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Milwaukee Bucks

Three takeaways from the Milwaukee Bucks' impressive win over the Houston Rockets

#Giannis
(NBA Getty Images)

It was a matchup of MVP candidates as Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden locked horns in Milwaukee, but it was Eric Bledsoe who stole the show to lead the Bucks to a 108-94 win over the Houston Rockets.

Bledsoe finished with 23 points and seven assists, taking over in the third quarter as the Bucks picked up their 55th win of the season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, adding 14 rebounds and four assists, while fellow MVP candidate Harden recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on the night.

Here's three takeaways from the matchup...

The Eric Bledsoe show

After a back-and-forth first half, the Bucks held a 58-53 lead, but they found an extra gear thanks to Eric Bledsoe, who took over early in the third quarter to blow the game open.

Bledsoe went on a personal 11-0 run, sparking his squad with his contagious defence as the Bucks suffocated the Rockets, forcing turnovers, blocking shots and getting out in transition to stretch the lead to 13 points.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

When the playoffs come around, teams will be game-planning to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo quiet and the Rockets did just that in the third quarter as the Greek Freak went scoreless, but none of that mattered as Bledsoe took the reigns.

During Bledsoe's four-minute stretch, the Bucks held the Rockets to 0-of-9 shooting.

Run Bucks run

It all starts on the defensive end for the Bucks and tonight, they looked close to their best, hawking the ball handlers, rushing shooters off the 3-point line and winning 50-50 balls to kick-start their transition game.

The Bucks were simply devastating on the break, scoring 28 fastbreak points to Houston's 2.

It helps when you have a guy like Giannis who can finish plays like this:

The Bucks out-rebounded the Rockets 60-46, getting unlikely contributions on the glass from Sterling Brown (11 boards), Pat Connaughton (7) and D.J. Wilson (6)

Slowing down Harden

Although Harden still finished with a solid line, his 23 points came on 26 shots as the Bucks threw a combination of Bledsoe, George Hill and Sterling Brown at the league's leading scorer, holding him to just 1-of-9 shooting from three.

The Bucks were determined to not let Harden kill them from deep, consistently forcing him to the right and into the path of Brook Lopez, eliminating the threat from beyond the arc, while keeping him off the foul line.

And it worked.

Harden shot just five free throws for the game, having to rely on his floater and midrange game.

It didn't help that the Rockets role players couldn't capitalise when the ball was kicked out of the paint, with P.J. Tucker (1-of-8 from three) and Eric Gordon (0-of-5) failing to fire.

The Rockets connected on just 16-of-52 from the 3-point line for the game.

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