Three Things to Know: Takeaways from Bucks/Nets are all good for Milwaukee

0 Comments

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA great.

1) Three takeaways from Bucks/Nets are all good for Milwaukee

It’s good to be Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks right now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sparked a comeback from nine points down with just more than three minutes to go to force overtime, and ultimately the Bucks came away with a 120-119 road win in Brooklyn. We could turn this column into a “things the Nets did that show why they won’t win a title this year” piece — the defensive issues (although that was better than against the Pistons), the offensive spacing issues in the clutch, the play design not taking advantage of Kyrie Irving and mismatches down the stretch — and talk about how the Nets, Hawks, and Hornets are now in a three-way tie for the 8/9/10 seeds in the East.

Instead, we’re going to focus on the Bucks. Here are three takeaways from the Bucks’ victory.

• Antetokounmpo passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the leading scorer in Milwaukee Bucks history. Anytime you pass Kareem — six-time champion, six-time MVP, scored more points than anyone in NBA history, underrated GOAT candidate — you’ve done something impressive.

That Antetokounmpo passed Kareem on a clutch step-back 3 speaks to the growth of the Greek Freak’s game. There was a time when the “all he does is run and dunk” criticism had some merit (although even then it missed the defensive contributions and more), but Antetokounmpo has put in the work and grown his all-around game. He can do it all now, and he has proven he can be the best player on a championship team. He might do that again this year.

• Antetokounmpo bolstered his MVP case — again — with a 44-point, 14-rebound, six assist outing and leading a Bucks comeback.

Antetokounmpo’s case is that he is the best offensive and defensive player on a team that is projected to have 52 wins and finish first in the East. He’s in the mix to lead the league in points per game (that is a tight and fascinating race in its own right) and he is a better defender than either of the other two top candidates for the award (Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid). Antetokounmpo can make a legitimate case as the best player in the world, and a legitimate one that he has been the best player this past season.

Much like the Bucks, his case has surged over the season’s final weeks.

• Milwaukee looks like the team to beat out of the East. After a season of injuries — not having Brook Lopez to anchor the paint until recently being the biggest one — and the Bucks seeming disinterested in the regular season (as champs often are), they flipped the switch in recent weeks.

A dramatic win in Philadelphia with Antetokounmpo blocking Embiid, followed by a dramatic overtime win in Brooklyn, speaks to a team that can win in the clutch, win anywhere, and defend their title. Especially with the Heat stumbling and infighting, with the 76ers showing their warts, at the Celtics being without Robert Williams to at least start the postseason, it’s hard not to look at the Bucks as the favorites in the East.

Milwaukee is also one team that matches up with Phoenix well. The Bucks enter the playoffs with a real chance to repeat as champions, and while that will be a long road — and the Suns have set a high bar this year — the Bucks team of the last couple of games looks like a team that can do it.

2) DeMar DeRozan drops 50 on Clippers, Bulls win in OT

When he was tearing up the NBA in February, Bulls faithful were pushing DeMar DeRozan to get some MVP love. While that has faded, DeRozan reminded everyone on Thursday that he is still a bucket — he scored 24 of his 50 points in the final 9:40 of this game (the final 4:40 of regulation, plus overtime).

DeRozan sparked a comeback from 11 down inside of five minutes in regulation to get the win in OT — that is the kind of comeback the Clippers have been doing to everyone else all season.

DeRozan did most of his damage driving into the paint and hitting pull-ups from 10-15 feet. He also got some help with Nikola Vucevic scoring 22 and Zach LaVine adding 21. Reggie Jackson led the Clippers with 34 and Paul George continued to look solid in his comeback with 22, but his foul on DeRozan in the final seconds led to OT.

3) The 76ers lose to the Pistons… and what did Doc Rivers say

Doc Rivers’ postgame comments may have been blown out of proportion, but that doesn’t change the big takeaway:

The Philadelphia 76ers, trying to win games heading into the playoffs, lost to the 20-win (now 21-win) Pistons and Cade Cunningham, 102-94. Philly led most of the night, but never by 10 points or more, then when it came to crunch time… yikes. The Pistons went on a 14-2 run, won the fourth quarter 29-15, and the Sixers were 0-of-6 from 3 in the fourth.

After the game, Rivers was asked if the bench was the problem and this was his answer.

https://twitter.com/NBCSPhilly/status/1509712255037943810

That turned heads. Harden was 1-of-8 in the second half with four points. But people in the room said that Rivers’ comments didn’t play that same way.

Still, that is is three straight losses for a 76ers team not looking its best heading into the playoffs. There have been some rumblings of players not loving Doc Rivers and whenever a new GM — hello Daryl Morey — is hired, the sitting coach is on shaky ground. That’s particularly true if that GM traded for Harden and thinks his team is built to win it all now.

Highlight of the Night: Patrick Williams destroys Hartenstein

This is what we have been missing all year with Patrick Williams out injured. RIP Isaiah Hartenstein.

Yesterday’s scores:

Pistons 102, 76ers 94
Bucks 120, Nets 110 (OT)
Hawks 131, Cavaliers 107
Bulls 135, Clippers 130
Jazz 122, Lakers 109