Bogut and Alexander got the job done in Guangzhou
Let's be honest: up until Wednesday, there had been precious few reasons to feel good about the Milwaukee Bucks' preseason. Four games, four losses, and an average margin of victory defeat of 22.5 pts/game. Yikes. Half the squad seemed to be dealing with various nagging injuries and those who were playing didn't seem particularly ready for real, live basketball.
Yet as much as much as the Bucks' trip to China could be viewed as inconvenient, distracting, and tiring, maybe it's just what they needed. Despite their hectic schedule, the Bucks finally looked a bit more like a real team on Wednesday as they downed the slightly disinterested Warriors 98-94 in Guangzhou. With the Warriors playing their youngsters for much of the second half, the Bucks didn't have much of an excuse not to win, but hey, it's something to build on.
Andrew Bogut woke up from a sleepy start to the preseason by man-handling the smaller, Biedrins-less W's down low, finishing with 18 points (8/14 fg, 2/5 ft) and 12 boards while Luke Ridnour effectively controlled the tempo in handing out 12 dimes along with 16 points. He also made just 4/11 shots, missed an uncharacteristic four free throws, and turned it over four times, but generally seemed to be doing good things.
The other story? Playing in his kinda-homeland, Joe Alexander finally looked like an NBA player, shrugging off his 0/7 start to the preseason to score 11 points on 5/8 fg and spark the Bucks' fourth quarter comeback. Alexander looked nervous early, especially when he was caught shading Corey Maggette to the middle only to watch the W's new $50 million man blow by him baseline for the hoop and harm. Alexander finally settled in during the second half, getting a goal-tending call for his first NBA bucket and then knocking down a jumper.
Getting in a rhythm, he then impressively drained consecutive turnaround jumpers on the left baseline, one of them coming over the impossibly long Brandan Wright, and capped his night with a 20-footer with 90 seconds left. That's what so curious about Alexander--on the one hand he's capable making one of the toughest and unstoppable shots in the game, yet his defensive positioning and sense of spacing on offense frequently look out-of-sorts, reminding you why he's frequently tagged as raw. Skiles had a pretty classic quote on that topic post-game:
"He was able to get a couple good looks and knock them down," Skiles said. "He still doesn't know what we're trying to do yet.
"But I thought he turned down a couple other shots he could have taken."
Even with Alexander's crowd-pleasing turn, fellow rook Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was equally notable, starting and playing 40 minutes. He even made half his shots en route to 12 points and eight boards, guarding pretty much everyone at various stages. He's not a great defender by any stretch of the imagination right now, but he seems serviceable against pretty much anyone.
Less productive was Richard Jefferson, who came out on the short end of his brief matchup with Maggette and didn't have much to show for his team-high 43 minutes: 3/12 fg, 13 pts, five rebounds and four turnovers. I'm not sure Jefferson's lack of performance in the preseason thus far should be of much concern; most vets more or less coast through October (though perhaps still arguing a bit). Still, it seems like we'll have to wait for opening night before we see Redd, who was rested on Wednesday, and Jefferson going full throttle.
On the point guard front, Ridnour's 36 minutes left only 12 for Tyronn Lue and Ramon Sessions split, so the backup point guard position was no clearer at the end of the night. Sessions not surprisingly looked the livelier of the two, scoring five along with three boards and two helpers in seven minutes, while Lue was mainly just looking for his own shot during (1/4 fg) his brief five minute spell.