Rockets 114, Bucks 127 - Bucks hot shooting bests Rockets

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The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a five-game winning streak on Monday, outscoring the Rockets 127-114 after shooting the lights out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Houston's defensive effort was not what it needed to be as Milwaukee shot 59% for the game and scored 58 points in the paint.

The young Bucks set a frantic pace in the first quarter of this game, and that’s largely due to both teams being careless with the ball. Milwaukee committed seven turnovers in the opening period and forced six out of the Rockets (four from James Harden). Jabari Parker took over the offensive load for Milwaukee, scoring 11 points on 56% shooting.

Despite the Rockets being close to 100% healthy after the injury to Clint Capela and the illness to Ryan Anderson, the Rockets, who have struggled defensively as of late, gave up 20 points in the paint and allowed the Bucks to shoot 61% as a team. Houston withstood a 9-1 run from the Bucks and closed the quarter out with a couple of dazzling plays from Harden to tie the game at 33 after one.

Milwaukee opened the second quarter on a 14-0 run, after forcing another four more turnovers. First-time NBA All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo (spelled that right on the first try, thank you very much) scored eight points in that short run, and finished the half with 17 points on 66.67% shooting. Jabari Parker hit all three of his field goals in the second, bringing his scoring total to 20. The Bucks shot an astounding 78% in the second period and 68% for the half, giving them a lead that got as high as 15.

Harden, on the other hand, turned on his offensive jets to score 14 points in the period. By halftime, he had posted 19 points, hitting all five of his attempts from the field, and seven assists. Anderson was the only other Rocket with double-digit scoring by the end of the first half, scoring 13 (he finished the game with 16). Houston did a much better job of holding onto the ball and executing their offense (they shot 52.6% in the quarter, despite the bad start), and they managed to cut the lead to just four by halftime (68-64).

Patrick Beverley, the heart and soul of the Rockets, was really feeling it on both ends of the floor to start the third quarter as he scored eight points in less than four minutes to cut the deficit to one point (77-76). In that stretch, he even picked up the much taller and longer Antetokounmpo defensively on a few occasions – on one particular play, he picked up Giannis at half court in transition and forced a turnover.

The Rockets took the lead on a Clint Capela alley-oop, but it was short-lived as the Bucks took a small lead into the fourth quarter (the score was 93-91). A ‘Slam Dekker’ from Wisconsin’s favorite Rocket tied the game again early in the fourth, and Beverley, who assisted on the Dekker jam, finished a tough layup – drawing a foul from Greg Monroe in the process (he missed the free throw). With Harden on the bench, both teams traded baskets for a little while, but the Bucks went on an 11-0 run after a barrage of Houston turnovers.

The Bucks never looked back and closed the game out as the Rockets went ice cold in the final moments. Antetokounmpo and Parker combined for 59 points, and Greg Monroe and Matthew Dellavedova chipped in 17 and 16 points, respectively. For the Rockets, this game was purely about turnovers (21) and allowing the Bucks to score 127 points on nearly 60% shooting, including 58 points in the paint.

Houston actually shot the ball well (50.6% from the field, 40% from three) and outscored the Bucks on points coming off of turnovers (34-23), but it wasn’t enough, given the defensive effort. Five Rockets scored in double figures and Harden fell just one rebound shy of a triple-double (26 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds).

The Rockets have now dropped five of the last eight games, and look to back on the winning track on Wednesday in Boston.

Game Ball

 This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Monday’s game ball goes to Patrick Beverley.

Beverley took a page from Harden’s book and had himself an insanely efficient game, scoring 18 points on 70% shooting (4/7 from beyond the arc). Now, Beverley was a team-low -25 in terms of plus/minus (yes, even worse than Corey Brewer), but that’s not indicative of just how impactful he was in the game. Without his continued hot shooting (he’s shooting just a hair under 40% from the three-point line this season) this game would have been over much earlier than it was.

Time and time again, Beverley’s hustle elevates this team in the right moments or, in the case of Monday’s game, at least gives the Rockets a puncher’s chance.

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