One game into the 2014-15 season, and it already feels like a new dawn of Milwaukee Bucks basketball. Well, except for the late game execution.
The Charlotte Hornets (muscle memory forced me to write Bobcats, which I quickly erased) crawled out of a 24-point hole to edge out the Bucks 106-104 in overtime Wednesday night.
Constant ball movement, a bench of hungry vets, and an aggressive defense helped the Bucks stay ahead for most of the contest. But the team's lack of rebounding girth and general inexperience together contributed to a late-game falter that, in circumstances befitting the Kohl era, would spawn virulent criticism of the head coach if he weren't a rookie coaching rookies.
The game's most notable moment came with Milwaukee up three and Charlotte out of timeouts. As seconds ticked off the clock, Jason Kidd opted against fouling. Consequentially, Kemba Walker hit a three (against a sagging-in-the-paint Larry Sanders, for some reason), and we were "treated" to five minutes of unnecessary basketball.
Despite three shot clock violations, the Hornets were able to lock down defensively (per their reputation), hit enough shots, and force the Bucks to rely on solid out-of-bounds play calling. Unlike the last four years, the Bucks' final shot execution was solid, with Khris Middleton wrapping around a curl screen and firing an open jumper. The ball just didn't go in.
On the game, the Bucks' shot 49% to the Hornets' 41%, including 50% on threes. Milwaukee's biggest pain point, expectedly, came in the rebounding department, as the Hornets amassed 15 offensive rebounds and outscored the Bucks in second-chance points 16-2.
The Bucks took an 11-point lead at the break, thanks to stingy, aggressive defense (15 first half deflections) and a butane lighter-esque bench playing a small lineup. Notably, OJ Mayo hit 5-6 shots, including 3-4 threes, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (7 pts, 3 rbs) and Ersan Ilyasova (6 pts, 3-3 FG) providing support.
Brandon Knight (22 pts, 13 asts, 8 rbs, 29% FG *puke*) led all Bucks in scoring and assists, almost all of which were delivered...wait for it...WITH AUTHORITY. OJ Mayo registered 17 points on 6-10 shots (3-6 FG), and Khris Middleton finished with 17 points (7-15 FG) and 6 rebounds. Jabari Parker scored a modest 8 points (3/8 fg, 2/2 ft) to go with four rebounds in 37 minutes, though he did have at least a couple highlight reel plays: a pretty coast-to-coast Euro-step for his first field goal and a breakaway slam in the third. Some highlights of your favorite youngsters:
Jabari Parker: coast-to-coast for his first career bucket, y'all. https://t.co/cOST4iwunF— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) October 29, 2014
JABARI TO LARRY SMASH https://t.co/yVV9PbrqjU— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) October 30, 2014
Jabari Parker takes off from the dotted line! https://t.co/8REjsksO1S— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) October 30, 2014
HUGE block by Giannis on Marvin Williams https://t.co/ZiaaFFdVxi— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) October 30, 2014
Given the expectations and greenery surrounding this season, it's respectable that the Bucks took a top 5 NBA defense into overtime on their home floor in Game 1 of 2014-15. That qualifies as a learning experience, right?