Wast­ing lit­tle time turn­ing things around

Gian­nis’ re­turn helps Mil­wau­kee bounce back

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Matt Ve­lazquez

AT­LANTA - For bet­ter and worse, Sun­day af­ter­noon was all about re­bound­ing for the Mil­wau­kee Bucks.

On the pos­i­tive side, the Bucks re­mained un­beaten in games af­ter a de­feat by bounc­ing back from Fri­day’s loss in Wash­ing­ton and ul­ti­mately run­ning away with a 133-114 vic­tory over the At­lanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on Sun­day af­ter­noon. Mil­wau­kee’s re­bound to the win col­umn marked the 12th time in as many chances that they’ve recorded a vic­tory im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing a de­feat.

“I think to come in here and get a win on the road – we’ve been out for a lit­tle bit, day games are not al­ways easy – but a pretty de­cent, con­sis­tent ef­fort for all four quar­ters,” Bucks coach Mike Bu­den­holzer said. “It’s good for us to get this game.”

It helped to have Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo back on the court af­ter miss­ing Fri­day’s game with right quadri­ceps sore­ness and a left hip con­tu­sion. Mil­wau­kee’s star filled up the stat sheet against the Hawks, col­lect­ing 33 points along with six re­bounds, four as­sists and three steals in 31 min­utes.

How­ever, he’s still not to­tally re­cov­ered. He opened the game by con­nect­ing on a cou­ple midrange shots and a three-pointer in the first quar­ter, say­ing he took those shots be­cause he was hurt­ing and couldn’t get to the paint.

An­te­tok­oun­mpo even­tu­ally did get to the paint – of­ten earn­ing trips to the free-throw line where he was 14 of 19 on the night.

“Health-wise, I’m not 100 per­cent yet but hope­fully mov­ing for­ward I’m go­ing to get there,” An­te­tok­oun­mpo said. “Coach Bud and the team, they don’t want me to man­age pain so that’s why we took the game off. Mov­ing for­ward, hope­fully, I can get the right treat­ment and heal and go into Mi­ami healthy.”

An­te­tok­oun­mpo got plenty of help, par­tic­u­larly from Khris Mid­dle­ton and Eric Bled­soe. Mid­dle­ton got go­ing early, us­ing drives to the hoop to score 10 of his 17 points in the first quar­ter. He also led the Bucks with 11 re­bounds. Bled­soe was solid through­out, fin­ish­ing with 24 points on 9 of 13 shoot­ing with a teamhigh 10 as­sists along with some solid work on the de­fen­sive end in­clud­ing three steals.

As a team, the Bucks coaxed 24 Hawks turnovers, tak­ing ad­van­tage of them for a to­tal of 36 points. How­ever, the game re­mained close into the third quar­ter in large part be­cause of the flip­side of Sun­day’s theme of re­bound­ing.

While they re­bounded for the win, they put forth a poor ef­fort in terms of ac­tu­ally re­bound­ing the win, par­tic­u­larly in the first half when the Hawks had more of­fen­sive re­bounds (eight) than the Bucks had re­bounds (three) in the first quar­ter.

“It was about bad as I think we’ve had all year for the first half,” said Bu­den­holzer, com­ment­ing on At­lanta’s 11 firsthalf of­fen­sive re­bounds.

At­lanta was dom­i­nant on the boards, fin­ish­ing with 18 of­fen­sive re­bounds for 23 sec­ond-chance points — mark­ing a new sea­son-high for of­fen­sive re­bounds by a Bucks op­po­nent. Seven­teen of those of­fen­sive re­bounds came in the first three quar­ters, with even Hawks rookie Trae Young — listed at 6-foot-2 but cer­tainly shorter than that — even get­ting three as part of a 26-point, 10re­bound game.

There are plenty of ex­pla­na­tions for why the Bucks strug­gled on the boards. The Bucks weren’t ag­gres­sive enough, with cen­ter Brook Lopez say­ing they were, “just kind of out there.” It didn’t help that the Bucks’ guards were a non­fac­tor on the glass in the first half, with Bu­den­holzer and Bled­soe cit­ing their in­abil­ity to make cer­tain reads and block out as a ma­jor is­sue.

The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor was ef­fort, though, which was some­thing the Bucks didn’t bring enough of dur­ing the first half despite tak­ing a 64-55 lead into the break.

“I think get­ting a re­bound is an ef­fort thing,” An­te­tok­oun­mpo said. “I don’t think we put enough ef­fort in re­bound­ing the ball and that starts from me. Com­ing back, the first game, I think I wasn’t fo­cused enough. Re­bound­ing the ball — I had one de­fen­sive re­bound in the half — that’s some­thing I usu­ally do way bet­ter.

“Not re­bound­ing the ball is ef­fort and I think in the sec­ond half we did a bet­ter job com­ing in and putting more ef­fort into get­ting into their bod­ies and just re­bound­ing the ball.”

Af­ter an over­all slug­gish start, the Bucks even­tu­ally set­tled in and took care of busi­ness both in terms of wrap- ping up de­fen­sive pos­ses­sions as well as ex­tend­ing their lead.

In ad­di­tion to their three lead­ing scor­ers, the Bucks got solid con­tri­bu­tions from Mal­colm Brog­don, who fin­ished with 14 points, as well as a few play­ers off the bench. D.J. Wil­son had eight points on 3 for 3 shoot­ing along with four re­bounds and two blocks in 17 min­utes. Ge­orge Hill had 11 points and was solid de­fen­sively while Er­san Ilyasova matched An­te­tok­oun­mpo for the team high with three steals while also tak­ing mul­ti­ple charges.

The win also marked Bu­den­holzer’s first in At­lanta as a vis­it­ing coach af­ter spend­ing the past five years as the head coach of the Hawks.

“I look back with a ton of pos­i­tive mem­o­ries and so many great re­la­tion­ships,” Bu­den­holzer said. “To be a first­time head coach and go through that growth, there’s so many pos­i­tive feel­ings I have. Change and mov­ing are part of life . ... It was a heck of a five years and I’m very, very ap­pre­cia­tive of it.”

Bucks make a ros­ter move: The Bucks waived two-way guard Jaylen on Sun­day. Mor­ris played 29 min­utes over four games with the Bucks, mak­ing his big­gest mark in a seven-point per­for­mance to close out a 43point win over the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers on Nov. 21.

Mor­ris spent more time in the G League with the Wis­con­sin Herd, av­er­ag­ing 14.1 points, 4.6 re­bounds and 2.3 as­sists over 35.1 min­utes per game in 13 con­tests.

Choos­ing to waive Mor­ris on Sun­day leaves the Bucks time to add a re­place­ment be­fore Tues­day’s dead­line for sign­ing two-way play­ers.

TNS

Bucks for­ward Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo drives to the bas­ket against At­lanta's Omari Spell­man and Trae Young on Sun­day at State Farm Arena. An­te­tok­oun­mpo had 33 points in his re­turn af­ter a one-game ab­sence.

JA­SON GETZ/USA TO­DAY

DeAn­dre’ Bem­bry goes for a ride on the back of Bucks for­ward Khris Mid­dle­ton dur­ing a shot at­tempt. Bem­bry was called for a foul.

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