In a game that featured alley-oops, deep threes and a style of play that resembled that of a pickup game at the local YMCA, the Bucks were able to pull away from the Rockets and pick up the victory, 128-121.
A well-rounded performance from the offense was the key to the win, as Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton provided fans with a glimpse into the future of what this lineup could possibly consist of.
The Bucks pulled away late in the fourth after a pair of Jerryd Bayless three-pointers, extending the Bucks lead to 125-112 with just 1:27 remaining. However, Houston clawed their way back, creating a 9-0 run of their own and making it a four-point game.
Fortunately for the Bucks, Trevor Ariza was whistled for a key 5-second violation on an inbounds pass with 20 seconds remaining, icing the game for Milwaukee.
Leading the way for the Bucks was Jabari Parker, who finished with a career high 36 points, snapping his old record of 28. He wasted no time getting things started, scoring 20 points in the first half. It was the fifth time Milwaukee has had a player score 20 plus points in a half, with two such games coming from Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Head Coach Jason Kidd attributed Jabari’s newfound attitude following the All-Star Break in Toronto as reason for his career night.
“You could see from the start that he was aggressive getting to the basket, catching and shooting,” Kidd said. “He didn’t force anything and he just let the game come to him. He is a guy that wants to win and you saw that tonight.”
Rockets Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff also acknowledged Parker’s career night, praising his successful shooting from midrange.
“That’s what he does,” Bickerstaff said. “We’ve watched film on him and seen him in college. He has the ability to knock that shot down. He’s got a quick first step. He doesn’t do a lot of holding with the ball, he just catches it and gets to his spot.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo also shared the spotlight with Parker, as he accumulated his second career triple double and his second in his last four games, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists. He has now had seven or more assists in each of his last four games, which marks a career-long streak.
Antetokounmpo credited his teammates for the success he achieved on the floor.
“I think my teammates did a great job running the floor,” Antetokounmpo said. “They want me to be aggressive because they know I can find the right play and we can do the right thing out of that.”
Khris Middleton also strung together his third 30-point performance of the season. He set a new career-high for both free throws made and attempted in a game, going 15-of-15 from the charity stripe.
With such a large contribution from the young trio of Parker, Antetokounmpo and Middleton, the Bucks are looking to build off the momentum set tonight in the upcoming stretch of games.
“We just have to stay focused and not get too high or too low,” Antetokounmpo said. We have a game against the Pacers coming up. We just have to stay focused, try to win that, and everything will be alright.”
Jerryd Bayless also noted the confidence the Bucks played with, stressing the importance of familiarity among the core group of players.
“I think we’re starting to figure it out more,” said Bayless. “With having such a young team, it’s going to take longer, but this year I think you see that we have had times where we have shown glimpses of things. The more we become familiar with each other, the more dangerous I think we can be.”
Leading the way for Houston was Dwight Howard, who notched his 28th double-double of the season and third 30 point outing. He finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
Jason Terry recorded one steal to reach the 1,500 plateau for his career, becoming the 13th player in NBA history to record at least 18,000 points, 5,000 assists and 1,500 steals.
Following tonight’s game, the Bucks continue their longest home stand of the season, facing off against divisional foe Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. They then follow that up with games against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night and the Oklahoma City Thunder this upcoming Sunday afternoon.