Bucks set multiple records in win over Kings

The Milwaukee Bucks set multiple records on Sunday afternoon and remain undefeated at the Fiserv Forum after a 144-109 win over the Sacramento Kings.

The Bucks set a franchise record with 22 made three-pointers in a game and a season high 144 points. Milwaukee is now 8-1 on the season, which is the team’s best nine game start in franchise history.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the team with his second triple double of the season. Antetokounmpo finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists on eight of 11 shooting.

But Giannis wasn’t the only reason for Milwaukee’s offensive outburst. All but two Bucks players made at least one three point basket, and the team finished shooting 39% (22/56) from behind the arc.  Milwaukee had every single player contribute to the scoring explosion, including eight players in double figures.

The Bucks will start a tough four-game west-coast trip against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo named NBA 2K19 cover athlete

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo received good news on Monday when he was officially named the cover athlete for NBA 2K19.

Antetokounmpo picture will be featured on the cover of the standard edition of the game which is set to release in September. The game also will have a special cover for the 20th anniversary of the game which features Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.

Antetokounmpo becomes the first ever international player to be named the cover athlete. He joins the likes of James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul as active players that have graced the game’s cover. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Kevin Garnett are among the retired players that have been featured as well.

With LeBron James leaving, the east is for Giannis’ taking

The Milwaukee Bucks have not had the best player in the Eastern Conference since 1974 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took home the league’s MVP award as a member of the Bucks. Since then the conference has been dominated by the likes of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.

With James’ announcement on Sunday that he is joining the Los Angeles Lakers via free agency, the Eastern Conference is now up for grabs. James had been on the team that represented the conference in the NBA Finals each June from 2011 until 2018.

The door is certainly open for the talent-laden Boston Celtics, the young and exciting Philadelphia 76ers, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo now becomes the presumptive best player in the Eastern Conference, with a chance to enter his prime with a wide-open conference.

There is still talent in the conference, for sure, but there’s no doubting that each of the – at the very least – top five players in basketball now reside out west. Antetokounmpo very well may be the highest-ranked player in the east.

There’s certainly competition, as players like Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons all play their basketball in the Eastern Conference. But of those players, there’s not a single one of them that Milwaukee would even think about swapping with Antetokounmpo, and it would be tough to argue that their respective teams would not jump at the chance.

Antetokounmpo still has plenty to work on in order to reach his ceiling. There’s no doubt his passing has room to grow, as does his ability to score from the outside as well as his basketball IQ.

Like their star, the Bucks have plenty of room to improve the roster as they attempt to win a playoff series for the first time since the spring of 2001. Milwaukee is in a cap-space bind for the time being, but the future of Antetokounmpo is bright.

Earlier in 2018 Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson was fined by the NBA for tampering as a result of comments me made regarding Antetokounmpo. Those comments seemed to be good natured and unworthy of a fine according to public opinion.

“He’s going to be like an MVP, a champion,” Johnson told ESPN. “This dude, he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

While Johnson isn’t directly helping to build the Bucks into a contender, he just did help Antetokounmpo become the best player in the conference. Now it’s up for Antetokounmpo to take things from there and put Milwaukee on the map.

Five thoughts from Mike Budenholzer’s introductory press conference

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks officially introduced Mike Budenholzer as the 16th coach of the team on Monday afternoon at the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center. Budenholzer had spent the past five seasons as the coach of the Atlanta Hawks, with his role doubling as President of Basketball Operations in the first four of those seasons.

The hiring of Budenholzer concluded a search that officially started when the Bucks lost Game 7 of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics back on April 29th. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed a number of candidates including Spurs’ assistants Becky Hammon, Ettore Messina, and James Borrego, former Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt before hiring Budenholzer.

Five takeaways from Budenholzer’s introductory press conference
Defense, defense, defense

One area where the Bucks drastically underachieved was on the defensive end of the floor. The team is comprised of mostly long, athletic players, and the defensive side of the ball should have been a place where Milwaukee thrived. Instead, the Bucks finished 17th in defensive rating this past season despite the talented roster they held.

“The thing that probably stands out to me first is the potential on the defensive side of the ball. I would say that’s been always something that’s prioritized,” Budenholzer said about his time in Atlanta and San Antonio. “We want to be great on both sides of the ball. Whether it be the last five years in Atlanta as a head coach, I think San Antonio at the end of the day has always been great defensively. With the individual talents we have here in Milwaukee and how we can get them – one of the words I used in the interview process is how can we unlock this talent defensively – I just think there is so much to work with.”

Budenholzer is correct in this thinking. All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and while his teammates aren’t exactly that caliber, there’s little doubt they should be better than they have been.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Much was made of the accurate report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe stating that Budenholzer shared breakfast with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton the morning prior to Milwaukee hiring him.

Budenholzer reaffirmed that when he was asked about it at his introductory press conference on Monday.

“It was a great opportunity to sit and visit with both Khris and Giannis. Just kind of talk basketball, talk a little bit about families, life,” Budenholzer said. “I think it was such a smart and important part of the process. I think how important both players are to us in the short term and the long term. As a coach, you’re only as good as your players and I think to connect with them on a lot of different levels. It was important that morning, it’s important going forward. It’s important to connect with our entire roster.”

No word on where they ate, or what they had, but it seems as if that breakfast sold Budenholzer on the job, no matter who picked up the check.

Developing Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo is the most important player on Milwaukee’s roster, and probably is the most important in the franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned a uniform that read Milwaukee across the chest. That’s no secret.

It’s also not a secret that Antetokounmpo still has quite a way to go in order to become the player that many believe he can be. Antetokounmpo has yet to turn 24, but he has also yet to win a playoff series, or see his team finish higher than sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo just finished the first year of a four-year contract that runs until the summer of 2021. He’s openly spoken about being loyal and wanting to play his entire career out in Milwaukee, but until he signs his next contract, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In today’s NBA stars move from team to team more frequently than they have ever before. In the past five seasons we’ve seen LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and many others either change teams in free agency or force their way out of their current situation via trade.

Not saying that will happen, but Budenholzer getting the most out of Antetokounmpo will ensure that it doesn’t. The relationship between those two will be key for the success of the Bucks today, tomorrow, and years from now.

San Antonio background

Almost every franchise in the NBA envies the success of the San Antonio Spurs. That’s no secret as San Antonio has been the model of consistency for the past three decades, missing the playoffs only once since 1989, including making the postseason every year since 1998.

The Bucks are trying to emulate the Spurs, and that was no secret during the interviewing process. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed three members of the (then) Spurs staff and one front office member in Monty Williams.

While they didn’t hire directly from San Antonio, Budenholzer does have almost as much experience under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as the four direct ties combined. He was an assistant in San Antonio from 1996 until he accepted the head coaching position with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013. This hire is as close to hiring directly from the Spurs as it gets without actually doing so.

Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center

The press conference was held in the soon-to-be home of the Bucks, the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center.

The arena is still waiting on a permanent name, it’s also waiting to be finished. In one of the stranger experiences of this writer’s career, all media and team personnel, with the exception of Budenholzer and Horst, were dressed complete with a hard hat, reflective vest, safety goggles, and work gloves while inside the arena.

Milwaukee Bucks new head coach Mike Budenholzer speaks at a news conference in the team’s new arena Monday, May 21, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It was an oddity to say the least, and truthfully the press conference probably would have been much better served taking place in the team’s practice facility right down the street. The Bucks wanted to show off the brand-new arena, but the media having to wear protective gear for one of the bigger moments in the history of the franchise seems incredibly silly.

On the bright side, there was cake. And who doesn’t love cake.

Last shots: Celtics 112, Bucks 96

Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by guard Eric Bledsoe in Milwaukee’s 112-96 loss in Game 7 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics.

1. This was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s no other way to put it.

2. The Bucks had aspirations of battling for homecourt advantage in the first round and making a run as deep as the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead, their season ends with a Game 7 loss in the first round to the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics.

3. Make no mistake, the Celtics aren’t one of the typical powerhouse No. 2 seed. Sure, they won 55 games this year, but once the playoffs rolled around Boston was without several key players. Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis both missed the entire series, Marcus Smart missed the first four games, Jaylen Brown missed the second half of Game 7, and Gordon Heyward missed the entire season.

4. The Celtics still found a way to beat the Bucks four times despite Milwaukee being the team at full-strength.

5. No. 7 seeds aren’t typically expected to advance in the NBA Playoffs. This one was.

6. In a game that could have been an early career-defining moment for all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, it wasn’t. He wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t the performance needed from a player knocking on the door of the NBA’s elite.

7. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. He was far from spectacular. Antetokounmpo wasn’t the best player on the floor, and the Bucks cannot win when that’s the case. Khris Middleton, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and arguably Eric Bledsoe were better than him.

8. Middleton continued his strong play, finishing with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He had an incredible series and was certainly Milwaukee’s most consistent player. Bledsoe also saved his best game of the series – by far – for Game 7. He had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the loss.

9. Even with Bledsoe playing well, he was still outplayed by Rozier, who finished with a playoff-career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists. Horford also had 26 points for Boston on 13-of-17 shooting.

10. The Bucks needed an effort from Antetokounmpo similar to the one they received in Game 6. On that night Antetokounmpo was undoubtedly the best player on the floor. He was the reason that the Bucks were able to force a Game 7, he was also part of the reason that Milwaukee’s season is now over.

11. Milwaukee now enters an offseason filled with uncertainty. The Bucks do not have a head coach, as it’s extremely unlikely that interim coach Joe Prunty will be retained to lead the team, and they’ll have to make a decision on Jabari Parker’s future.

12. Prunty will likely be given an opportunity to interview for the job opening, but the Bucks would be foolish to retain him moving forward. This job, due to the opportunity to coach Antetokounmpo, will be one of the more sought-after positions in the NBA for this coaching cycle.

13. That’s not to say Milwaukee will be able to pick any coach out there. With the Bucks lasting two weeks into the playoffs, every other team with a coaching vacancy has a head start on the search. For instance, the New York Knicks have reportedly interviewed 10 candidates already. Hiring the right coach will certainly help the Bucks move closer to owning the future that has been talked about so often. But that alone will not do it. There have been poor personnel decisions that have factored into the Bucks struggling, not just the coaching of Prunty and Jason Kidd before him.

14. Milwaukee has nearly $50 million tied up next season between Eric Bledsoe, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, and Mirza Teletovic. Add in the dead money the team has from the Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes situations and that number is over $50 million.

15. This is all before factoring in the Parker situation. He now enters restricted free agency after turning down Milwaukee’s contract extension offer prior to the season.

16. At times, Parker has been a very productive player for Milwaukee. Those times haven’t been frequent enough, and frankly, there are too many deficiencies in his game for him to be a max-level player. Add in his injured plagued history and he’s not a player that can be counted on with that type of financial commitment.

17. The likely scenario is that Parker will be given an offer sheet by another team and the Bucks will have an opportunity to match it. Matching it may push the Bucks further into financial distress as they wait for the contracts handed out to Henson, Dellavedova, and Snell to run out.

18. Not matching it would mean letting a talented player walk out the door with no compensation while the team is attempting to enter a window of contention.

19. The other question the Bucks need to ask this offseason is how serious the future is they’re trying to own. Yes, Antetokounmpo’s future is bright, and yes, Middleton is a very underrated player alongside him.

20. With that being said, where do the Bucks sit in the pecking order of the Eastern Conference? There’s uncertainty surrounding Cleveland with the future of LeBron James, yes. But the Celtics just knocked the Bucks off without their two best players, the Philadelphia 76ers are currently better than the Bucks — despite being younger – and are only going to be getting better while maintaining financial flexibility, and the Toronto Raptors do not look like they’re going anywhere soon, either.

21. And that’s only the Eastern Conference.

22. It’s hard to call this season anything but a failure for Milwaukee. And no matter what Antetokounmpo says about his future in Milwaukee, the clock is ticking for the Bucks.

23. Right now, it’s certainly difficult to see the Bucks owning the future.

Last shots: Bucks 97, Celtics 86

MILWAUKEE – Nineteen last shots for the 19 assists dished out by the Bucks in Milwaukee’s 97-86 win in Game 6 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

1. If Thursday night marked the last time the BMO Harris Bradley Center sees an NBA game, the building went out on a high note. With the Milwaukee Bucks moving next door to the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center at the beginning of next season the Bradley Center is in its final days.

2. The buzzer sounded for what could be the final time, and chants of “Bucks in seven” rang throughout the building. The Bucks forced a Game 7 by virtue of a 97-86 victory over the Celtics in Game 6.

3. This was the game that Milwaukee desperately needed from all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was much more aggressive than he was in Game 6, finishing with 31 points and 14 rebounds on 13-of-23 shooting.

4. “I thought he played great. I don’t think he forced anything. I think he took the opportunities that were there for him,” interim coach Joe Prunty said after the game.

5. He was everything the Bucks needed in Game 5 in Boston, and he’s going to need to repeat a performance like this in Game 7, but for Thursday night, Antetokounmpo was fantastic.

6. Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half and carried his team to the win. His play in the fourth quarter was exactly what a superstar is supposed to do. He scored 12 points in the period. Antetokounmpo took nine shots in the fourth quarter alone, just one less than he had in the entirety of Game 5. He scored eight of Milwaukee’s final 11 points and was the only Bucks player to make a field goal in the final 5:22 of the game.

7. “My team did a great job looking for me. I was able to rebound the ball and find lanes in transition too,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was out there, I was trying to make plays and be aggressive, and that’s what I did tonight.”

8. Guard Malcolm Brogdon went 3-of-4 from the free throw line during that stretch, other than that, every point was scored by Antetokounmpo.

9. Nearly every star player has a moment when they learn how to be the guy to go and win a playoff game for their team in a moment like this. Michael Jordan had “The Shot” over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo, LeBron James had 25 straight points for the Cavaliers in a pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons. They both had failed times prior to those instances. It’s very, very rare for a star to enter the league and be able to succeed on this type of stage right away.

10. Time will tell if this is that moment for Antetokounmpo. Thursday night was the biggest moment of his career to date, and he certainly delivered.

11. Antetokounmpo did this two nights after a lackluster performance in Boston, and one night after the world watch Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and James take over games when their teams needed them to most. Oklahoma City was on the verge of elimination, trailing by 25 points only to be rescued by Westbrook and George. Cleveland was tied 2-2 in their series with Indiana when James buried a 3-pointer as time expired to push the Cavaliers to the verge of advancing.

12. Antetokounmpo’s game on Thursday night wasn’t quite at the level of those games, but it was the most important of his career to date, and that’s meaningful for the 23-year-old star.

13. The thing is, this will only be the biggest moment of his career until Saturday evening when Game 7 takes place in Boston. For the first time in his career he has an opportunity to close a team out and win a series. No doubt it will be a tall task on the road, but it’s a moment where he can cement his status as one of the best in the world.

14. Game 7s are where legends are made in the playoffs. On this roster Jason Terry, Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Zeller, and Eric Bledsoe have all been on a team that has taken part in a Game 7. Only Terry and Bledsoe have seen minutes during one, however. Dellavedova did not play during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and Zeller did not play in Boston’s Game 7 against Washington last season.

15. Game 7 is a different animal than anything else in the NBA. Players tend to tighten up, scoring tends to be a bit lower, and every play is magnified.

16. “It’s going to be crazy. It’s do or die at this point,” forward Khris Middleton said following the game. “The crowd in Boston is rowdy, just like they are here. It’s going to be a great game. There are no secrets between teams; it comes down to who has more will.”

17. If the Bucks are going to have a chance at winning Game 7 on the road they need Antetokounmpo to have more will than anyone on the court. He’ll need to have a performance at the level of Thursday night’s or better.

18. That’s what superstars do, and Antetokounmpo has a chance to cement his status on Saturday night.

19. Tip-off on Saturday night in Boston is set for 7 p.m. CT from the TD Garden. Talk to you then.

Last shots: Celtics 92, Bucks 87

Twenty last shots for the 20 free throws attempted by the Milwaukee Bucks in Tuesday night’s 92-87 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

1. The Milwaukee Bucks missed an opportunity on Tuesday night, there’s no other way to say it. Granted, the Bucks certainly didn’t receive any help at the end of the game, but an opportunity was missed, nonetheless.

2. The Boston Celtics made adjustments from Games 3 and 4 at the Bradley Center. Forward Semi Ojeleye was shifted into the starting lineup in place of Aron Baynes, and Al Horford moved to center to start the game. The player that seemed to impact the most for Milwaukee was Giannis Antetokounmpo.

3. Antetokounmpo finished with just 10 shots from the floor attempted on the night. He had only two such games with less than 10 shots in the regular season this year. Only in one of those contests did he play the full game.

4. Antetokounmpo passed the ball well, finishing an assist short of a triple-double while posting a final stat line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. But that wasn’t what his team needed him to do.

5. Tuesday night was arguably the biggest game of Antetokounmpo’s career to date. The Bucks have realistic expectations of winning this series and had a chance to take a 3-2 series lead in Boston’s gym. Antetokounmpo is still learning how to be a superstar, leader, and winner. At 23 years old, that’s something that’s okay. Few are ready to take over a game at that age, especially in the playoffs.

6. Tuesday night was an opportunity for him to cement himself among the game’s best players. That’s not to say every bona fide super star in the league would have won that game. But it’s worth wondering how many of them would only have attempted 10 shots in the same situation.

7. That’s not to say Antetokounmpo won’t be able to change that in the near future. The Bucks will certainly need him to show up in a big way on Thursday night, but Tuesday was a missed opportunity.

8. Instead, the Bucks will return to the Bradley Center for a win-or-go-home Game 6 on Thursday night.

9. As a team Milwaukee didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. They finished 32-for-87 (36.8%) shooting. Team’s don’t tend to win playoff games when shooting that poorly from the field. The Rockets defeated Minnesota in Game 2 of their first round series this year while shooting 36.5 percent, but that included 16 made 3-pointers, compared to nine by the Bucks.

10. Prior to Houston’s win this year, the last team to win a playoff game shooting the same percentage as the Bucks or worse came in 2015 when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals 95-93 while shooting 32.2 percent. So, yeah, it doesn’t happen very often.

11. Aside from Antetokounmpo struggling to find shots, the Bucks had a tough time scoring due to Khris Middleton’s regression to the mean. Through the first four games Middleton was 40-of-65 shooting from the floor for an insane 61.5 percent. Middleton didn’t play poorly on Tuesday, but he also didn’t play spectacular, as he had been.

12. There was no way he was going to be able to keep shooting at that rate. Tuesday night saw Middleton finish 9-of-21 shooting, and he had plenty of good looks that didn’t find their way to the bottom of the net. Shooters have nights like that from time to time, Tuesday was one of them for Middleton.

13. After Milwaukee got strong contributions from Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, and Tony Snell in Games 3 and 4, those role players struggled in Game 5. They combined to score two points on 1-of-12 shooting in 51:53 of floor time. It’s expected that role players don’t play as well on the road as they do at home, but the lack of production from those three hurt Milwaukee after a pair of strong games.

14. Milwaukee was still able to find contributions from its bench, however. Jabari Parker continued strong play after a lackluster start to the series. He had 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds.

15. The Bucks also got an unexpected contribution from Shabazz Muhammad. He scored 11 points in just under 10 minutes on the floor. Muhammad had played just over 15 minutes prior to Tuesday night, including two DNP-CD’s in Games 1 and 4. The only meaningful minutes he had played came in the Game 2 loss.

16. As for the end of the game, Milwaukee has a right to be upset with the way things turned out. With 1:16 left in regulation the Bucks trailed 84-79 as Boston’s Horford released a shot on the left wing. The issue was that the 24-seond shot clock had expired and should have resulted in the Bucks gaining control of the ball via turnover.

17. That didn’t happen, as Horford’s shot hit the rim and an offensive rebound was credited to Ojeleye. While the Celtics didn’t score on that extra possession, the Bucks didn’t get the ball back until 50 seconds left in the game.

18. There’s no way of knowing whether or not those 26 seconds would have changed the outcome for Milwaukee, but it certainly would have given them a much better chance at finishing off the comeback.

19. When the last 2-minute report is released by the NBA on Wednesday it will certainly show that the officiating crew headed by Ken Mauer missed a critical call. There will be plenty of other things on the L2M, both correct and incorrect, but that will be the call that stands out the most.

20. The Bucks and Celtics will square off in Game 6 on Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. A Milwaukee win would force a decisive Game 7 on Saturday in Boston. A Boston win would end Milwaukee’s season. Talk to you then.

Last shots: Bucks 104, Celtics 102

MILWAUKEE – Twenty-five last shots for the 25 minutes played by Bucks forward Jabari Parker in Sunday’s 104-102 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

1. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is in its final days of housing Milwaukee Bucks basketball, but the team made sure on Sunday that at least one more game will take place inside the building they’ve called home since 1988.

2. Milwaukee’s 104-102 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 on Sunday was in doubt until the final buzzer when Marcus Morris’ shot bounced off the rim. This came after Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored his 27th and final point on a tip-in with 5.1 seconds remaining to give the Bucks the lead for good.

3. Milwaukee led by as many as 20 points early in the third quarter, but unlike Game 3, the Celtics were able to find their way back to ultimately take a 100-99 lead in the fourth quarter.

4. Boston’s Jaylen Brown carried his team back into the game as he scored 10 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough for Boston as Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo combined for 50 points for Milwaukee.

5. The Bucks also got strong play off the bench for the second straight game. Jabari Parker, Thon Maker, and Matthew Dellavedova made key contributions for the Bucks.

6. The first half of the game may have been the best of Parker’s career. He scored 12 points on seven shots to bolster the Bucks’ offense. His offensive contributions are something that are expected as it’s widely known that his best attribute is his ability to seemingly score whenever he feels.

7. What needs to be taken away from Sunday’s game – especially the first half – was Parker’s ability to defend. He had a pair of steals, three blocks, and five rebounds in the first half. It was the best he’s looked defensively since he put a Milwaukee uniform on, and it’s not particularly close.

8. “We’ve been saying from the beginning that we need him. He is one of the best scorers in the league and one of the best players. For him to come off the bench for us, it is a huge boost. We just want to be ready and stay locked in,” Middleton said of Parker’s effort on Sunday. “It wasn’t [going] for him on the offensive end early, the defensive end is really what got us going. He came in, he was locked in and did a great job of guarding his man and helping guys.”

9. When Parker entered the game, the Bucks were trailing 12-5. They outscored the Celtics 46-23 in the remainder of the first half. Parker wasn’t on the floor for all of those minutes, obviously, but with him on the floor the Bucks were a plus-19. That was second on the team, falling behind only Thon Maker.

10. Playoff Thon may officially become a thing. At least inside the Bradley center it is. On Sunday Maker played nearly 31 minutes, which is the second most time on the floor he has gotten in a single game in his career.

11. Offensively, Maker scored eight points, including a pair of threes, which is nothing much to write home about. On the defensive end of the floor, however, Maker was a force again as he finished with five blocked shots for the second consecutive game.

12. Friday night, Dellavedova made a difference defensively, frustrating Boston guard Terry Rozier. Sunday was much of the same in terms of his contribution. He also had one play that can be looked at as a key reason as to why the Bucks came away with the victory.

13. Middleton scored to put the Bucks up 22-17 at with 1.2 seconds remaining in the first quarter. It was a relatively routine, with a nice pump fake to split the Jayson Tatum and Shane Larkin double-team. It’s what came next that set the tone for the rest of the first half.

14. Morris took the ball out of bounds after the Middleton make, and in an attempt to save time — and potentially get a shot up before the quarter expired – rolled it to Larkin. This was the first mistake on the play. Larkin lost track of Dellavedova, which was the second mistake Boston made. Dellavedova raced in, picked up the ball, and threw up a shot off the glass as time expired that bounced in to give the Bucks a 24-17 advantage after one.

15. It’s easy to pick out a single play in a one possession game and say “well, if this would have happened different then things would have been different.” This was the exact play in this game for the Celtics.

16. That’s not to say the Bucks would not have won the game if that play had never happened, there’s no telling how the teams would have executed down the stretch if the Bucks had two less points to their total. But in a game that finished with just a margin of two, it’s easy to look at that winning play and attribute it as a big reason why the Bucks won.

17. Every opportunity that Maker has, he uses to fire up the crowd at the Bradley Center. It seems as if he feeds off that energy, which is not something uncommon for role players. The challenge will be for Maker, Dellavedova, and Parker to replicate this effort inside the TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday for Game 5.

18. This was a great win for Milwaukee, make no mistake about it. There are still plenty of areas to improve for them, however. The end of game execution needs to be better than it was on Sunday, specifically.

19. Eric Bledsoe had another poor game but felt the need to be the one dictating offense as time winds down. That needs to be a time when Antetokounmpo has the ball in his hands. If it isn’t Antetokounmpo, it needs to be Middleton at the very least.

20. With 1:11 left in regulation, and the Bucks clinging to a 99-98 lead, Bledsoe held onto the ball until there were six seconds remaining on the shot clock. He then tried to get the ball to Antetokounmpo who had the smaller Jayson Tatum posted up but threw the ball out of bounds.

21. Things like this simply cannot happen down the stretch for the Bucks if they expect to win on the road. Immediately following this is when Boston took the lead.

22. While Antetokounmpo ended up with the game-winning basket by virtue of a tip-in as the clock ticked down, it came off of a missed shot by Malcolm Brogdon.

23. Look, Brogdon is a nice player, and hit a huge 3-pointer a couple possessions prior, but Antetokounmpo needs to be the one with the ball in his hands. On that possession, arguably the most important of this season, he didn’t.

24. The most popular saying around the state of Wisconsin for the past 10 days has undeniably been “Bucks in six.” Sunday’s win ensures that there will be a Game 6 in Milwaukee on Thursday, but for the one-time prediction of Brandon Jennings to come true, the Bucks need to find a way to steal Game 5 on the road.

25. The Bucks and Celtics will play in Game 5 of this best-of-seven series on Tuesday night in Boston. The start time has not yet been announced by the NBA. Talk to you then.