MILWAUKEE — Although it was superhero night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, it didn’t take a superhuman effort for the Milwaukee Bucks to finally break their 11-game losing streak.
All it took was a complete team effort, from the 18-year-old rookie providing a spark to Brandon Knight coming close to his first career triple-double.
O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight combined for 42 points and John Henson added 13 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 92-85 victory on Saturday night, Milwaukee’s first win since Nov. 6.
“It feels good to get that monkey off your back, it really does,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “Especially the way we did it, as shorthanded as we were, playing guys out of position. We had some guys really step up tonight and really play hard.”
Down 27-19 after the first quarter, Milwaukee seemed destined for yet another loss before rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo provided a highlight-reel sequence that seemed to wake the team and the arena up.
After turning the ball over, Antetokounmpo hustled down the floor to block Jordan Crawford’s layup and then booked it back to the other end to ferociously throw down a right-handed dunk.
“I didn’t think he had a chance to get to that ball, but he got there and made the play,” Drew said. “That seemed like the play that kind of jumpstarted the whole team. I thought he did a terrific job.”
Antetokounmpo’s block and dunk sequence was the talk of Milwaukee’s locker room after the game, as many couldn’t believe what they had seen.
“There’s not many players in our league that have those type of attributes, as far as length, speed, skills to handle the basketball like that,” Knight said of Antetokounmpo. “It’s very rare that you come across a player at his size and with his length that can do those types of things.
“He can block shots and then be able to get a dunk on the other end all in one play just because of his God-given abilities and physical stature that a lot of us wasn’t blessed with. There are few players in the NBA that can do that.”
The 18-year-old played a career-high 28 minutes and finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t know I can do, but you are going to see,” Antetokounmpo said. “As the season goes on, you are going to see.”
But it wasn’t just Antetokounmpo’s spark that guided the Bucks to victory. Knight was sensational at point guard, Mayo was aggressive and shot the ball well, while Henson and Ekpe Udoh matched Boston’s physicality inside.
Knight, who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, finally looks like he’s over the hamstring issue that limited him early in the season.
“For us to be a successful team, or to be a team that competes every night, we have to get contributions from everybody,” Knight said. “That’s what happened tonight. I think we played pretty solid defensively, which definitely helped us out a lot more. That’s what we’re going to need night in and night out to be a competitive team in the NBA.”
The Bucks played zone defense for most of the second quarter, sitting back and watching Boston shoot just 6-of-23 in the period. Milwaukee came out of the zone in the third quarter and Drew was pleased with the things the Bucks did defensively in the second half.
“We were ready to play,” Henson said. “I think we were loose before as a team, saying ‘Let’s go out there and get this win.’ I think that helped us a lot. From Brandon to Giannis, from 1 to 15, we played well, so it feels good.”
While the Celtics, led by Jared Sullinger’s 21 points and 14 rebounds, still outscored the Bucks, 46-30, in the paint, Milwaukee gave a much better effort inside than it did against Charlotte on Friday.
The Bucks outrebounded the Celtics, 49-41, as Henson and Udoh were able to give Milwaukee some sort of presence inside.
“As of late we’ve been getting killed in the paint,” Udoh said. “As a team we took that challenge and got a big win. A fire, all it takes is a spark. Now we have to keep it going.”
Drew feels this kind of team effort is what it will take to keep it going.
“Even when we get the guys we have out back, this is the type of energy, this is the type of effort that we have to have when we step out on the floor,” Drew said. “We can’t take possessions off, we can’t do things half speed.
“Everything has to be done at a pace that will allow us to grow. I thought we just had some guys who really took the challenge and really played at a high level.”