Is there anything more exciting than recapping a non-televised preseason road game? Don't answer that. The good news is that we're now just a game away from the real deal. The MACC Fund game is Friday--always a great night--and then a full week off before the Bucks open things up October 30th in Philly.
As for tonight, the Bucks came out flat and fully earned their 55-40 halftime deficit in Charlotte, conceding an all-too-typical 25-7 edge in free throw attempts while allowing the Bobs to outshoot them (50% vs. 46%) to boot. Bogut started well with 8/4 in the first quarter and Ilyasova came alive a bit in the second with 11 points on a flurry of jumpers, but overall the Bobs just whipped 'em. They closed the gap a bit in the third as Delfino (14 points) hit three triples and Jennings hit three long jumpers to bring the Bucks to within 65-62. But Bogut and Redd sat out the fourth and watched the Bobs push the lead back to double digits before a late rally got the Bucks within seven. Oh well. On to player commentary after the jump.
Jennings. Fortunately, most of the key players we've spent the summer speculating about look reasonably ready to go. That starts with Brandon Jennings, who followed up his 16/7 effort on Saturday with a solid line against Ray Felton and DJ Augustin: 14 points, eight assists four turnovers, two steals and a +11 rating in 27 minutes. Augustin matched Jennings' shooting line (6/13) and finished with 15, three assists, two turnover and four steals in 38 minutes, so the rook more than held his own. In contrast, Luke Ridnour was 2/6 from the field with two assists, two turnovers and three fouls in 15 minutes while logging a -23 differential.
Sure, Jennings can use all the reps he can get; you don't learn to be an NBA point guard over six or seven games. But depending on Skiles' tolerance for careless turnovers, Jennings could have the inside track to start on opening night. I wouldn't expect him to play 35-40 minutes even if he does get the starting nod, but Jennings is a nice contrast to the situation of a year ago when the Bucks were just hoping Joe Alexander might be able to earn rotation minutes (and not much has changed).
The big guns. Andrew Bogut also logged his second consecutive double-double, making 6/8 from the field to finish with 14 points, 10 boards, two blocks and four turnovers in 28 minutes. That's the most burn he's seen all preseason, up from his previous high of 25 minutes on Saturday. The turnover issues that started last year reared their ugly head again in the first half, culminating in a lost ball and an offensive foul in the final 30 seconds of the half. But he hung on to the ball in the third quarter and scored six as the Bucks made their run.
Michael Redd never got going in this one, finishing just 3/7 from the field in 25 minutes. But Redd's already shown this month that he's in pretty good shape so let's not lose sleep over it. He's looking healthy and we all know what he's capable of--now let's just get on with the real games.
Forwards. The Delfino/Thomas tandem has seemed to work pretty well to start games, so I'd guess that's the pairing we see on opening night. Mbah a Moute's contributions are almost impossible to tell from just a box score, so I won't even bother. But it seems as though Skiles prefers the flexibility of bringing him off the bench anyway. Same goes for Warrick, who's kind of the anti-Mbah a Moute in that his main role will be carrying the scoring burden when Redd/Bogut are out of the game. Warrick barely played tonight, but he's been good all preseason and is a fairly well-known quantity at this point.
Ersan Ilyasova has spent too much time fouling and not rebounding this preseason, but he scored a tidy 14 on 11 shots tonight to go with five boards in 21 minutes.