A new era of Bucks basketball began Friday night in Milwaukee, replete with orchestra music, billionaire cameos, and all the pyrotechnics you'd expect of an NBA home opener. And while the game that followed was sloppier, weirder and more stressful than anyone had hoped, it was still a win.
Hey, baby steps.
Friday's end result was a 93-81 Bucks win, as Milwaukee outscored the Sixers 11-0 over the final 8:21 of the fourth to pull out the first win of the Wes Edens/Marc Lasry era. O.J. Mayo continued his hot streak with 25 points (8/13 fg, 5/7 threes, 4/6 ft) and five assists, though the Bucks were otherwise a decidedly mixed bag. Brandon Knight managed another near-triple-double (13 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) but looked out of control for much of the night, Jabari Parker notched his first career double-double (5/11 fg, 11 pts, 10 rebs) despite disappearing for long stretches offensively, and Larry Sanders nabbed 15 rebounds and blocked four shots but struggled through 4/12 shooting from the field. As for Philly, Nerlens Noel was impressive in piling up 14 points and 10 boards, but the Sixers' lack of talent eventually caught up to them in the fourth quarter.
Philly's dominance in the paint staked them to one point leads at the half and after three periods, but the Bucks took control early in the fourth and Philly never recovered. A string of passes found Mayo for an open three in the corner for their first lead early in the fourth, and they extended it moments later when Jerryd Bayless collected a steal and breakaway slam. One possession later Mayo finished off another busted possession by calmly drilling a step-back three to cap a quick 7-0 run, staking the Bucks to an 80-74 lead that they would never surrender. Both teams traded bad passes and cringeworthy decision-making thereafter, but Mayo outscored Philly by himself in the fourth (10-7) as the Bucks pulled away down the stretch.
Parker got off to a perfect start in his home debut, calmly stroking an open three for the Bucks' first points en route to nine first quarter points. A couple of his other baskets:
Mayo pushes, JABARI SLAMS https://t.co/dQp1FioUs2— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) November 1, 2014
Brandon Knight to Jabari Parker for the alley-oop. Easy. https://t.co/QDERc5x6DO— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) November 1, 2014
Still, the Bucks struggled to find any fluency in their offense and were probably lucky to be tied 24-24 after K.J. McDaniels exploded for nine quick points of his own to end the first quarter. The Sixers continued to exploit the Bucks' sloppiness in the second quarter, taking advantage of 12 Milwaukee turnovers and getting inside for a slew of easy buckets. The Bucks overall did a much better job on the glass than in Wednesday's loss in Charlotte, but breakdowns inside and some non-existent transition defense allowed Philly to lead by as many as nine in the first half. Noel was particularly impressive, using his length and athleticism to get loose for 10 points inside in the half, as the Sixers scored 34 of their 47 first half points inside.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo had his share of highs and lows, scoring 8 points to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in 26 minutes. The downside? Four turnovers and a penchant for playing a bit out of control, though there was still plenty to like about Giannis' energy off the bench.
- Parker's final offensive line was disappointing given his hot start, as he scored just 2 points (1/5 fg, 0/2 ft) and faded in and out of the offense after his strong first quarter. The Bucks attempted to get him mismatched in the post against smaller guys in the fourth, but he didn't look as aggressive as you'd expect in trying to establish position and demand the ball against smaller guys like Tony Wroten. On the plus side: He rebounded well, had active defensive hands, and wasn't exploited when he was matched up with Noel at various points.
- Knight looked completely out of sorts running the offense early on, as the Bucks struggled to get into their sets and generally didn't seem to have the same bounce in their step we saw on Wednesday. But he stuck with it, drew a bunch of fouls, and increasingly started to make plays for teammates as the game went on.
- After playing just 12 minutes in Charlotte, John Henson blocked six shots and nabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes. That jump in minutes came at the expense of Zaza Pachulia (DNP-CD) and Ersan Ilyasova (5 minutes, 0/1 fg, 0 pts, 0 rebs). So much for Kidd showcasing Ilyasova at the expense of the young guys, eh?
- Nate Wolters and Kendall Marshall both played after their DNPs in Charlotte...but only barely. Marshall played five anonymous first half minutes before Wolters had a 10-minute run in the second half. Neither scored, and Wolters managed their only assist.
- Khris Middleton too often looked out of his element having to create shots off the dribble, struggling to a 5/16 shooting night. I'm hoping we'll see some of Middleton's touches transition over to Jabari sooner rather than later.
- Lasry, Edens and recently-announced investor Jamie Dinan addressed the crowd before the opening tip, while comedian (and Wisconsin native) Frank Caliendo entertained the crowd at halftime.
- The game had all the sloppiness of a Wednesday night open gym at the Y, as both teams took turns carelessly giving it away and allowing the other to get out and run. But nothing was quite as zany as Sanders appearing to almost shoot on his own basket after a jump ball. Don't forget, this is the same guy who scored on his own basket in his first high school game.
Bayless to Giannis. https://t.co/xReWF1VXRD— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) November 1, 2014
Larry almost scored on wrong hoop + Kidd reaction dot gif https://t.co/n3xN7LmQuX— BrewHoop.com (@brewhoop) November 1, 2014