Bucks’ Decisive Back-to-Back Ws Show Growth

Ken Cross

November 04, 2019 at 1:37 pm.

The Milwaukee Bucks held a 13-point lead at the end of the third quarter of last Wednesday’s 116-105 loss in Boston. They surrendered 38 points to the Celtics in the fourth quarter and were outscored by 20 points as that was, in a sense, a summoning.

Yes, a calling that if this team wants to take a step further to the NBA Finals, it must close out teams when they have them on the ropes.

In both the 123-91 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday night and the 115-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, the Bucks showed that mantra as Giannis Antetokounmpo may have led the team, but he had the young players on the squad following.

Friday night, he finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks outscored Orlando 42-9 over an 11-minute stretch from the middle of the first quarter to the 7:42 mark of the second. The Bucks dug in defensively and made stops while making 11 three-three-point shots in the first half.

“We came out, played hard, played together,” said Giannis after the game. “I think everybody was a little upset from the previous loss we had against Boston. Everybody came out and you could see they had that extra juice, so we have to build on this one.”

Donte DiVincenzo, a second year man out of Villanova and former SMU product Sterling Brown came off the bench and allowed no let up as DiVincenzo hit back-to-back triples to add to six points from Antetokounmpo in an 18-2 run to start that second period. That buried the Magic who trailed by as many as 25 on several occasions.

“Everybody did a good job, especially Sterling and Donte – just coming off the bench and being ready,” said Giannis. “I told them to stay ready. Coach like playing everybody, so you have to be ready. They were ready to night.

Brown finished with nine points and 11 boards in 21 minutes to supplement DiVincenzo’s 14. The two were a picture of the activity and aggression that Coach Mike Budenholzer wants to consistently see from his bench.

“They were passing the ball; they were knocking down shots; they were playing defensively – getting into the passing lanes,” noted Giannis.

More of the same continued as the Bucks flew back home to host the Raptors on Saturday.

Since Toronto knocked Milwaukee out of the playoffs with a win in last season’s NBA Eastern Conference finals, Antetokounmpo sensed something extra.

“Obviously, you are going to come out and play harder and that’s what the team did and when I woke up from my nap, that’s what I was thinking,” said Giannis, who discussed how the Raptors are still a playoff team even without Kawhi Leonard.

The Bucks blew out to a 36-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Toronto cut it to 107-103 on a triple by Fred VanVleet late in the game.

Antetokounmpo was relentless with 36 points and 14 boards as he refused to let his team loose and later noted how the Bucks need to consistently keep opponents down after they throttle them like they did Orlando on Friday.

“It has happened three times so far,” he said. “We have to get better and be in the moment. People are coming after us and no one is going to give us anything.”