The Bucks looked to start the season two for two against last year’s best two teams in the East by beating the Cavs.
The Bucks starters were:
The Cavs starters were:
Thon Maker struck first with a first-minute dunk to open up the game for the Bucks, and some good starting defense helped them gain an early 7-2 lead. From there, both teams played a little sloppily and exchanged turnovers along with baskets, but the Bucks maintained a 19-17 lead midway through the opening quarter on the strength of 6 points each from Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon. The lead changed a few times after that, but the Bucks had edged ahead (buoyed by Greg Monroe subbing in) until a Dwyane Wade last-second floater tied the game up at 25. Kevin Love led all scorers with 11, and while the Bucks started 3-5 from beyond the arc they finished 4-12.
No one started the second quarter with a bang, since it took two full minutes for Mirza Teletovic to open the scoring with a nothing-but-net, wide open three. It stayed even and low-scoring after that, and by midway through the second the score was just 36-35 in favor of the hometown Bucks, thanks to a quick 4-0 run immediately after Khris Middleton subbed back in. That run grew to 9-2 until LeBron scored his second basket of the game wth a nice move under the hoop and Kyle Korver sunk the Cavs’ first three of the game to spark a 7-0 run of their own. Both teams stepped up their offensive efforts to close out the half, but the Cavs ended up stealing a 6-point lead to enter halftime up 55-49. Giannis led all scorers with 15 points (along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals), followed by Kevin Love with 13 and Malcolm Brogdon with 11. The Cavs just outshot the Bucks 53% to 50% and just outrebounded them 17 to 15, while the Bucks had 10 turnovers to Cleveland’s 8.
Giannis started the second half by scoring directly under the basket, and he scored the first four Bucks points in the quarter to help them start chipping away at the Cleveland lead. After both teams traded baskets for a bit, a Thon Maker three capped an 8-2 run just before the midway point of the quarter that pulled the Bucks within 1 to make it 64-63 Cavs. The Cavs scored the next seven points, though, and the Bucks were just not able to regain the lead during the quarter thanks to a barrage of threes from Kyle Korver. The Cavs went into the fourth quarter with a big 86-73 lead that didn’t reflect how close the game was just a few minutes prior, thanks to 16 points and 7 assists from LeBron. Giannis finished the third with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block.
J.R. Smith started the final quarter with a long two to increase the lead to 15, and it didn’t get much better from there for the Bucks as the Cavs held a 101-86 lead through six minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bucks brought it back to within 12 points with just over 3 minutes left, but they could not mount a serious fourth quarter threat. The Cavs ended up winning the game easily with a 116-97 margin. LeBron led the Cavs with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal, and a block. Giannis led all scorers with 34 points.
Three Big Things
Giannis Antetokounmpo Continues His Hot Start – Giannis picked up where he left off, starting hot and racking up 15 points in two quarters, 26 after three, and finishing with 34 points on 15-22 shooting, along with 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and a block in a near-triple double. This one was not on him, as the only other player on the team in double figures was Malcolm Brogdon at 16. The rest of the Bucks will figure it out sooner rather than later (especially players like Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, and Greg Monroe, who all tallied at least 8 points), so if Giannis keeps playing like this he and the Bucks are in for a great season.
Kyle Korver – The Bucks were hanging right in there with the Cavs until Kyle Korver nailed three 3-pointers in about a minutes to blow the lead open. The Bucks started hot from distance but cooled off quickly, while the Cavs did the opposite, and Kyle Korver went 5 for 6 from beyond the arc all on his own. This is how he got all of his 15 points, and every single one was devastating for the Bucks.
The Bucks Blinked – One of the main reasons the Bucks won their season opener in Boston is that they never panicked in the face of big Celtics runs. The Bucks continued this streak for the first two and a half or so quarters, but then the Cavs went on a big run that shook the Bucks too much. The Bucks were totally in this game until that point, but you have to play at least close to perfectly to take down a team helmed by LeBron, and blinking for even just five minutes can take you out of a game, as was the case tonight. There were a lot of positives in this game, but the main takeaway should be figuring out how to not get into such a big hole in so little time, even against the great teams.
Mirza Teletovic – Mirza Teletovic kind of wins this by default, since he was in the negative just like every single Buck, although he was only at -1. He did hit a great three pointer to stop an offensive drought, but that was his only log in the statline besides three missed shots. So, uh, congratulations I guess!
Let’s hope the Bucks can just shake this one off. Tune in tomorrow at 7:30 PM CT to see the Bucks take on the Trail Blazers and get back over .500!