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Lillard, McCollum Can’t Push Blazers over Bucks

Portland’s guards scored big, but the Blazers didn’t have enough big men to compete.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight reigning MVP Giannis Antentokoumpo put up an effortless 32 points and 17 rebounds while the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 122-101 victory over the Hassan Whiteside-less Portland Trail Blazers. The size discrepancy between the teams was almost as big as the point differential, with the Blazers doing everything they could to fend off a much bigger and more talented Milwaukee squad but still coming up short.

Damian Lillard had 22 of his 26 points come in the first half, CJ McCollum put up 20 while Carmelo Anthony had 19 and 11 rebounds. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe also put up 30 and 29 respectively, most of those points coming in the second half.

First Quarter

The first six minutes of the game went positively for the Blazers overall. Despite the fact that committing five quick fouls to put the Bucks in the penalty within the first five minutes, they did everything they could to not give Milwaukee easy shots. (Every shot is easy for Giannis). Portland knew they couldn’t bang down low so they stuck to the perimeter, which worked well enough to give them a 14-11 lead before Milwaukee called a timeout with 7:06 remaining. Then the Bucks scored 11 unanswered points and started hitting threes of their own. Lillard was more aggressive in the first than usual, scoring 12 points, but Giannis put in an effortless 13 while Khris Middleton put in another 10 to give Milwaukee the first quarter 32-24.

Second Quarter

There is absolutely nothing fair about Giannis Antentokoumpo. Nothing. And the second quarter showed this. He was bigger, faster and stronger than every single Blazers player tonight, which wasn’t a surprise, but was greatly exaggerated by Portland’s minuscule lineup. Every possession that ended with Antentokoumpo not shooting the ball from five feet away was a good one. Nothing would stop him from grabbing a double-double in the first half with 21 points and 13 boards. Lillard and McCollum both had solid second quarters to keep the Blazers in it, finishing on their usual mixture of acrobatic finishes and deep threes for 22 and 11 respectively. Unfortunately, when the other team fields players like Donte DiVincenzo hitting pull-up threes as well, it is hard to take the lead. Portland trailed 64-55 at half.

Third Quarter

The Bucks continued to exploit the Blazers in the third. Portland was actually able to generate open looks from distance, but they just weren’t falling. The Blazers went 1-of-10 from three in the period, most obviously on wide open on pick and pop opportunities between Lillard and Anthony Tolliver. The looks were there; they just weren’t falling. Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton led the scoring in the third for Milwaukee, taking advantage of a tired Portland squad. This Bucks team is simply better, and the Blazers finally ran out of steam. Milwaukee went into the fourth up 97-80.

Fourth Quarter

It felt like every good play that happened in the fourth for the Blazers just led to another great play for the Bucks. Steals and Melo threes would be followed by a Bledsoe and-one. Jaylen Hoard made a nice move around Brook Lopez for the layup only for Middleton to make the three with Kent Bazemore’s hand right in his face. The Bucks extended their lead, leading to the starters calling it a night in the face of another loss.

A Slight Size Discrepancy

The size difference was an unavoidable problem for the Blazers in this one. Portland did everything it could to mitigate the issue, but there was only so much they could do. Tolliver worked hard while getting posted up by Giannis possession after possession. That alone tells the tale. The fact the rebounding discrepancy was only 48 to 41 was genuinely surprising. As maddeningly inconsistent as Whiteside can be sometimes, this game was a good example of how important he is to this iteration of the Blazers.

Or maybe this suggestion from site guru Timmay would have helped?

Jaylen Hoard

We got to see extended playing time from two-way player Jaylen Hoard on Saturday for the first time outside of garbage time and Summer League. Honestly, he looked pretty. He played with desperately-needed energy. He had notable plays, including a putback dunk attempt in the second quarter that led to free throws and a steal on Giannis that led to an and-one. Hoard finished with six points, five boards and a steal. Not too shabby, though he won’t see the same playing time when Whiteside returns. Hoard did get more time than Nassir Little, so maybe we’ll see him slightly more in the games to come.

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The Blazers are back in action on Monday when they face off against the Charlotte Hornets. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. PT.

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