MILWAUKEE – Thon Maker went to church yesterday. It might just have been the catalyst for a season-best performance from the Australian Boomer, as he dropped 15 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 114-102 victory over Joe Ingles and the Utah Jazz.
The Bucks avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time this season on Tuesday morning, an outstanding fourth quarter defensive effort sparking the win, and Maker explained how his experience the day before helped him to believe heading into the game.
“Yesterday, I went to church,” Maker said.
“I saw a sign outside the door that said ‘your legacy starts today’. I felt like God was talking to me, I thought that it might be on the court that my legacy starts today.
"It mightn’t be saying much, but I’m a big believer in Christ.”
The Bucks defence had struggled to handle the Jazz’ swift ball movement through the first three periods, leaking 86 points to head into the fourth, trailing by three. Maker and Giannis Antetokounmpo sparked the comeback, combining for 16 of the Bucks 31 fourth-quarter points.
One play typified the impact Maker had on the fourth quarter. He fought for a loose ball on the ground, snatching it from Jazz guard Raul Neto, before getting to his feet and finishing through contact to bring the Bucks within one. Fiserv Forum exploded on the play, and the Bucks never looked back after that.
“I should have come down with the ball on the initial catch,” Maker admitted, when describing the play post-game.
“After that, just diving on the floor and also coming up with the finish and the foul reminded me of a finish against DeRozan and the Raptors here a few years ago in the playoffs. The crowd got into it, I got so hyped, I had flashbacks of that.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was thrilled with the performance of the third-year big, crediting his game changing impact.
“In some ways, he may have been that guy that kind of flipped the script. His energy and the plays he made [were great]. [His] 3-point play early in the fourth quarter after [Utah] had just made a three on the other end was a huge play,” Budenholzer said.
“I really feel like he was a difference maker tonight.”
Despite having 30 points and 10 rebounds himself, Maker’s performance wasn’t lost on Antetokounmpo, who heaped praise on the 21-year-old post-game.
“We won the game because of him. He brought energy, he played hard, he made shots, he was talking to everybody, it was just amazing just seeing Thon competing hard out there,” Antetokounmpo said.
The 15 points was Maker’s highest point total since New Year's Day last year against Toronto and it was a welcome sight to see the offensive side of his game rewarded.
Over his last 6 appearances, Maker was 1-for-16 from the three-point line.
“Just staying ready, getting more energy for my legs on my shot and just holding my follow through with my guide hand as well and just trusting it,” Maker explained, on finally breaking his shooting slump.
Maker failed to see the floor in the Bucks' previous game loss to Toronto, breaking a stretch of 23 games where he was in the rotation. On the back of tonight’s performance, he would seem certain to wrestle his spot back, and Bucks forward Khris Middleton hopes it’s a sign of things to come.
“Thon, he’s a guy that can get everybody going, he has such positive energy no matter what’s going on with him or the team,” Middleton said.
“To see him have a game like that and really carry us to a win is huge for everybody and I hope he knows what he did tonight for us.”
Maker most certainly does know what he did for the Bucks tonight, but the task won’t get any easier, as they now travel to Houston for a showdown with James Harden and the Rockets on Thursday morning.
The Milwaukee Bucks face the Houston Rockets on Thursday morning – Tip-off is at noon (AEST)
*NOTE: Joe Ingles was largely ineffective for Utah, registering just two points in 32 minutes. Pre-game, Ingles spoke to The Pick and Roll about the struggles Utah have gone through during a brutal road schedule to start the season.
"Not that we would ever use the schedule as an excuse, I don’t think we played to the level that we knew we could or know that we can over the last couple weeks," Ingles said.
"Obviously we want to be in a better position, I think we are 20-20, obviously we’d like to be in a better position, but I guess our record reflects how we’ve played so far and that’s kind of on us. We’ve been playing better, we’re figuring it out."
Utah return home to take on the Orlando Magic on Thursday morning - Tip-off is at 1:00pm (AEST)