The Bucks made a strong comeback in the third quarter, but it wasn't enough as they eventually fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-108. Throughout the second half, sloppy play by the T'Wolves gave the Bucks plenty of chances down the stretch, but Milwaukee just could not capitalize.
Even in a loss, the story tonight was Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo was all over the floor tonight, putting up a final line of 23 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, two steals, and an assist. For long stretches of the game, it just seemed like Antetokounmpo was everywhere and affecting every play on offense and defense.
Khris Middleton started out strong on the night and scored 11 of his 19 points in the first quarter on a series of baskets on the Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins. Unexpected starter Jerryd Bayless also had a nice night, scoring 18 points and adding four assists.
While Antetokounmpo entertained Bucks fans, it was the Timberwolves' last three first round picks that put on the show for Timberwolves fans. Wiggins, selected one pick before Jabari Parker, led the way with 24 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while Karl-Anthony Towns provided some highlights with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Shabazz Muhammad, selected one pick before Antetokounmpo, added 19 points in 23 minutes off the bench.
With tonight's game in the books, the Bucks have completed their preseason and finished with a 2-4 record. Their regular season opener will be in Milwaukee (!!!) for the first time in 30 years (!!!) on Wednesday (!!!) against the New York Knicks.
Michael Carter-Williams (rest) was a late scratch Friday night. There was not an injury, per Charles Gardner. Jerryd Bayless started in Carter-Williams' place with Rashad Vaughn, Khris Middleton, Chris Copeland, and Greg Monroe.
Wiggins stuffed a Copeland three and went the other way for a dunk early in the first quarter. I praised him when he made the extra pass in his first preseason appearance last Saturday. He should have done that again in this instance.
There are nights when Antetokounmpo will be a complete terror defensively. (They tend to happen against teams that are young and sloppy.) Tonight was one of those nights. He tipped passes, intimidated shooters, blocked shots and stole passes.
All of Antetokounmpo's scores except a single jumper came within a foot of the basket. (Jumper Watch: It didn't look good.)
I mentioned the slight hesitation Greivis Vasquez makes at the three point line during fast breaks earlier this week on Twitter. Tonight, it turned into a dunk for Antetokounmpo:
Coming through! https://t.co/BMilNj6E1h— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) October 24, 2015
Middleton takes a lot of tough shots and he had a few post up fallaway jumpers Friday night that look Kobe Bryantesque. A lot of the time, he makes them. That's a good (bad) thing.
For the first time I can recall this preseason, Antetokounmpo was the roll man on a pick and roll. The Bucks opened with this pick and roll series in their first two possessions of the second quarter.
Giannis, the PnR roll man, appeared in the first two Bucks possessions of the 2nd Qtr. 1st time I recall seeing it. pic.twitter.com/M0PdezcAAR— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) October 24, 2015
To start the second half, the Bucks really focused on getting Monroe touches and worked to find back door cuts around him. It resulted in two gorgeous passes from Monroe to Middleton and Giannis on back-to-back plays.
I think Copeland starting at power forward to start the season makes a lot of sense for the Bucks. Like Parker, he should be a plus offensively and a minus defensively. Using someone similar to Parker should make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved. (I understand how offensive that sounds. Just suggesting they are similar stylistically.)
It was a podcast outtake that I was a little scared to share publicly, but it just keeps coming up. For someone as large/talented/skilled as Monroe, he sure enjoys playing under the rim. It may not end up being a bad thing, but it is something I've learned by watching more of him this preseason.
The Timberwolves are going to be a ton of fun to watch this season. They will have all of the Vines, but likely not as many wins.
The Vasquez-John Henson bench combination will be interesting. Vasquez has thrown Henson a few alley-oops in the last two games that I don't think Henson has seen since he was playing at North Carolina.
The preseason is over! Basketball means something again starting on Wednesday!