The Bucks lost 88-79 to Memphis in the first game of their 2008 Vegas Summer League campaign last night (complete game video / JS recap). The main story from a Bucks' angle will be the struggles of Joe Alexander, who shot just 2/13 from the field and finished with seven points, three rebounds, one assist, one block and one turnover in 35 minutes. The Bucks trailed by 16 at the half and 18 after three quarters, but narrowed the gap to as little as seven in the closing minutes, outscoring the Grizz 26-17.
The Bucks trailed by double digits most of the game against a Grizzlies squad that started off with a three guard lineup of Mike Conley, Javaris Crittenton and O.J. Mayo. Mayo stole the show with 26 points (9/19 fg), hitting contested jumpers from all over the court and showing just why he was so coveted in last month's draft.
Ramon Sessions played reasonably well, though his teammates didn't always seem to be playing at the same pace. Sessions made just 1/4 fg but added 10/14 free throws and nine assists. But he was also a turnover machine early and finished with seven turnovers, six of them coming in the first half.
D-League veteran Trey Johnson was probably the best Buck, scoring 11 points (4/7 fg) along with seven boards in just 15 minutes. Perhaps playing in the D-League was good preparation for the open, often sloppy style that usually dominates in Vegas. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was active on both ends though he finished with fairly modest numbers (four pts, seven rebs, one block, 29 minutes). We'll probably find ourselves saying that a lot over the course of his career.
Alexander started 0/5 from the field before he finally buried an open 20-footer from the left wing midway through the second quarter. He then eased his way into the paint and rolled in a 10-foot turnaround jumper shortly thereafter. The rookie started the second half by driving to the hoop and earning a trip to the line, but he would go empty from there on out, missing his last six shots. That included airmailing an open 12-footer from the right baseline and putting a sharp-angled 17-foot bank attempt from the left side off the side of the backboard.
Defensively Alexander didn't stand out one way or the other, and the grainy and commentary-free coverage on NBA.com also didn't make it easy to sort out who he was guarding much of the time. He showed good court vision offensively with a number of good looks to teammates around the hoop, but especially early on he looked a bit tentative on offense. As Charlie reported yesterday, Alexander still seems in search of a go-to move; playing both forward spots probably complicates that a bit since his role isn't very well-defined yet.
Alexander's tremendous leaping ability was on display every time he elevated to shoot in the lane, but as has been noted he still seems to be working on calibrating how much he jumps in various situations. At the end of the day it's just one game, but in many ways it didn't show Alexander to be too different than expected. He has clear athleticism, skills and good court sense, but he's got some very rough edges. Mostly he just doesn't look quite as instinctive with the ball as you'd like him to be, but that's not a new critique. The Bucks will have to figure out ways to make use of that athleticism going forward and Alexander will have to become more decisive offensively while working on his shooting and slashing.
As for other guys, former Vandy big man Matt Freije looked out of sorts early but then found his stroke on the perimeter and finished with 11 points. PG Darius Washington showed flashes of his natural talent in the second half, but also turned it over four times in addition to his nine points in 18 minutes. Wisconsin native Matt Lojeski hit a pair of triples and finished with seven points in just 12 minutes.
Next up: Detroit at 5 pm on Tuesday.