Brook Lopez showed why he’s so valuable to the Bucks during Sunday’s victory over Toronto, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The veteran center finished with a strong stat line — a team-high 26 points (on 9-of-15 shooting), five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 31 minutes.
What those numbers don’t show is that he completely dominated the fourth quarter. With Giannis Antetokounmpo facing consistent double-teams, Lopez made timely cuts, drives and finishes around the hoop, finishing with more points (17) than the Raptors (16) in the final frame, Nehm writes.
As Nehm details, Lopez’s offensive arsenal has continually evolved since he joined Milwaukee five years ago. He’s averaging 15.6 points (highest total in six years), while shooting 52.1% from the field (highest FG% in nine years) and a career-best 37.7% from three-point range.
Lopez, who is making $13.9MM in the final year of his contract, is also a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, posting a career high 2.5 blocks per game for the NBA’s top team.
Here’s more on the Bucks:
- At 52-20, the Bucks hold a 2.5-game lead on the Celtics for the best record in the NBA. Are they gunning for the No. 1 overall seed entering the playoffs? “I think we want it,” guard Grayson Allen said, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think we want the one seed. Even like after All-Star break it’s been super close between really the top three teams in the East, so, it’s not something we obsess about – we’re not checking it every day, every game – but I think we’re definitely aware of it. I know as a group, I know we want the one seed.” According to Owczarski, Antetokounmpo said that if he had to pick between the Bucks being healthy or the top seed, he would choose health, but since it’s within reach, they “should take the spot” to get home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
- Reserve forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo was away from the team for five days, including a couple games, while dealing with a personal matter, but he has rejoined the Bucks, Owczarski writes in another story. Guard Goran Dragic has yet to make his Bucks debut due to knee soreness, and forward Jae Crowder has missed the past three games with left calf soreness. When asked if they could return on the upcoming three-game road trip, head coach Mike Budenholzer said it was still up in the air. “I think it’s right on the window of possibility,” Budenholzer said. “There’s a chance they’re not available, but there is a chance that they are. They’re working, both of them hard, making good progress. We’ll just see how it goes during that stretch.”
- Budenholzer said it was tough to part with Sandro Mamukelashvili at the beginning of the month, but the team believed it was the “right thing” for the big man’s career, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He is a good player,” Budenholzer said before Thursday’s matchup with the Spurs. “I hope he is terrible tonight, but generally he is great. And we are great fans of the human. He is a great person.” The Spurs claimed the second-year forward/center off waivers after he was released by Milwaukee and converted his two-way contract to a standard rest-of-season deal.
- Forward Joe Ingles recently shared some thoughts on how he’s approaching his return to Utah to face the Jazz on Friday night, his longtime former club, notes Gabe Stoltz of BrewHoop (via Twitter).