For the second time in three games the Milwaukee Bucks face the Sacramento Kings, this time at the Bradley Center. But despite the change in scenery, the Bucks will be seeking the same result after wiping the Kings off their own floor last Tuesday night, 112-87. The Bucks unveiled a change in defensive scheme that night, a much simpler and relevant scheme for this roster, and whilst it hasn’t been spoken about it has produced impressive results.
Following the win in Sacramento the Bucks travelled to Portland to take on an in form Blazers team that had won 7 of their last 9. The Bucks produced their best all round performance of the season to this point, the defense again holding up against the potent Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum backcourt duel threat. Lillard and McCollum both topped 40 minutes in the contest and struggled to combine for 33 points on 14-36 from the field, 3-13 from deep and 7 turnovers. They were constantly harassed by Bledsoe, Brogdon, Liggins and co, struggling to penetrate the Bucks defense that held steady and were happy to switch rather then blitz.
On offense, Milwaukee’s new ‘big three’ all had monster games, Middleton finished with 26 points, Bledsoe 25, and Giannis 20 despite a rare inefficient shooting night for the Greek Freak. A Middleton banked triple to beat the first quarter buzzer gave Milwaukee a 33-21 lead and the Bucks never looked back, leading by 15 at the half, and 21 after three quarters.
One of the most jaw dropping individual sequences of play you’ll ever see rounded out the first half as Giannis first chased down and swatted a C.J McCollum layup attempt of the glass with 27 seconds left, only to step it up another notch on the next possession by chasing down and spiking Lillard’s layup attempt emphatically into the crowd to end the first half of play. The Blazers crowd half groaning, half cheering at what they had just witnessed. It was just one of those nights for the Bucks, everything clicked.
The Bucks have responded exactly the way they needed to following the horrific effort in Utah but now must avoid a let down in the return bout against the Kings, who are fresh off a thrilling 1 point victory in Chicago last night. Bogdan Bogdanovic made one of two free throws with 4 seconds left to push the lead to 4 points and clinch the victory over the league’s worst Bulls. Bogdanovic finished with 19 points and veteran bruiser Zach Randolph had 25 points and 13 rebounds in their third road win of the season.
Like last week, the Kings weaknesses should play right into the hands of the Bucks. Sacramento will not burn you from the outside, they shoot the leagues least amount of three pointers and the Bucks length should again cause havoc on defense. Impressive rookie De’Aaron Fox struggled with only 4 points on 2-10 from the field in the first outing against Milwaukee, Bucks guards Malcolm Brogdon and Bledsoe able to use their significant weight advantage to good use on both ends.
Giannis, Bledsoe and Middleton were all held to under 30 minutes against the Kings on Tuesday, but Middleton in particular will be looking to cash in after he was battling illness that night. Middleton only played 24 minutes and attempted a season low 7 shots as he at times looked visibly fatigued (even more so then usual), interrupting a particularly good stretch for Khris. Over the last 7 games Khris is averaging 21.7 points per game on 38 percent from deep, a huge boost for the Milwaukee offense.
In the last two games with the definitive defensive change, the Bucks have limited the opposition to 89.5 points per game which now sees the team ranked 16th overall in the league with a defensive rating of 105.1. Certainly heading in the right direction. Again, I’ve been a strong critic of Jason Kidd’s but to see actual change is a huge relief, I didn’t think it was any chance of happening, it undoubtedly took far to long but ill give credit where credits due. It’s better late then never.
If the Bucks can beat the Kings at home as they should, it will lock up a second consecutive season sweep against Western Conference opposition. The true key to this game will be for the Bucks to try not to look ahead to Boston and focus on the opposition at hand. The Kings have plenty of young talent and like any team in this league are capable of an upset on any given night, as Golden State found out on their home floor last week.
Continue to play solid defense, stay unselfish on offense and the Bucks should be able to climb three games above .500 for the first time in 2017/18.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus.