MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks ran away with a 108-94 win over the Houston Rockets at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night.
Player of the game: Eric Bledsoe
The narrative heading into Tuesday night’s game was the battle for MVP between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. However, it was Bledsoe who was the best player on the floor. He scored a team-high 23 points, knocking down a season-high-tying four three-pointers (4-7, .571). 16 of his 23 came in the third quarter which included a 11-0 run from him alone.
He was even better on the defensive end. Bledsoe stepped up to the challenge defending Harden. He held him in check throughout the game and even blocked him at the rim, twice. Bledsoe talked about his performance against Harden.
Just try to run him off the three-point line. Credit to Giannis and Brook, they did a hell of a job tonight. They were blocking shots when I did get beat. It’s a team effort.
Always a spark plug, Bledsoe has ignited his team time after time this season with his energy and effort. Tuesday night’s game was a microcosm of what he has meant to the Bucks this season.
Play of the game: Bledsteal and smack-talk with Harden
Milwaukee came out a bit sluggish and had no momentum early on. They trailed by as many as 11 points in the second quarter. Their energy picked up after Bledsoe got a big steal and layup off an inbound pass that completely turned the game around. Then he got in the face of last year’s MVP.
The good: Defense
As a team, the Rockets average 113.1 points per game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 35.2% from beyond the arc. The Bucks held them to 94 points on 36.4% shooting and 30.8% from three-point range. The NBA’s leading scorer (36.4) was held to just 23 points. Head coach Mike Budenholzer talked about the impact of Giannis, Bledsoe and Brook Lopez together.
Without a doubt those guys are All-NBA, All-Defense guys. Certainly, we talked a little bit about before the game the focus on James [Harden] and the guy who is guarding him, mostly [Bledsoe]. Then the defense with Brook at the paint and could we be active with a third guy and everyone else. Giannis was a big part of that third prong. There is so much focus on the other two, but I think his activity and ability to cover ground. The three prongs were all working well together.
The not so good: 1st quarter
There wasn’t a whole lot you can look at as not good in Tuesday’s win but offensively the Bucks weren’t sharp in the first quarter. They converted on just eight of their 25 attempts leading to 20 points. The Bucks have been known for slow-starts this season and it’s something they need to work on.
Stat of the game: One
Harden made only one three-pointer on his nine attempts. He averages 4.9 makes a game from downtown. The Bucks defended him perfectly. Bledsoe and George Hill deserve a lot of credit for the way they played him. The game-plan was set up to force Harden to drive with his right hand. Defenders placed themselves on his left side all night and it bothered him. Harden had a lot of difficulty using his patented step back from beyond the arc. He was asked if there were any challenges when the Bucks defended him the way they did.
None. I still got my shots up. I was still aggressive. I still did what I was supposed to do. Obviously, some shots didn’t go in like every other game. As a team, we had our shots that we got. If they go in, it’s a different game. Credit to them. They made shots.
What they said:
Budenholzer on the win
I was just really pleased with the defensive effort, for all four quarters really. Particularly in the second half, it felt like we were really trying to make things as difficult as possible for all the guys on the court. It felt like the guys really put the effort in. There was a lot of effort and activity coming back and getting steals and loose balls and covering lots of ground. That just stands out to me. We had a stretch where we got hot, made some threes, and made some separation. That combined with good four quarters of defense made a good effort tonight.
Giannis on the MVP chant during the game
I definitely noticed that. I heard it. Having the greatest fans in the NBA is awesome. I really appreciate the fans supporting me and supporting the team. Nights like this we try to deliver with a win and give our fans a win. Like I said in the past, I don’t want to think about it.
Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni
We didn’t shoot the ball very well. When James [Harden] and Eric [Gordon] are 2-for-23, we’re going to have a hard time winning games. They played good defense. We got sloppy in the first half. We turned the ball over, I think, four times in transition. There were passes that they capitalized on that’s how they got ahead of us. It’s just one of the games where we just weren’t thinking. We’ll be all right.
In case you missed it:
*The Bucks are now a season-high 37 games over .500 and improve their NBA-best record to 56-19. Milwaukee’s 31-6 home record is also tied with Denver for the best home record in the league.
*Tuesday night’s win secured a 2-0 season series win for the Bucks over the Rockets, marking their first season series sweep of Houston since the 1999-00.
*This is Milwaukee’s 18th series win of the season and its eighth season series sweep of an opponent.
*This was the Bucks’ NBA-high 43rd win of the season by double digits, and their 14th double-digit win over a team with a .500 or better record.
*The Bucks hauled in 60 rebounds as a team, marking their second 60-rebound game of the season. Milwaukee entered the game averaging an NBA-high 49.4 rebounds per game this season.
The Bucks (56-19) will host the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers (45-30) on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm.