The BMO Harris Bradley Center was absolutely rocking last night as the Bucks knocked off the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers in double overtime, 108-105. This win serves as a great confidence builder for this young Bucks team, but let’s delve into it a little bit further than just the box score and top scorers.
The Bucks real starters meshed very well for the first time
Saturday night was the first game that the envisioned starters at training camp – Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe started a game together. There was definitely a different mentality that the team enforced, and it started with Carter-Williams at the point guard position. He was able to use his length to frustrate the Cavaliers, and it wasn’t only on the opposing guard, Mo Williams. MCW utilized his athleticism in untraditional point guard methods, and no play stood out more than when he and Timofey Mozgov had an encounter at the rim. The Cavaliers center went up for what he was thinking would be just another layup, but Carter-Williams used his hops and denied his shot, resulting in a key stop for Milwaukee. As for the rest of the lineup, the players meshed in near perfect manner. All five starters registered double-digit points. Two players, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe, also recorded double doubles. Hopefully this lineup will be able to stay out on the floor for games in the future, and they should – the only real player that could sit out would be Parker due to his minute restrictions. However, it was very comfortable seeing them waste no time in developing chemistry on the court. That was the worry of many critics, as they had not taken the floor prior to last night but they looked like a team that had been playing for weeks up to that point.
The Defense came alive and stifled the Cavaliers’ offense
One of the Bucks’ weaknesses coming into last night’s game was their failure of establishing a forceful defense, something they had great success with last season. They just haven’t seemed to find their groove on the defensive side of the ball, but defensive coach Sean Sweeney made some tweaks to the game plan last night and it worked out positively for Milwaukee. The Bucks made it imperative to fill out the spacing that the Cavs enforced out on the floor and to lock down as many passes as they could. The two best examples of this came in the overtime periods. On one, Khris Middleton realized the pass was coming to J.R. Smith on the left wing. Knowing he was unable to get his hands on the ball, he instead took the route of distracting the pass with his body, which in turn resulted in Smith being shocked at his presence. The ball then bounced of Smith out of bounds, turning the ball over to the Bucks. The second great defensive steal came with 3:48 remaining in the first overtime period. The Bucks were up by two and looking to force a stop to generate more momentum from the crowd, and that’s just what they were able to do. Michael Carter-Williams was situated at the top of the key, keeping an eye on his man, Mo Williams, who was beyond the arch on the right wing. LeBron James had the ball on the left wing near the sideline, where he was stifled by the wingspan of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Flustered and looking for a teammate, James forced a cross-court pass to Mo Williams, but since Carter-Williams had his spacing figured out ahead of time, he was able to telegraph LeBron’s pass, resulting in a steal and a breakaway slam dunk. As a team, the Bucks were able to generate 21 Cleveland turnovers, which is the most they’ve surrendered so far this season.
So far this season, Bucks fans have tickets to the Greivis Vasquez experience – and they got taken for a ride last night
Greivis Vasquez is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Okay, okay, sorry for that poor Forrest Gump reference, but it really translates Vasquez’s season so far with the Bucks in a fair manner. To start off the year, Vasquez couldn’t even buy a shot if he wanted to. He couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn, the worst being the game against the Nets in which he went 0-10 from the field. However, despite the hiccups, Jason Kidd has continued to implement him into the Bucks offense and last night it paid off. Vasquez came off the bench and played 24 minutes, resulting in 13 points, including two three-pointers. He arguably had the biggest shot of the game when he connected from downtown with less than two minutes remaining in the second overtime, cushioning the Bucks’ lead to four at 106-102. The Vasquez Experience seems to be in full effect, as it really is a hit or miss when he takes the floor. His last two games have seen him contributing double-digit points off the bench. He is still only shooting 28.9 percent on the season, but his confidence in taking shots has not wobbled off the table just yet, and it shouldn’t. Vasquez has proved in his career that he has the capability of hitting key shots and it showed last night. However, it’s just a matter on if he does hit those shots. Some nights he will, other nights he won’t. It’s tough to predict. You never know what you’re going to get with Greivis Vasquez. It’s just the symptoms from the Vasquez Experience.
Jerryd Bayless continues to be relied on – and rightfully so
Sixth man Jerryd Bayless continued his red hot start to the 2015 season last night, as he contributed with 39 minutes off the bench and delivering 17 points. His three-point shooting continues to carry the Bucks, and in an unlikely manner. Bayless is a career 35.3 percent three-point shooter, but in this season alone, his percentage has soared to 46.7 percent. In his last two games, he has attempted ten three-pointers and has made six of them. The question that exists from these numbers is how long will he be able to continue putting up these consistent numbers from deep? Kidd obviously has loads of confidence in him when it comes to late-game scenarios, as it goes back to last year’s playoff game against Chicago when Bayless scored the buzzer-beater. He was the Bucks’ go to guy last night at the end of regulation when he took the shot to win the game but his fade away from the right elbow rattled out of the basket. As long as Bayless is proving that he can knock down shots on a consistent basis, the Bucks should continue to rely on him. He has been fulfilling a spark to the Bucks bench at times when they desperately need one, especially with O.J. Mayo not playing a game this season. With the Bucks’ envisioned starting five finally being healthy and able to play, Bayless will continue to serve as the spark plug that comes off the bench and keeps the energy going, something that carries the forte of a team and puts them in positions to win games against difficult teams such as the Cavaliers.
All in all, Bucks fans have to be absolutely thrilled with how the team pulled out the victory last night. They stopped the juggernaut of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had an eight game win streak coming into the game. It’s even more thrilling to think that this may just be the beginning of what the Bucks’ starting five may be able to accomplish together. No rust was evident in last night’s game as some had worries about. It will be intriguing to see if that will be able to continue in their upcoming game when they travel to Washington on Tuesday night. This was a huge victory for the Bucks and it’s a great opportunity for them to build momentum as they continue through their schedule.