Eric Bledsoe missed only two shots against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Both were three-point attempts.
In the paint, the Milwaukee Bucks point guard was a perfect 12-for-12, finishing the game with 31 points after hitting 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
If Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 100 percent in the lane for an entire game it would be impressive stat line. He’s usually one of the biggest players on the court and can utilize his size to take advantage of defenders.
At 6-foot-1, 205 lbs, Bledsoe is on the opposite end and generally one of the smallest players on the floor. Obviously this should make it much tougher to consistently finish at the rim. Yet somehow, time and time again, he finds a way.
“I think he’s in a great place,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game. “I do like the way he’s attacking and getting to the paint and finishing.
“Over the last five games or so, the three ball he’s been shooting that with a lot of confidence so he’s just in a good place. He just wants to do anything he can to help his teammates and help us win. He has just been great.”
Thursday marked Bledsoe’s fifth straight game with 20 or more points.
Efficiency and productivity close to the bucket isn’t anything necessarily new to Bledsoe’s game either.
This revelation also comes during an era where point guards, generally, prefer to try and score 25-feet away from the bucket. Bledsoe is shooting 32 percent of his total shots within three feet of the rim, and hitting 73 percent of them.
Move ‘outside’ a bit, and he’s scoring on 56 percent of shots from 3-to-10 feet away.
“I’m being more confident driving and making the right play,” Bledsoe said of his overall productivity this year. “When I’m not scoring the ball, kicking it out to my teammates and they’re doing a great job of knocking the ball down.
“I’m just trying to get in to the paint and live in the paint.”
From three he’s only hitting 29 percent this season, but he has shown the confidence to follow the Bucks’ “let it fly” mantra. Defenders are now forced to respect the threat of him pulling up from deep and when they close out, especially early in the shot clock, he can drive and create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates.
“I play to my strengths,” he added. “I know I’m not a great three-point shooter but I am going to be confident out there playing the game and not settling.”
Bledsoe discussed the Giannis-effect as well. Noting that his teammate is “one of the dominant forces in the league in the paint” and can abuse his opponent at will.
“You got to put five players on him, so it makes my job easier.”
Antetokounmpo sees things a little differently than one would expect. Instead of a superstar thinking that he makes all of his teammates better, his teammates inspire him to play at an even higher level.
“When I see (Bledsoe) attacking the basket that’s when I go downhill also,” Antetokounmpo said of the team playing off of one another. “I think the attention switches and they’re worried about Bled so much that we get so many wide open lanes. Usually when we both do that we give our teammates a lot of open threes and a lot of easy shots.
“If I can’t go downhill, Bledsoe can go downhill. If Bledsoe can’t go downhill, I can go downhill. So we usually find a balance with that and just try to be aggressive always.”