MILWAUKEE – Heading into Thursday morning's Central division showdown with the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks had yet to lose back-to-back games this season.
That stat remained intact, after the final buzzer sounded.
The Bucks rolled to a 115-92 victory over the Pistons, despite missing star forward Khris Middleton, who was a late withdrawal for personal reasons. His absence provided the Bucks' bench brigade with an extended opportunity, who made a firm effort and ended the contest early.
Thon Maker and Sterling Brown chipped in with 11 points, while Matthew Dellavedova played a season-high 20 minutes, dishing out six assists. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer commented on the output of the two Australian players post-game.
“Outstanding, they were phenomenal,” Budenholzer said with a smile. “But no, they have a good connection, they now how to work well together and you know [what Delly can do] in the pick and roll when he’s got guys that can roll and play at the rim and then can find shooters.”
“I thought Delly gave us good minutes, each time he’s been called up he’s been ready. I thought Thon, particularly in the first half he was close to double-digits, made a couple of threes and some free-throws, I thought he was really helpful.”
One of Dellavedova’s assists came on a lob to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who the Australian has formed a nice partnership with in the pick and roll over his time in Milwaukee.
"He makes you look good. You can throw it anywhere within two or three meters either way and he can catch it. It’s pretty fun throwing them up to him," Dellavedova said with a smile.
The win improved the Bucks' dominance against division rivals, improving their record to 4-0 against Central division foes. It also boosted their home record to 12-2; the new Fiserv Forum is quickly becoming a place of dominance for Milwaukee, a team that's rapidly becoming a prominent Eastern contender.
It was Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe who started out aggressive, finishing with 27 points, equalling his season high.
“I had to, especially with one of our main guys out,” Bledsoe said. “Somebody had to have a good game.”
At one point in the second quarter, Bledsoe busted out in transition with only Maker in his vicinity. Maker appeared to slow up, before the point guard motioned for him to keep running. Bledsoe dished to Maker, who finished the open dunk, a selfless act that illustrates the team-first nature of the 2018 Bucks.
“[I did it] to get Thon going, get one of my teammates going,” Bledsoe explained. “ I always do that, it makes them feel good about themselves and gives them confidence.”
The Pick and Roll checked with Maker for his perspective on that play.
“I was waiting, I thought he was gonna throw a lob, maybe go off the glass, but I thought I’m gonna keep on running, so then he told me to keep going so I knew he was going to pass it to me,” Maker said.
The mood post-game was a fun one, with Maker quickly ushering myself and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, Matt Valazquez over in an attempt to settle a debate.
Giannis Antetokounmpo then calls me over, showing the pronunciation from an online source. It suggested Thon and I were wrong, I challenged that it was an American website. Twitter debate continues to rage on as we speak.
The fact that those types of interactions are happening in the locker room points to the mood of this squad right now. They are having fun, enjoying each other's company and most importantly, playing winning basketball.
The challenge won't get easier, with the Golden State Warriors coming to town for a Saturday morning showdown. The Bucks comprehensively handled the Warriors in their house earlier in the season, and Maker said the response could be sharp from the two-time defending champs.
"They’re going to be fired up, especially after our last meeting with them," Maker admitted.
"Usually they come ready at our place through recent history, but we have to worry more about ourselves and play like we did tonight. We’ll be healthier, hopefully with Khris back, but I think we just have to continue focusing on us."
The Bucks will be looking to sweep the season series with Golden State for the for time since the 2012-13 season. The later-than-usual 8:30pm local time tip-off on a Friday night is sure to bring a sell-out crowd for an epic early season match-up.
The Milwaukee Bucks host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday morning - Tip-off is at 1:30pm (AEST)