line and scored 14 points, but he certainly didn’t forget to torment the Bucks and Fiserv Forum fans from the corner in the 2022 playoffs as a member of the Boston Celtics.
4 First-round picks in the 2023 draft class to try — and fail — to score on Lopez at the rim after Dallas’ Dereck Lively II (pick No. 12) was denied in the first quarter.
14-0 Run by the Bucks in the second quarter, turning a 42-38 deficit into a 52-42 lead. That stretch was interrupted by a spinning pass from Andre Jackson Jr. to AJ Green for a three-pointer and then a quarter-court lob from Jackson to Malik Beasley.
7,009 Career is recovering for Antetokounmpo. Only 11 other active players have more. By reaching 7,000 rebounds, he became the youngest player (28 years, 347 days) to record over 16,000, over 7,000 and over 3,000 assists. Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett was the previous youngest at 29 years and 199 days.