Milwaukee Bucks best single-game performances since 2000
Milwaukee Bucks basketball in the 21st century has certainly been eventful. It started out with a playoff run that saw the team end up just one game short of the NBA Finals in the 2000-01 season. Almost twenty years later, the Bucks are perhaps even more dominant and continue to have championship aspirations behind MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In these nearly two decades, there were a lot of ups and downs. The team of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, and Glenn Robinson among others that almost brought a Finals to Milwaukee was dismantled shortly after that special season, taking a championship-caliber team to a .500 team during the next several years.
Michael Redd would emerge as an All-Star in 2004, and the Bucks would select Andrew Bogut with the number one overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. The two formed a promising duo that led to a couple of playoff appearances, but unfortunately, they would often spend more time on the sidelines injured than they did on the court.
Brandon Jennings would burst on to the scene as a rookie of the year contender in 2009-10, a surprise season where the team finished 46-36 and one win shy of their first playoff series win since that 2001 team. Monta Ellis was brought in to form a dynamic guard duo with Jennings, but it never worked out, and in 2013 the team decided to start a full rebuild.
2013-14 would be the worst season in franchise history for the Bucks, but they finally had a future, selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft, and acquiring Khris Middleton in a trade where they dealt away the face of the franchise in Jennings.
New owners, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, bought the team and committed to keeping basketball in Milwaukee. A new coach in Jason Kidd would make the future even brighter. Pieces like number two overall pick Jabari Parker and prized free agent Greg Monroe were brought in over the next several years to play for Kidd, but the team seemed stuck in the mud and just was not playing up to their potential.
After hiring Mike Budenholzer over the summer of 2018, everything would change. As the team opened a new state of the art arena, Fiserv Forum, they began to play like championship contenders. Under Coach Bud’s “let it fly” system, the team would take off to 60 wins and the league’s best record behind an MVP campaign from Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks continued that success with a record start to the season this year, and the future looks as bright as ever right now in Cream City. A lot of players have come through the city of Milwaukee over the past 20 years, and a lot of outstanding performances have been displayed. Let’s take a look at the top 10 single-game performances by Milwaukee Bucks players since 2000.
10. Ramon Sessions, February 7, 2009 vs. Detroit: 44 points, 12 assists
In just his second year in the league, Sessions became a main fixture on offense for a struggling Bucks team. The guard bounced around as a bench player during his 10 years in the league, but was a bit of a fan favorite in Milwaukee and made a return to the team during the 2013-14 season. In one of his best seasons in the league in 2008-09, Sessions averaged just over 12 points per game, but would explode with this 44 point outburst. It may not be the highest-scoring game in Bucks history, but compared to some of the other names on this list, his performance was the most unexpected.
9. Glenn Robinson, February 25, 2001 vs. Golden State: 45 points
Robinson had a lot of good years for the Bucks in the ‘90s but one of his best campaigns came when the new millennium started. The 2000-01 season was a great one for Milwaukee, and it was in large part due to the play of the Big Dog, who made his second straight All-Star appearance. Averaging 22 points per game, Robinson mixed in several big performances during the course of the year but none bigger than his 45-point game against Golden State, making an impressive 18 field goals in the process.
8. Giannis Antetokounmpo, April 15, 2017 at Toronto: 28 points
It is no secret that Giannis will make a few appearances on this list. While this was not his biggest game stat wise, it was an important game in franchise history and really the start of the era of Bucks basketball we are currently in. The Greek Freak broke out in a big way in the 2016-17 season, making his first ever All-Star appearance, the team’s first since 2004. Giannis finally led his team to the playoffs and in a road game against the Raptors, he was as efficient as ever going 13 of 18 from the field to score 28 points. Although the Bucks did not win the series, a road win in Game 1 was fun to see, and it put Giannis and the Bucks on the national radar.
7. Ersan Ilyasova, February 19, 2012 at New Jersey: 29 points, 25 rebounds
Yes, Ilyasova has been around the block a couple of times in Milwaukee. He first played for the team in 2006, but would not come back until 2009-10 after playing a few years in Spain. From 2009-2015, Turkish Thunder poured in a lot of serviceable games for the Bucks, none more impressive than his 29-point, 25 rebound effort in February of 2012. Remarkably, 13 of those rebounds were on the offensive side of the ball, and the Bucks needed every one of them in a narrow win over the Nets. Ilyasova had maybe his best year of his career in the lockout shortened season, and this was a career game to remember for the big man.
6. Khris Middleton, January 28, 2020 vs. Washington: 51 points, 10 rebounds
Middleton has had a lot of big scoring games that could make this list, but this was by far the best game of his career. We all know the kind of season the Bucks were having, and a large part was in thanks to Middleton, who was living up to the contract the team gave him over the summer. Khash was averaging 21 points per game and was flirting with a 50/40/90 shooting season as well. The 51-point game in January was a career high that saw Middleton make seven threes while shooting 61% from the field.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, May 6, 2019 at Boston: 39 points, 16 rebounds
Giannis’s road performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year may be his most impressive playoff performance to date. Again, it is not his biggest statistical performance, but it is one of the most significant. The Bucks were up 2-1 in the series but the Celtics were giving them everything they could handle. A 2-2 tie could have spelled trouble for the cream and green and would have led to another trip back to Boston. But Giannis, who had historically had trouble against Al Horford, was not going to let that happen, scoring 39 points in 34 minutes to go along with an impressive 16 boards.
4. Ray Allen, June 1, 2001 vs. Philadelphia: 41 points
Not many Bucks basketball games have been played in June, but this one was in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. The George Karl-led Bucks had their backs up against the wall, down 3-2 to Allen Iverson’s 76ers. Ray Allen is better known for his postseason runs with the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, but he helped the Bucks to within one game of the Finals in the second of his three consecutive All-Star seasons in Milwaukee. One of the best pure shooters the league has seen, Allen had the Bradley Center rocking this night, making 9 of 13 three-point attempts, scoring 41 points, and helping the Bucks force a Game 7 in Philly for the right to go to the NBA Finals.
3. Michael Redd, November 11, 2006 vs. Utah: 57 points
Redd is another player who has several big games that could be one on this list. The sharpshooter from Ohio State was the face of the franchise for the team during the 2000s, and was the last All-Star the team would have until 2016. Redd had a lot of big scoring contests and was a rare player that could take over a game by himself. That’s exactly what he did in a crazy game against Utah in 2006, where the Bucks would find themselves down 19 at one point. But Redd willed his team back, eventually tying the game with six seconds left. Even though it came in a loss, the 57 points are the most scored in a single game in Bucks franchise history.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, March 17, 2019 vs. Philadelphia: 52 points, 16 rebounds
This is another incredible performance that came in a Bucks loss, but is arguably one of Giannis’s best games. Going blow for blow with Joel Embiid on a nationally televised Sunday afternoon game, the Greek Freak did all he could to help his team. Not known for his shooting, Giannis tied a season-high with three triples, and also shot an impressive 19 of 21 from the free-throw line. Although Giannis didn’t get enough help to take down a very talented Philly squad, the 52 points coupled with 16 rebounds was one of the most impressive stat lines in the NBA last season.
1. Brandon Jennings, November 14, 2009 vs. Golden State: 55 points
Giannis has a lot of performances that could be placed in this spot. But for Bucks die-hard fans who have watched the team through thick and thin over the last 20 years like myself, there is just something about this Jennings performance that was amazing to watch and will never be forgotten. The Bucks were coming off several losing, non-playoff years and drafted Jennings number 10 overall in the summer of 2009. He came on to the NBA scene ablaze, scoring 32 points in his sixth game. Then, on a Saturday night in Milwaukee against fellow rookie Steph Curry and Golden State in his seventh, Jennings simply went off, making 7 threes en route to 55 points. It was the second most points in a single game in Bucks’ history, and the Bradley Center had a special atmosphere that night. Fans finally had optimism and hope, and Jennings rookie season would lead to a 46-36 campaign, the team’s best finish since 2000-01.
Statistics Courtesy of Basketball Reference