Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) looks to pass the ball against Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson (31) during the second half at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 121-117. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
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The Milwaukee Bucks have won just once in their last 11 tries after dropping another game, this one to the Denver Nuggets. Here’s how the players and coach grade out from the loss.
The Milwaukee Bucks played at a higher level than the team had been able to reach recently when they visited the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, but Milwaukee still could not get a win. The Bucks got smoked in the second quarter, and even though they outscored the Nuggets in both the third and fourth periods it wasn’t enough.
In the first game since the Miles Plumlee trade, at least Milwaukee tried. That isn’t as sarcastic as it probably reads–the Bucks looked flat in prior games. They really fought against the Nuggets, who are likely a better team than their record indicates.
Nikola Jokic was transcendent on Friday, recording his first career triple-double in the nice Nugs win. Jokic is making the Nuggets look more and more foolish every day for trying to play Jusuf Nurkic over him earlier in the season.
Now that Plumlee is gone, the Bucks have answered some questions while simultaneously asking new ones. John Henson has become the de facto starting center in Milwaukee (although Thon Maker might keep pushing him for the gig,) but how will Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert factor in once they arrive?
There wouldn’t have been much room for either of them in Friday’s contest. Henson got the lion’s share of the minutes, playing 31 of them against Denver. That left just four for Thon and 13 for Greg Monroe. Even without Plumlee, the Bucks have too many centers and not enough minutes!
We’ll go through and grade all three of the centers that played on Friday, as well as the other Bucks, head coach Jason Kidd and the Nuggets.
Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
At first glance, it may seem like Matthew Dellavedova had a bad game against the Nuggets because he scored just four points. Delly has been the Bucks best distributor recently though, and that trend continued on Friday. Delly recorded a team- and game-high 12 assists, which is tied for the most he’s ever recorded as a Buck. His career-high mark is 13 assists in a game, which ironically came against the Bucks back in Delly’s time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Delly added four rebounds and a steal, and had just three turnovers.
Tony Snell was pretty quiet in Denver, which makes sense considering he only got 19 minutes of playing time. The Bucks were good in Snell’s limited run, outscoring the Nuggets by eight points in that span. Snell recorded four points and a steal, so it’s unclear how much of Milwaukee’s success during his time on the floor was actually up to him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a much better game statistically against Denver, although his performance was not without its warts. Giannis finished the night with 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, although he also turned the ball over five times and spent time in foul trouble. Giannis had a great offensive performance (aside from the giveaways) and he made all four of his free throws. He also hit a clutch three late in the game that nearly led to a surprise Bucks comeback.
Jabari Parker showed out against Denver, dropping 27 points and 11 rebounds all over the Nuggets. Jabari also added four assists, two steals and a block, while turning the ball over three times. He got to the line five times and made all of his foul shots, plus managed cashing in two triples. Jabari too had some late buckets that kept the game close, although unfortunately not quite close enough.
John Henson said he needed to prove he could play before this game, and although the Bucks didn’t get the win Henson did look much better than he had recently. Some of that may have simply been Henson getting a real chance to prove himself in 31 minutes played, but credit to him for coming out and having a nice game. Henson posted 16 points, five rebounds, one steal and four blocks against Denver, and made seven-of-twelve shots and both of his free throws. Unfortunately he had no answer for Jokic, who dominated Henson on the boards. Still, the Bucks were two points better than Denver with Henson on the floor.
Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) takes a shot against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Monroe scored 18 points as the Bucks beat the Nuggets 92-74. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Monroe was quiet on Friday. Some of his minutes went to Thon and Henson, but in the run he did get Moose wasn’t great. He did manage eight points, two rebounds and an assist in his 13 minutes played, but the Nuggets stomped the Bucks in his time on the floor. Monroe made half of his shots, and he should get more minutes going forward. He’s too good not to play.
Malcolm Brogdon didn’t play all that badly against Denver, but the bench unit did not fare well with him on the floor. Brogdon totaled seven points, two assists, one rebound, two steals and a block, and kept himself active on all parts of the floor. It took the President seven shots to score those seven points though, and he also turned the ball over twice against the Nuggets.
Something about what Michael Beasley brings to the table has been beneficial to the Bucks this year. With him on the floor, Milwaukee outscored the Nuggets by 11 points. Beas himself added eight points, three boards and a block in his 14 minutes of action. No one bench player stood out, but getting a few points from each of them was nice.
Thon Maker is essentially a bundle of energy every minute he’s on the floor. He scored six points on two made threes in his four minutes of action. In a fitting tribute to Miles Plumlee, he also recorded a whopping three fouls in those four minutes. Thon is still working on putting his game together, but early signs are encouraging.
Jason Terry was en fuego on Friday night. Terry scored nine points on three made threes, and he also blocked two shots! How Terry has blocked 11 shots this season is somewhat beyond me, but it speaks to the great shape JET has kept himself in. Terry also added two rebounds and an assist, and of course a huge amount of energy both on the floor and on the bench.
Much like Thon Maker, Mirza Teletovic finds ways to make plays in very small amounts of playing time. Mirza got nine minutes on Friday. He managed to score five points and rack up two rebounds, one assist, one block, two turnovers and one personal foul in that time. Teletovic is not shy–he will absolutely take the ball whenever he can, and try to do whatever he wants with it. Shooters shoot.
Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone talks with referee Bill Kennedy (55) during the second half at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 121-117. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Bucks were definitely better against Denver, but the team still wasn’t great. Milwaukee had no answer for Nikola Jokic, and repeatedly gave him the space to both shoot and make some tremendous passes. Jokic is too good to get shut down completely, but in the first game back from an injury the Bucks should’ve tried more to suppress him. Playing Monroe just 13 minutes seems like a mistake, considering how good he’s been for most of this season. It’s tough to find minutes for Monroe, Henson and Thon, but taking Monroe’s minutes is taking the best player in the group out of the equation.
Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) watches a shot by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Nuggets don’t have a good record, but this team can still play good basketball at times. The defense here is a tire fire that needs to be addressed, but this team can really score at times. That starts with Jokic, who was impressive in the game against Milwaukee. Jokic is a poor defender right now, but his offensive skills and rebounding make him good enough to start anyway. Wilson Chandler looked good too, as did the guard tandem of Gary Harris and Will Barton. There are some interesting pieces in Denver right now, even if the puzzle isn’t quite put together yet.