If you're into winning preseason games, then good news: the Bucks have now won two in a row. Unfortunately I only caught the fourth quarter of this contest, which fittingly featured none of the players I was most interested in watching--Bogut and Redd for obvious reasons, Jennings for lack of performance and perhaps to save him for his first start tonight in Chicago. Still, it was encouraging to see Carlos Delfino hit some big shots and help the Bucks' bench hold off the Rockets' bench at the end.
But like most preseason games, the first half was much more interesting in terms of the major storylines of the preseason. The Bucks got it done on the scoreboard as well, using a 37-22 second quarter to take a 13 point halftime lead. Nicely done. More importantly, Michael Redd continues to get his legs (and his game) back to where the Bucks need it to be. Redd scored 14 in the first quarter and finished with 18 on 10 shots in 21 minutes. Certainly no complaints about that. For the most part I just want to see Redd make it through the preseason looking healthy, so the fact that his timing seems to be there is gravy. Charles Gardner writes that Redd hopes to play against the Bulls tonight, his first back-to-back test since returning from knee surgery.
"And personally, it's getting there. It's just breaking out of the rust, trying to find a rhythm. I didn't really worry about my knee so much tonight.
"Again, it felt good. I haven't played like this since January."
Andrew Bogut didn't have quite the same offensive output as last game, but did a little bit of everything in 18 minutes: 3/5 fg, four boards, two steals, three blocks. Houston is of course without Yao and Tracy McGrady, forcing them to start Chuck Hayes alongside Luis Scola (who incidentally has schooled Bogut a couple times in international play. In the end it was new signing David Andersen--a teammate of Bogut on the Australian national team and former teammate of Ersan Ilyasova in Barcelona last year--who did the most damage for the Rockets with 17 points on nine shots. Of course his -17 differential was also the worst on the team, which just goes to show that he had the misfortune of being on the court for most of the second quarter.
As for Brandon Jennings, well...his numbers (1/8 fg, one assist in 13 minutes) look about right for a guy who was an unproductive player in Europe a year ago. It seems as though Skiles is willing to tolerate Jennings' often questionable shot selection for now, but that's probably because it's the preseason and he's mostly playing with the second unit.
One thing I worry about is that both Ridnour and Jennings are guys who need some talent around them to maximize their effectiveness; if Jennings continues to play with the second unit he could put up some fairly ugly numbers and get into the habit of feeling he has to do everything himself. That's why I'm glad to hear Skiles is planning to start Jennings tonight in Chicago. I'm not expecting fireworks, but he needs to get used to playing with Bogut and Redd rather than just Bell, Delfino, and Warrick. As much as he was an explosive scorer in high school, I just don't see him contributing consistently that way as a rookie, so being able to run the break and get easy shots for the big guns would be a big help.
Delfino and Thomas continued to make solid cases for the starting lineup, starting for the second straight game and playing 36 and 31 minutes respectively. Delfino uses up plenty of possessions (15 shots and four turnovers) but the Bucks are so limited offensively that it doesn't bother me as much as it probably should. He also grabbed eight boards (we knew he was good in that department) and collected four steals. Meanwhile, Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova both fouled out in just over 13 minutes apiece--curious for Mbah a Moute, less so for Ilyasova, who has had trouble avoiding fouls so far this preseason. There's obviously a learning curve as he re-adapts to the NBA, but he may not get to where he needs to be in time for the start of the regular season. While I don't like the idea of Thomas starting all season, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Skiles goes with the proven vet for the opener and uses Warrick as a bench scorer. That means Ilyasova could be left out in the cold early on, but we'll see. He works hard and can stretch the defense in ways the other PFs can't, so he'll get his chances.
Numbers-wise, the Bucks once again fouled like crazy (36-23) but managed a slim rebounding edge (43-41) and held the Rockets to just 38% from the field. Keeping that number down will probably be the Bucks' best chance of surviving the season, as we all know they won't be able to outscore teams and will probably concede plenty of free throws as well.