Timberwolves 98, Bucks 89: Mistakes doom Bucks, but more to be excited about

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks dropped their second straight preseason game, but there were more encouraging signs from players like Nate Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks dropped to 0-2 in the preseason thanks to another foul-filled performance on the road. Milwaukee shot the ball much better (47.4% shooting, 6-13 3P%) but was undone by 23 turnovers. They were also outscored 23-11 at the free-throw line. John Henson led all scorers with 16 points while Caron Butler added 13. The Timberwolves won despite shooting under 40% from the field and were led by 13 points from camp invite Othyus Jeffers.

Let's get right to the player notes!

Nate Wolters: The hometown kid played a solid game in front of an arena packed with his fans, looking every bit like a future bench contributor at the point. Wolters sank a bucket through contact in transition and appeared to injure his left wrist/hand on the fall. It didn't linger, however, and Wolters finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 20 minutes. It's still unclear how big his role will be once the regular season tips off.

Caron Butler: Played a really good first half when he didn't miss a shot and had an impressive blocked shot from behind. Butler showed off far more versatility (and looked better doing it) than he did on Tuesday night, easing some fears that the end of his career would rapidly accelerate into the present the instant he joined the Bucks. Butler's still got some quickness with the ball, but he's not going to break down good defenders very often. Still a very capable contributor provided he isn't asked to do too much.

John Henson: Henson's interior scoring was in high gear Thursday night, as he handled the imposing Minnesota front line with a variety of looks. When he doesn't immediately turn the ball over upon starting his dribble, Henson can shake defenders with surprising quickness and that trademark high release that's essentially unblockable. His movements are still a little too "flail-y" at times, giving defenders a chance to strip the ball or extra time to get in position to contest his shot. He didn't record a blocked shot but held up pretty well defensively--Minnesota's frontcourt didn't do much damage on offense. Henson also flashed some passing ability and insight, hitting Sanders for a layup on a slick ball swing and narrowly missing a few other plays that were mishandled by their recipients. He did a great job of running the floor in transition and was rewarded with a few lob dunks. Did get caught in between steps on a breakaway layup at one point.

Larry Sanders: Foul trouble flared up again. Three fouls in the first quarter sent Sanders to the bench early and he finished with just 15 minutes. He rebounded well and had some great shot challenges in those 15 minutes though. Sanders' interior touch still isn't there but he's more deliberate in the post and seems to be working on a running hook in the lane. He got past Nikola Pekovic with ease at one point, getting a shot up on the rim which Henson slammed home. We haven't seen a ton of work in the pick and roll for Sanders yet, which is probably more about his ball handlers than him. Sanders rolls did a lot to open up shooters (particularly Ilyasova) for Milwaukee last season, so I hope we see more work in those sets as preseason rolls on.

Miroslav Raduljica: Still very large, still a bit of a foul machine. Raduljica spends a good chunk of his time with the ball looking for ways to get rid of it, which might be better than actually shooting--he finished 0-6 and had his shot blocked multiple times, which is saying something considering his size. Raduljica might have good instincts and fairly quick hands, but he's just a step too slow with everything else and it limits how effective he can be. Defenders just have too much time to adjust to his movements, and offensive players can almost ignore him as a help defender.

Gary Neal: Played, supposedly. I would assume so because he recorded 2 assists.

O.J. Mayo: 3-8 on field goals but also grabbed 6 rebounds and 4 assists. After Tuesday's game I said Mayo wasn't likely to make much positive impact if he wasn't scoring. Thursday's game showed me I might be wrong. Mayo dished two nice lobs in transition and was active on the boards. He "created" quite a few shots as well, even if a few were contested jumpers for himself.

Khris Middleton: Caught fire, relatively speaking, in the 4th quarter when given the opportunity. He scored or assisted on 10 straight points across the third and fourth quarters. Also had two steals. Not sure what it all means.

Stephen Graham: Not the "scoring machine" he was against Cleveland but did sink 3-4 shots.

Brandon Knight: Shot the ball better than Tuesday night but dished only one assist on a long two by Middleton. Knight has seemed a bit disjointed through two preseason games, but he's been pretty solid on defense, playing a much more straight-up style than Brandon Jennings did. Foul trouble contributed to short minutes (12) for Knight, but it should be noted for essentially every player that the officials were calling a TON of fouls Thursday night. Really disrupted the game's flow.

Olek Czyz: First: for all the attention Antetokounmpo's name gets, I still have no idea how to say Czyz's last name. He threw down a nice dunk on a fast break, didn't do much else.

Luke Ridnour: Keyed the offense pretty well but his own shot was errant (1-5 FG). The fact that he was playing a team he was part of just a few weeks ago got totally overlooked. I mean, it was TOTALLY a big deal even if the game didn't take place in the state where either of these teams play.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Like the dairy section in every grocery store, the thing you all came here for is always the farthest away. Jeremy from Bucksketball called Giannis' outing against the Timberwolves "one of the best 1-6, five fouls, seven turnover games of all time". And he was basically right, considering it was a preseason game and Giannis once again showed flashes of ability that made people shiver. He busted out a beautiful euro-step layup in transition and made some passes you'd be impressed to see from the NBA's top point guards. But there were also tons of mistakes, including a few more perimeter travels and a pair of miscues on inbound passes. Giannis already looks like a havoc-wreaking weakside defender and a versatile offensive contributor, he just needs a ton of polish. Preseason is a great time to get excited over individual blips of brilliance and ignore the larger truth. Giannis probably hurt the Bucks' chances at winning this game during his time on the floor. But seriously, have you seen this guy?

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