Well, the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks season is off to a weird start. Luke Ridnour emerged a late scratch (sore back) and Brandon Knight (hamstring) fell victim to an early injury in Game 1 against the New York Knicks, which meant that second-round rookie point guard Nate Wolters (30 minutes, 3-12 shooting, nine points, four assists, two turnovers) was abruptly thrust into action on the road, against a playoff-caliber opponent with a pesky backcourt counterpart (Pablo Prigioni), in his first official game. Things went about as well as you'd expect, considering the circumstances, but the 90-83 loss wasn't all bad.
Sure, the Bucks stumbled into some familiar quicksand immediately and fell behind by a double-digit margin, but Larry Drew's patchwork squad still found a way to re-focus in the second half and even take the lead (for the first time) in the 44th minute of play. Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo both scored their first NBA point during the contest, but neither played a big factor in how the game evolved. It was a game for the veterans.
Tyson Chandler (10 points, six rebounds, five blocks) dominated his matchup with Larry Sanders (five fouls, four rebounds, zero points) and helped hold the Bucks to six points in the paint during the first half. Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 11 rebounds) did his best to keep pace with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony (19 points, 10 rebounds), and often looked like the best player on the floor for Milwaukee.
Raymond Felton (18 points, three assists, three steals) made his mark against the depleted Bucks backcourt, while Gary Neal (16 points, five assists, zero turnovers) and O.J. Mayo (13 points, five rebounds, three assists) did their best to put some pressure on New York defenders. John Henson didn't play at all in the first quarter and then didn't make much of an impact, while Ersan Ilyasova keyed a third-quarter run but wasn't able to stay in to try to close out the game.
It was every bit the 46-turnover affair that the box score suggests, and as Dan describes in the recap, Milwaukee fought back from a big deficit only to see its best chance for victory vanish like a fart in the wind:
Caron Butler's three pointer improbably tied the game at 80 with 4:39 to play, and John Henson went 1-2 at the line a few moments later to give Milwaukee a one-point lead. The Bucks even had a chance to extend their lead on a breakout shortly thereafter, but Butler was called for a debatable offensive foul trying to shield off a Knick defender when a layup seemed more likely. The Knicks then picked up their defensive pressure in the final minutes, forcing a pair of turnovers and allowing only three more shot attempts by the Bucks, one of which was blocked by Tyson Chandler.
If you're interested in hearing our extended thoughts on the opener against the Knicks, we recorded a recap podcast. Here it is:
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