On pace to win north of 70 games this season, the Milwaukee Bucks hosted another contending team in that of the Boston Celtics Thursday night.
It’s one of the better matchups on the Eastern Conference slate through the first half of the season.
Though, that’s just on paper. As it has done all season, Milwaukee ran roughshod through its opponent early on before a massive Celtics comeback in the fourth quarter drew this one close. In the end, the Bucks came out on top by the score of 128-123 in a hotly contested affair.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from Milwaukee’s five-point victory over Boston Thursday night.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Are we at all surprised here? The Greek Freak is right up there with Luka Doncic and James Harden as the top NBA MVP candidates after earning that award last season. While Giannis did not have to go hero ball in this one, he was efficient on both ends of the court.
Antetokounmpo dropped 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting. He also grabbed 17 rebounds and dished out seven assists. Just another ho-hum performance from one of the greatest athletes in the world.
Loser: Jayson Tatum
In the midst of another tremendous season, Tatum missed Jaylen Brown in this one. The two had been working wonders together, helping Boston avoid the need to move one for a proven star.
Unfortunately, Brown’s absence to injury impacted Tatum. The forward shot just 8-of-20 from the field and scored 17 points. The kid is simply going to have to show up to bigger games like this on a more consistent basis moving forward.
Winner: Kemba Walker
Like he has done all season, Boston’s biggest summer addition came up huge when it counted the most. Sure it did not help the Celtics come out on top in Milwaukee, but Walker continues to prove his worth to the franchise.
The All-Star dropped a team-high 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. While it’s not great to see a point guard lead a team in rebounds, Walker’s performance on Thursday paved the way for what was initially looking to be a nice comeback in the second half.
Loser: Eric Bledsoe
There’s a reason why rumors suggest Milwaukee has to find an upgrade at point guard. Bledsoe just has not performed up to the level of his contract, and could be a detriment to the team’s championship aspirations.
That came out in a big way going up against Kemba Walker and Co. Thursday night. The veteran point guard dropped just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting. A game that saw a multitude of other Bucks players step up continued to prove that Bledsoe might not be long in Milwaukee.
Winner: Bucks bench
We’ve focused on it a lot this season. Bucks general manager Jon Horst did a masterful job during the summer maintaining a deep bench with so many free agents. As has been the case all season, that came out in droves against Boston.
George Hill, Donte DiVincenzo, Kyle Korver and Ersan İlyasova combined for 38 points on 16-of-27 shooting. Milwaukee was also a combined plus-35 with them on the court. That played a huge role when Boston attempted to mount a comeback against Bucks’ reserves.
Loser: Gordon Hayward
Yet another player Boston was hoping might step up with Brown out, this high-priced and injury-plagued forward came up absolutely small. Hayward connected on 1-of-10 shots from the field, including 1-of-9 from distance. He struggled defensively when switched on to elite-level Bucks scorers, too.
It’s hard to blame Hayward for the injuries he’s suffered in recent seasons, but at some point he needs to be seen as a bust. At the very least, the veteran is not coming anywhere near close to living up to the four-year, $127.8 million deal he’s currently playing under. Thursday’s brutal performance was yet another example of this.