The Bucks weren’t exactly humming heading into the payoff period of yesterday’s match. The high-scoring affair had them down nine heading into the payoff period, and momentum seemed to tilt the way of the Mavericks. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the opposition’s top dogs, were humming, more often than not translating to positive outcomes for the visitors. Meanwhile, two-time Most Valuable Player awardee Giannis Antetokounmpo’s good numbers couldn’t find needed support from fellow All-Star Damian Lillard.
As things turned out, the Bucks had ample motivation to win pulling away. Whether it was due to the overflow crowd of 18,128 at the Fiserve Forum or to Antetokounmpo refusing to be denied victory or to Lillard showing up in the crunch, they managed to put up 40, their highest output in a quarter so far through the 2023-24 season. Their two brightest lights each scored in double figures and combined for 25. At the other end of the court, they limited the otherwise-prolific Mavericks to the same number of points.
If there was anything the homestand showed, it was that the Bucks will continue to go only so far as Antetokounmpo can carry them. With the game on the line, he proved flawless from the field; his 15 points even included a make from 31 feet. All told, he missed just eight of his 26 attempts for 40 markers. And, for good measure, he likewise had 15 caroms, seven dimes, two swipes, and one rejection. That said, Lillard’s contributions (27 points on 18 heaves, 12 assists, three rebounds, and one steal) cannot be undervalued.
The Bucks improved to nine and four with their fourth straight triumph, good for provisional third in the highly competitive Eastern Conference. They’re a solid bet to keep their streak alive against the Wizards tomorrow, after which they will travel to the TD Garden for another big test. If they play as well as they did in the final canto yesterday, they figure to do fine. Consistency has eluded them so far, but they’ve shown enough promise to keep their hopes up. The Antetokounmpo-Lillard pairing is getting better by the day, and they’re confident the progress will reach a point where claiming the hardware is no longer a mere possibility.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.