Middleton went for 23 points, six rebounds and four assists in another big game against Boston
MILWAUKEE — Back in 2011, before social media was really a thing, an enterprising Toronto Raptors fan uploaded a video of himself to YouTube which would become one of the first viral-ish videos passed around the basketball internet. Filming the final seconds of a Raptors-Memphis Grizzlies matchup, the fan starts melting down when Rudy Gay gets the ball. “No, it’s Rudy Gay! Noooo, not this guy!” he yells, right before Gay drills a game-winning jumper.
The classic video has never been duplicated, for obvious reasons, but if a sequel was ever made, it would surely be a Boston Celtics fan screaming about Khris Middleton. The guy just kills the Celtics, and he was back at it again on Thursday night. Shooting 8-of-13 from the field, and 3-of-5 from 3-point land, Middleton finished with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists to help the Bucks secure a 128-123 victory over the Celtics in a game that was just as thrilling as it was bizarre.
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, and including this game, Middleton has played the Celtics 21 times between the regular season and the playoffs. In those contests, he’s averaging 20.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3. Every single one of those marks, save for assists, would be a career high if he carried the average throughout the season.
“Like I think I said in the past, I wish I could play that well against all the other teams,” Middleton said. “I think I’m starting to get there now. It’s just finding spots, picking and choosing times to be aggressive, when to defer, when to go playmake.”
It’s tough to argue with Middleton’s assessment that he is reaching that level against other opponents on a consistent basis. After making his first All-Star Game last season, he’s once again doing his part so far in this campaign, putting up 19.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3.
Middleton’s not one for crazy scoring nights — his season high is just 31 points — or remarkable highlights, but he cruises along, showing up and doing his job every night. He’s failed to score in double digits just once this season. As a result, he can often get overlooked, especially on a team with the MVP.
“I think that Giannis’ greatness can overshadow a lot of things sometimes,” Kyle Korver said. “And that’s fine, we’re all totally fine with that, but Khris is a great basketball player. He doesn’t have a weakness to his game.”
That was evident again on Thursday, as Middleton shot the ball efficiently both inside and outside, crashed the glass and even operated as the point forward for a key stretch in the third quarter, during which the Bucks went on a 15-3 run to re-take control of the game.
“We were just trying to play a little bit faster, a little bit more random,” Middleton said. “I think that I played a couple of pick-and-roll sets, just to try to get space and get a little bit of movement going. Then we were getting defensive stops too and that helped.”
Middleton’s penchant for catching fire against the Celtics has worked out pretty well considering they’ve met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, and they could very well see each other again this spring. But as he noted, it’s not good enough to just be a bogeyman for one team. In order for the Bucks to reach their ultimate potential, they’ll need Middleton to be a true second star next to Giannis Antetokounmpo no matter the opponent, and no matter the situation.
At this point it’s clear he can do it in the regular season. In a few months time he’ll have a chance to prove he can do it in the playoffs, too.
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