OKLAHOMA CITY – The Milwaukee Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday but they put together another strong team defensive effort and were led offensively by Jevon Carter, Brook Lopez and rookie MarJon Beauchamp in Oklahoma City in beating the Thunder, 136-132, in double overtime at the Paycom Center Wednesday night.
“It’s a character win,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Guys were doing whatever it took at both ends of the court. A lot of guys individually stood out but collectively the effort was really good. Just finding a way to win a tough game on the road. Proud of the guys.”
Here are some takeaways from the game in Oklahoma:
Jevon Carter has career night for Bucks
Just before the start of the regular season, Jevon Carter said confidently that he was a much different player than he was walking off the court at TD Garden in Boston when the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs. He spent the offseason working on his ball handling and game-specific movements and knew he could work more effectively in the offense when needed.
He’s been starting all season alongside Jrue Holiday, and he has maintained his defensive intensity. But even though Carter had been playing just over 24 minutes a game – about 7 more than at any point in his career – he was still picking and choosing his spots to let it fly (5.3 points on 5.4 field goal attempts per game).
But did he know more of those spots would open up heading into this game after Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo were ruled out?
“Nah. I know it probably sound kinda crazy but I wake up feeling like that every day,” he said. “It’s just opportunities are different day-by-day. Tonight, the opportunity was there and I was able to capitalize.”
Even though he once again was tasked with defending Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Carter came out aggressively. He hit his first 2 three-pointers of the game and ended the first half with a season-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting (including 4-for-6 from distance). He finished with a double-double by adding a career-high 12 assists to his career-high 36 points (on 15 of 27 shooting and 5 of 7 from behind the three-point line).
“Just knowing how they play,” Carter said of the opportunity that presented itself. “They are a big pack-the-paint kind of team. Any driving lanes they’ve got guys ready to come help, so, it’s either shot or pass. Just keep it simple.”
Carter started alongside Grayson Allen, but in crunch time the Bucks went with combinations of Carter, Allen, George Hill and Wesley Matthews with either Brook Lopez and/or Bobby Portis in the front court. Hill played 36 minutes, the most of all the Bucks bench players.
“Jevon had a hell of a game today — he’s being Jevon,” said Bucks guard George Hill. “He’s put that work in all summer and been shooting the ball really well. We both have that competitive mentality to just try to do the best we can to win and tonight was his night and tonight was my night to facilitate and get guys involved. I just think it was a great team effort.”
Antetokounmpo, Holiday out as Bucks injuries pile up
The Bucks have played top-level defense in the early part of this season, anchored by Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo inside and buttressed by a physical perimeter defense that has fought through screens and closed out on the three-point shot. With that, they did go 9-0 without all-star Khris Middleton and key reserve Pat Connaughton. But, Holiday twisted his right ankle in Atlanta on Monday night and Antetokounmpo needed another night to combat his left knee soreness Wednesday, so the team was without two more starters against Oklahoma City.
The pair went through shootaround Wednesday morning before being ruled out.
Budenholzer addressed the pair before the game:
On Holiday: “I think we’re hopeful that it’s not too serious, but he tweaked his ankle pretty good the other night in Atlanta and playing tonight is really not on the table. He’s done a lot already, too. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t the same case in San Antonio on Friday. Then, fortunately, we’ve got a couple days without a game. We’ll see how these next three, four, five days go. I think big picture we’re hopeful that it’s not too serious or too significant.”
BOX SCORE: Bucks 136, Thunder 132 (2OT)
On Antetokounmpo: “His knee, there’s just a constant work and effort that we put in to keeping him at his best. It’s just a situation where for tonight he’s not gonna go. While he’s not playing he’s working on his knee, rehabbing, trying to do things to get it stronger. Again, just get it to where he can be his best.”
Holiday missed 19 games throughout last year with a left ankle injury and Antetokounmpo has managed pain in that knee since his severe injury in the 2020-21 Eastern Conference finals.
Budenholzer said before the game it would be an opportunity for the rest of the roster to shine in different roles, and a prideful group of veterans and a rookie leaned hard into them to fight into two overtimes.
“It was everybody if you think about it,” said Wesley Matthews, who played 29 minutes off the bench and had five points and four rebounds. “MarJon stepped up, had a hell of game. ‘JC’ from start to finish was phenomenal. Brook reminding everybody that Brook is who he is. And then George making big plays. Bobby being himself.
“Everybody that stepped on that court knew what the job was, knew what the mission was and credit to (Oklahoma City). It’s a hell of a team. They’ve got a lot of great players and they play with a lot of energy, but, you know, we came here to get a win and we were able to do that.”
Rookie MarJon Beauchamp starts, has huge game for Bucks
Rookie MarJon Beauchamp and Bobby Portis started for the Bucks alongside Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen and Brook Lopez for a more “traditional” lineup featuring two guards and Beauchamp as a small forward. Beauchamp got his first start of the year on Nov. 5 – also against Oklahoma City – and the rookie told the Journal Sentinel the confidence from the coaching staff to put him in that position at this juncture has only helped his confidence.
He then added the defense-above-all mindset of the veterans has helped him stay focused even as his offensive game has ebbed and flowed. Beauchamp was held scoreless in the first half and was hit with three fouls, but he asserted himself in the third quarter with 10 points on 2 of 7 shooting. He continued that into the fourth, opening with his third, three-pointer of the game. He finished with a career-high 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 5-for-8 from behind the three-point line.
“Really, just take some deep breaths, and really just try to remind myself I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Beauchamp said of slowing the game down. “There’s no pressure. I try to take pressure off myself a lot today and yeah, it translated to the game. I feel like I came in ready in the second half. I had a tough first half. Missed my first three, but I kept reminding myself keep going, keep shooting that ball.”
He was called for his fifth foul with more than of the fourth quarter left to play, but Budenholzer left him in. He responded by making another three and playing smartly enough to be available in overtime, though he didn’t play in the first extra session. Beauchamp started the second overtime and had a huge offensive rebound with 40.4 seconds left to allow the Bucks to run some more time off the clock.
“We really needed that — we needed somebody else to kind of step up and help us and put the ball in the basket,” Budenholzer said of Beauchamp’s second half effort. “It was impressive. His catch-and-shoot from the corner, he’s working on it, and I’ve just been impressed with the confidence and the willingness to do it. Even if he’s had a miss.
“He makes good reads and good decisions and this athleticism on the board; he played most of the second overtime and tracked down a big offensive rebound with 40 seconds to go. He finds a way to impact the game in a positive way. We needed that tonight.”
Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis come up big late
Portis pulled down 21 rebounds in his first start of the season and Brook Lopez scored a season-high 25 points the last time Antetokounmpo missed a game — which was also against Oklahoma City. But on Wednesday, the Thunder were more mindful of him and fellow big man Brook Lopez
Though relatively undersized compared to the 7-foot Lopez and 6-10 Portis, Oklahoma City was more active in keeping the Bucks’ bigs from affecting the game inside through three quarters (13 combined points, 13 combined rebounds). But, Lopez asserted himself in the fourth quarter, as he scored 13 of his 24 points in the frame.
“Absolutely (intentional),” Lopez said of the late game offensive surge. “And those are definitely some of ‘Bud’s’ calls as well. You know, we do a great job of just playing together, playing naturally five-out, everything like that with the dunker obviously. You don’t want to force it too much and get the team out of their rhythm.”
Portis had just nine points 2 of 8 shooting through regulation and the first 4: 52 of overtime, but he was in position to rebound when Lopez made a move to the rim to put the Bucks up – and when the ball was knocked away it went right to Portis, who laid it in for a 125-123 lead with 8.1 seconds left.
After a tremendous step-back three-pointer by Gilgeous-Alexander with sixth-tenths of a second left gave the Thunder a lead, the Bucks looked to Lopez to win the game. George Hill threw an inbound lob, which Lopez did handle well enough to get a shot off as Lu Dort fouled him. Lopez then made 1 of 2 free throws with two-tenths of a second left to send the game to a second overtime.
“That’s something we work on at the end of practice a lot. At the end of practice we usually do end of game plays and it’s one we draw up a lot, just work on, get the footwork and George threw a pretty perfect pass,” Lopez said. “It was a great play.
“George made a great pass and I was just trying to put myself in a position where I could go get it and put it in the basket as quick as possible. They guarded it the way they did and it ended up being a foul. I’m not going to argue that. I’m disappointed I missed the first one, but we got the free throw we needed.”
Portis and Lopez then had big baskets in the second overtime to power the Bucks to a win.
“Defensively they were doing a lot of things — the pressure up the court, the pressure on our passers, three-quartering, fronting, just trying to limit their catches,” Budenholzer said of the Thunder’s efforts on Portis and Lopez. “That’s where, again, for George, having a second point guard out there — I thought George got the ball to Brook in some good spots and same for Bobby.
“We went through Bobby kind of late. They played a little bit of a smaller group, really the whole game, and Bobby had some really big baskets late. Our bigs are special and the bigs are one of the strengths of our roster and Brook and Bobby came through for us.”
1-6: Bucks record when the entire Big Three sit out (including the regular-season finale last year when Jrue Holiday checked in for only the opening tip to earn a contract bonus).
3: Hours of basketball played by both teams.
6-for-6: Grayson Allen’s line from the free throw line, including 4-for-4 in the second overtime to seal the game for the Bucks.
“They felt good to make, for sure, and it was cool that ‘Bud’ was kind of drawing up our inbounds play for me to run and get the ball. So, he trusted me to have the ball in my hands, make the decision with them trying to trap and ultimately being the guy knocking down the free throws.”
10/11: Bucks players available who saw court time.
“We deep,” Carter said matter-of-factly. “This team, we’re one through 17, counting the 2 two-way guys. This team is pretty deep.”
12: Points for George Hill, tying a season-high.
46: Minutes for Brook Lopez, the most he’s played in a regular-season game since the 2010-11 season.
“I can’t believe that honestly,” he said with a laugh. “That’s wild.”
Play of the game was Brook Lopez’s rebounds in second OT
Heading into the game, Oklahoma City head coach Mark Daigneault credited the fact that his team, despite not scoring a ton coming into the game, was No. 1 in the NBA in field goal attempts to their ability to force turnovers and offensive rebound. They did that against the Bucks, too, forcing 17 Milwaukee turnovers and pulling down 16 offensive boards.
But, the biggest play of the night came on a Milwaukee offensive board, as Brook Lopez went up over fellow 7-footer Aleksej Pokuševski following a missed Portis jumper with 2: 10 left in the second overtime. Lopez then went back up strong for a bucket, making it 130-128 Milwaukee. Lopez then cleared away the Thunder on the other end and corralled a missed Gilgeous-Alexander shot, which then set up a Portis basket. Those two rebounds and follow-up baskets proved to be the difference for the Bucks.
Highlight of the game is MarJon Beauchamp finding his shot
This may not seem like much – but Bucks rookie MarJon Beauchamp confidently, and slowly, hitting this three in the second half means more to his growth than just the “in the moment” bucket for a team that needed the offense. He has said slowing down in game has been important, and at times it’s clear when he rushes his shot. But Beauchamp opened with eight quick points in the second half, including 2 three-pointers, which only means good things for him and the Bucks going forward. On a veteran team with championship expectations, true development opportunities are few and far between and Beauchamp appears to me making the most of the ones he’s gotten early in the season.
Who do the Bucks play next?
The Milwaukee Bucks play the Spurs on Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. It is the last of a three-game road trip for the Bucks, and the Spurs were one of the early surprises in the NBA with a 5-2 start but have since hit a rough patch. They are another rebuilding team, but have some scorers in 6-foot, 5-inch wings Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Career night for Jevon Carter as Bucks ride out Thunder in double OT