Bucks 108, Rockets 94: Last Word

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.

What’s next?

The Bucks (56-19) will host the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers (45-30) on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm.

Last shots: Rockets 110, Bucks 99

MILWAUKEE – Fifteen last shots for the 15 points scored off the bench by Bucks guard Sterling Brown in Milwaukee’s 110-99 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

1. Losing to the Rockets is nothing that Milwaukee should hang its head over. It’s happening to every team in the league. Wednesday night was Houston’s 17th consecutive win. The last loss for the Rockets came all the way back on January 26.

2. Since then, the Rockets have beaten some of the NBA’s best in San Antonio, Cleveland, Minnesota (twice), Denver (twice), Boston, Oklahoma City, and now Milwaukee.

3. What needs to get across is that Houston isn’t just a good team. They’re a great team. This version of the Rockets owns the best offensive rating in league history. Entering Wednesday night, Houston was scoring 116 points per 100 possessions. The current record for a full season belongs to the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors that went on to win the Finals.

4. This version of the Rockets could win the title this year and it should surprise absolutely no one. They’re that good.

5. Early in the game, the Rockets looked like they had played a game in a different part of the country last night – because they did – and Milwaukee looked like it was off yesterday. That didn’t matter as the Rockets held a 24-22 lead after the first quarter. It was a time when Milwaukee looked like the team with more energy, and it still wasn’t enough.

6. In the second quarter things looked a little more as expected, as Houston outscored Milwaukee by 10 points, thanks in part to a buzzer-beating 26-foot 3-pointer by James Harden. That put them ahead at halftime 58-46, with Houston only connecting on 7-of-19 3-pointers.

7. Houston is trying to change the way that basketball is played. The Rockets are taking more 3-pointers than anyone else, and they’re taking longer 3-pointers than anyone else. There have been 37 games in the NBA this season where a team has shot 45 or more 3-pointers in a single game. The Rockets have been the team to do it in 26 of those 37 games.

8. The Rockets finished the game against the Bucks hitting 19-of-40 3-pointers. The Bucks haven’t attempted 40 3-pointers in a game once this season. Milwaukee’s season-high is 36 3-pointers attempted against Charlotte back in November.

9. With all this being said, things aren’t going great for Milwaukee right now to say the least. The Bucks have lost 7-of-9, dating back to the last game before the All-Star break. Of those nine games, eight of them have come against teams that currently are in the playoff picture.

10. The schedule lightens greatly for the Bucks moving forward, as the next four games are all against teams that have losing records. The Knicks, Grizzlies, Magic, and Hawks are all competing for the first pick in the draft this summer. Those games should be wins, if they’re not, something is seriously wrong.

11. “We’ve got to win,” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said following the loss to the Rockets. “We’ve got to win those four games. Period. That’s it.”

12. Antetokounmpo is correct. The Bucks, luckily, aren’t in danger of falling out of the playoffs thanks to Detroit’s ineptitude recently. Milwaukee holds a five-game lead over the Pistons as things stand Wednesday night.

13. That being said, the Bucks have certainly set themselves up for a more difficult than desired first round playoff matchup. As things stand now, the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers are the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, and likely to stay there. Winning 4-of-7 against any of those three teams seems like an awfully tall task.

14. Antetokounmpo was a bright spot for the Bucks offensively, after recent struggles, he had a game-high 30 points for Milwaukee. Sterling Brown also played well, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds off the bench in 26 minutes.

15. At the end of the night, the Bucks played better than they have at times over this recent stretch. It just wasn’t enough to beat the best team in the NBA.

Dekker on the move to LA

Former Wisconsin star Sam Dekker is headed west.

As first reported by ‘The Vertical,’ the Houston Rockets have reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers to trade All-Star point guard Chris Paul in exchange for Dekker, guards Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and DeAndre Liggins, forwards Kyle Wiltjer and Darrun Hilliard, center Montrezl Harell and a protected top-3 first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Dekker, a first-round pick by the Rockets in 2015, has been hampered by injuries in his first two seasons. He only played in three games his rookie season due to season-ending back surgery, and then missed the last few games of the regular season and the start of the playoffs this past year after suffering a fractured hand.

For the year, Dekker started two of the 77 games he saw action, essentially serving as the second man off the bench, averaging 18.5 minutes per game. In his time with the Rockets, Dekker averaged 6.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and one assist per game. He also shot 47.3 percent from the floor, 32.1 percent from behind the arc, and 55.9 percent from the free-throw line.

A trade to the Clippers could be just the shot in the arm that Dekker needs. This trade should allow him more playing time, especially since Blake Griffin is expected to opt out of his contract. According to his Twitter account, Dekker enjoyed his time with the Houston organization, but is looking forward to joining LA.

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