Bucks 99, Pistons 95; Last shots

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks won their fourth consecutive game Wednesday night 99-95 over the Detroit Pistons. Milwaukee was led by forward Khris Middleton with 27 points on the evening. Detroit got a strong effort from guard Avery Bradley who had a game-high 28 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have a game that he has been accustomed to this year, as he spent much of the night in foul trouble. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the floor. Guard Eric Bledsoe was scoreless in the first half, put poured in 14 second half points to help will Milwaukee to victory.

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Here are 16 last shots for the 16 blocks by the Bucks:

1. In the first half, there was a stretch of five or six minutes where the Pistons fell apart. They allowed the Bucks to take the lead thanks to turnovers, blocked shots, and potentially a few missed called by officials. The Bucks took advantage, building their largest lead of the first half at 30-23.

2. During that stretch there were back-to-back possessions stretch that the Pistons looked out of sorts offensively. On the first possession they had a shot that the Pistons thought hit the rim and should have reset the shot clock before the ball went out of bounds last touched by Milwaukee guard DeAndre Liggins. It was ruled that it did not draw iron, and Detroit was forced to inbound the ball with two-tenths of a second remaining on the shot clock.

3. The following possession the Pistons attempted three shots, with the third being emphatically blocked out of bounds by Antetokounmpo. Detroit’s bench thought that the ball had already reached its apex and was on its way down. Guard Ish Smith was irate as well and picked up a technical foul. If Smith hadn’t picked up the technical foul, someone on the Pistons’ bench certainly would have earned it.

4. Eric Bledsoe is still searching to find himself back in game shape for the Bucks. While he’s still a threat anytime he steps on the floor for Milwaukee, it’s going to take some time for the team to thrive with him in the lineup. That sounds odd considering the team hasn’t lost yet while he’s been in uniform, but this group hasn’t scratched the surface of their potential.

5. After a first half where he didn’t score, Bledsoe came up big for Milwaukee in the second half. He opened the third quarter with four quick points as part of a 10-3 run to build a seven point lead for the Bucks. In the fourth quarter he hit the shot that gave Milwaukee the lead back with 42.5 seconds remaining, breaking a 93-93 tie. He was fouled on the next possession and knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to four. Bledsoe had eight points in the final period.

6. Middleton was fantastic down the stretch for Milwaukee as well. He, like Bledsoe, had eight points in the fourth quarter. While Detroit was fighting back after starting the period down 13, Middleton was able to keep the Pistons at bay at times.

7. Wednesday was the sixth time this season he’s scored 20 or more points on the season. He did so in a team high 40 minutes. He’s been an improved part of the team lately, and been much more consistent than he was at the start of the season.

8. “[I’m] just playing hard. That’s what I noticed over the first couple of games. I don’t think I was playing hard enough,” Middleton said following the win. “I talked to some coaches, my teammates, [Kevin Garnett] also came in and the common things that most of the guys were saying was that [I] needed to play harder. I think it was true. I was thinking too much about other stuff. Now, I just feel like I’m playing hard and not worrying about everything else, which has been working out.”

9. Milwaukee won the game in a fashion the Bucks haven’t shown they’ve been capable of doing so far this season, with a relatively poor performance from Antetokounmpo. He finished the night with 21 points, six rebounds, and a single assist in nearly 35 minutes. While Antetokounmpo’s line would be taken as an above average night for most NBA players, it’s below the standard he’s set for himself this season. He found himself in foul trouble for much of the night, eventually picking up his fifth foul with 3:33 left in the game. The bright side to his foul trouble was it forced head coach Jason Kidd to limit his minutes.

10. “I was trying to get his minutes down to under 35,” Kidd said. “We accomplished that together, Giannis and I. With him getting in foul trouble and me being able to take him out. We are running up his minutes a little bit too high this early in the season, so my goal was to get him under 35. He’s 22 years old. He’s going to make mistakes. Learning to stay out of foul trouble is something he has to get better at, but it ended up helping us tonight.”

11. Kidd was barely able to succeed at keeping Antetokounmpo under 35 minutes. He finished with 34 minutes and 55 seconds on the court, officially.

12. On the defensive end of the court, the Bucks did an outstanding job altering shots around the rim. They finished the night with 16 blocked shots, the highest total an NBA achieved this season. Part of that contributed to the Pistons shooting a higher percentage from behind the three-point line than inside of it.

13. Detroit was 15-of-48 inside the arc (31.2%) and 15-of-37 on three-pointers (40.5%). That’s an uncommon occurrence in the NBA, even in the three-point revolution that’s been experienced league-wide.

14. Milwaukee had two players with four blocks each, as Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker each had a huge impact around the rim. John Henson, Tony Snell, and Bledsoe all each had two apiece, and Liggins and Malcolm Brogdon had one rejection each.

15. It is worth noting that guard Matthew Dellavedova didn’t play for the Bucks with left knee tendinitis. His status is unknown moving forward.

16. The Bucks will be in action again on Saturday in Dallas against the Mavericks.

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