The Milwaukee Bucks are the only team in the NBA ranking in the top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That in and of itself is a nod to just how well-rounded of a team they are.
But if you’re staunchly against efficiency stats like those, look no further than the Bucks’ 116-109 win over the red-hot Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. Yes, the Rockets were missing both Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, and this story may also dually serve as an ode to Houston needing CP3 back from a hamstring injury.
But the same Rockets who won seven of their last eight trailed by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee. When they made a late surge, Harden came up short.
The Bucks were the better team on Wednesday night, showing just how deep and versatile they are on both ends of the floor. If they play this way all season, they may very well find themselves competing for a championship.
The Bucks defended Harden beautifully
Yes, he scored 42 points in 41 minutes. It was his sixth 40-point game in his last eight outings and 14th straight game with at least 30 points. Harden is unguardable and can get his shot in his sleep. This much we know.
But if Harden scored 42 points in his sleep, Milwaukee made it a living nightmare. He shot 13-of-30 (43 percent) from the field, 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) from three, and turned the ball over nine times. The league’s reigning MVP slapped his hands in frustration and yelled “Damn!” as he walked off the court after his loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night. That’s because, unlike most teams he’s been able to dance and prance around this season, the Bucks weren’t having it.
Milwaukee has one of the most versatile rosters in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, George Hill, Tony Snell, and Sterling Brown can each defend most guards and wings. Not to mention Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s front-runner for the MVP this season who can guard any position, one through five.
Milwaukee’s game plan looked simple enough: they forced Harden away from his dominant left hand, taking away easy drive and kicks. The player who veered from the plan, Hill, got torched by Harden for 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field in the first half alone.
But those shooting numbers aren’t the end all be all. Often times, Harden ended up passing out off the drive against Milwaukee. The Bucks let the Rockets live and die by their other shooters. Players other than Harden who played substantial minutes on Wednesday shot 9-of-28 from three.