Eric Bledsoe comes up clutch in win over Pistons, shows why Bucks traded for him

MILWAUKEE -- As the final buzzer sounded on the Milwaukee Bucks' fourth consecutive victory, a 99-95 triumph over the visiting Detroit Pistons, a jubilant Eric Bledsoe tossed the ball skyward.

Only a few minutes earlier, Bledsoe had drilled a clutch jumper to put the Bucks up 95-93 with 42.5 seconds remaining.

"That's why we want him here," Khris Middleton said after the win, doing a solid job sneaking around Paul Pierce's trademark, "that's why they brought me here."

For the game, Bledsoe finished with 14 points, a season-high eight assists, six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Despite a poor shooting performance (4 for 12 from the field), Bledsoe had a huge impact, especially in the closing minutes.

After leading by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Bucks nearly gave the game away. Thanks to a boost off the bench from Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard, the Pistons came storming back in the final frame, drawing even on multiple occasions.

With less than three minutes remaining, it was only a three-point game. That is when Bledsoe stepped up. First it was a big 3-pointer from the top of the key, then it was the tie-breaking jumper with less than a minute to go, and finally it was two clutch free throws with 16 seconds left. Over the final 2:44, he scored seven of his 14 points, pushing the stumbling Bucks past the finish line.

As Middleton said, this is exactly why the Bucks wanted Bledsoe, and why analysts praised them for swinging the trade. With Bledsoe in the mix, alongside Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, it makes the Bucks so much more difficult to guard, especially in the closing minutes.

Just take the final clutch jumper by Bledsoe for example.

The Bucks set up for a high pick-and-roll with Bledsoe and Giannis. Middleton and Tony Snell space out to the corners to provide shooting, and Henson hangs out in the dunkers position along the baseline.

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The Bucks set up for the high pick-and-roll with Giannis and Bledsoe.

As Bledsoe drives hard to the right, the Pistons' two defenders both fall back to protect against Giannis' strong dive to the rim because they're so worried about him. Bledsoe reads the defense perfectly, stays under control, and just rises up for the wide-open mid-range jumper. And with good spacing and shooting in the corners, no one can leave to help on Bledsoe.

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Giannis draws the defense, and Bledsoe hits the open jumper.

"I thought [Eric Bledsoe] read the play perfectly and I told him that after the game," Bucks head coach Jason Kidd told reporters following the win. "This is what we have to help the younger players with. It just shows his maturity, his IQ, and playing for the moment. That was a big shot to help us win."

With Bledsoe in the mix, the Bucks now have three dynamite options to go to when they need a clutch bucket, which is a nightmare for opponents. It has also helped them get their season back on track. Since Bledsoe arrived, the Bucks are 4-0, and have moved to a tie for fifth in the East at 8-6. 

"Having a guy like Eric, that you know is gonna make the right play is just a bonus," Giannis said in the Bucks locker room after the game. "I think he's doing a great job making the right play down the stretch, and tonight he gave us the win hitting the big shot. You know he's going to keep doing it. We're going to keep trusting him because he's really good at it."

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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