Following a middling first half, the Milwaukee Bucks turned it on against the Memphis Grizzlies, 111-101, to take home two victories on this back-to-back. It was a pretty start to things, with Milwaukee looking like they wanted to continue their streak of vengeance against teams that beat them previously, but Memphis made a game of it in the first against the bench units to get within 28-20. When halftime came, the Bucks led 50-45 despite going just 3-14 (21.4%) from deep. Just like we all drew it up though, D.J. Wilson exploded with threes and dunks in the third quarter to put the Bucks at a sizable advantage, 91-73. Extended garbage time came quite early in this one, with the Grizz closing on a 24-3 run that made this one appear far closer than it was.
The D.J. Wilson Experience has Peaked
30 years from now, your grandchild will ask you about this fabled night. “Pop pop, where were you during the D.J. Wilson game?” You will remember, because everyone must remember. Few turnarounds have been more flabbergasting or spectacular than the one that culminated in this third quarter on a random January night with his career-high 13 points.
In it, D.J. Wilson threw a no-look pass, made the extra dish for an open look and caught an off-target pass along the baseline before spinning into a triple from the corner. Oh, then he pump-faked Gasol and rattled in another pull-up. He finished it off with an alley-oop from Bledsoe. This is in the pantheon of truly unbelievable Bucks developments, and is just further indication of the fresh vibes Bud’s borne upon this team.
Sterling Brown’s been a shining beacon of Bud’s vitamin philosophy borne out. He’s looked more confident, particularly during his career-high scoring effort against the Heat. In this game, he caught a full-length court pass from Middleton and gingerly laid in a reverse layup tonight. His improved confidence around the rim has been an important development this season. He still displayed plenty of opportunities for growth though.
In transition, he caught himself trying to do too much as the primary pace pusher, and lost the ball during an in-and-out dribble attempt rather than dishing to Middleton on the wing and fanning out as a floor spacer. Later, he tried to drive baseline and got stonewalled before bouncing the ball out of bounds. A few plays later, he learned his lesson and drove baseline to the rim before finding a screaming Giannis in the lane for an easy deuce. These are promising developments. Brown plays within himself for the most part, but pushing the envelope in games is necessary to help him feel comfortable when called upon to make surprising plays in bigger moments.
The Bucks had trouble regaining their advantage borne out of crisp ball movement and outsized energy to start the contest. It wasn’t restored until midway through the third quarter that they proceeded on a 19-0 run keyed in particular by Eric Bledsoe’s impressive aggressiveness on both ends of the court. Leading a Bledsoe-Brown-Middleton-Wilson-Lopez lineup, he criss-crossed Grizzlies passing lanes for easy steals and feeds or finishes on the other end. Offensively, he finally clicked the turbo button and boosted past Mike Conley from the perimeter. Bledsoe capped it all off by paying off a Middleton steal with a wing triple on the other end. He scored 12 in the period. He and Wilson helped key the stranglehold on this one. What a bizarre sentence to type.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Milwaukee’s citywide nightmare finally ended in the first quarter, when Giannis got a slam to end his horrific 3-game dunk drought off a cut and feed from a baseline drive by Middleton.
It’s funny watching Jaren Jackson Jr. try and figure it out offensively, particularly when he gets into the lane. In the first, he tried to drive past Giannis and got stonewalled before putting up a push-shot midway into the paint. It reminded me of Giannis in his early years before he got strong enough to muscle his way down low with premier footwork.
Ersan Ilyasova is the most committed man in America to his job.
One of the things in particular that’s seemed to lag this season is Khris Middleton’s penchant for getting into passing lanes for steals. He’s at 1.2 per game for the season, his lowest since his sophomore season. Tonight, he dug down on Jaren Jackson Jr. posting up D.J. Wilson and was able to poke it free, although it bounced out before he could recover it. He’s played more of that on-ball defending role rather than the free-roaming role afforded him in Kidd’s gonzo scheme. In the third, he was able to get one of those free safety passing lane steals though.
Just like in the Atlanta game, the Grizzlies were able to throw off the Bucks defensive rebounding acumen in the first half, snagging eight offensive boards. Thanks to the Grizzlies horrific shooting though (33.3%), in terms of defensive rebounding percentage, the Bucks weren’t too far off their season average (74.2% vs. 76.0% for the season).
Because we can never have enough Giannis dunks in our life:
The Grizzlies only lead of the game was 59-58. The Bucks did not enjoy them having a lead, even for an instant.
Very quietly, Tony Snell had his fewest minutes of the season with just five. Brown’s play in the third quarter meant there was little chance Snell was going to see the court, and Bud opted to give Connaughton some additional minutes once it was out of reach to start the fourth.