The Milwaukee Bucks aren't firing on all cylinders just yet, but they are doing something even more important: winning.
After starting the season 0-3, the Bucks claimed their third win in five days with a 99-92 decision in New York last night, and they can move above .500 tonight when they look to beat the winless Nets for the second time this week.
The Bucks edged past the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday to break their own duck, then claimed another nervous win over the similarly winless Sixers on Wednesday. Last night's win was their first that seemed even vaguely impressive, especially on the defensive end. The Bucks held the Knicks to 20 or fewer points in three of the game's four quarters, John Henson (22 pts, 5 rebs, 3 blks) was all kinds of terrific in his first game back from an Achilles injury, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (20 points on 13 shots, 7 rebs, 2 stls, 1 to) outdueled Carmelo Anthony (17 points on 16 shots, 6 assists, 5 to) on basketball's most hallowed floor. Hey, did we mention Giannis is only 20?
Jabari Parker also flashed some of the explosive athleticism that wowed us last season, though his status for tonight's game isn't clear. The Bucks had previously suggested he would initially sit out back-to-backs in the early stages of his comeback from a torn ACL, so in theory that would mean a precautionary rest tonight. We'll see. If he can't go, don't be surprised to see Johnny O'Bryant -- himself coming off a strong effort in NYC -- slot in for Jabari at the four.
Otherwise, Michael Carter-Williams remains a doubt due to a strained ankle, which could open the door for Tyler Ennis to start his second straight game. Though he didn't light up the box score and had some early foul trouble, Ennis overall did exactly what we hoped: kept the ball moving, deferred to the Bucks' bigger weapons, and pushed the tempo when he could. Overall, the starters were +9 with Ennis helming the point to start the first and third quarters, so I'm hoping he gets another chance tonight.
And for everyone in the Milwaukee area: be sure to head down to the game early today. Starting at 2 pm, the Bucks are holding a pregame tailgate with appearances from Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a musical performance from DMC. There's also expected to be renderings of new arena plans, plus all the food, music and fun you'd expect to find at this kind of event. You'll find something you like, I promise. DVR the Badger game and make a day of it, people.
Net Scouting Report
Nets have no great pick and roll players, very few shooters, no athleticism and nobody who can attack a closeout. Otherwise, they’re great.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) November 7, 2015
The Nets' latest golden opportunity to win a game came last night at against the winless Lakers, who -- like the Bucks on Monday -- went into Brooklyn winless and by the end of the night had their first win. The 104-98 meh-fest that saw L.A. shoot twice as many free throws as the Nets (40-20) to offset solid performances from Brook Lopez (23/10) and Joe Johnson (22 on 16 shots). Jarret Jack added 12 assists and 18 points, though he took another 22 shots to drop his seasonal shooting splits to 38.4% overall and 26.7% from deep. Hell, even Kobe only took 16 shots last night.
The Nets begin the day in the bottom five both offensively and defensively, so there's no shortage of problem areas for Lionel Hollins and co. at the moment. The Nets' offensive problems start with their horrendous perimeter shooting: they've hit an ugly 23% of their three point attempts thus far, a number that reflects both the Nets' lack of consistent shooters as well as the small sample size we're still dealing with. No team shot worse than 32% last season (Minnesota, a few spots ahead of the Nets' 33%), so hopefully Brooklyn's mean regression won't start tonight in Milwaukee.
Since the Bucks saw them earlier this week, rookie wingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been inserted into the starting five, providing some additional size and defensive mettle relative to previous starter Markel Brown. RHJ hasn't even tried a three this year, so his presence only further exacerbates the Nets' lack of floor-stretching around Brook Lopez, who just keeps chugging along with over 24 points and eight rebounds per game.
In this week's Quick Bucks, I explained why I've argued that Johnny O'Bryant has been great for the Bucks this year. https://t.co/VZCE8oZFMP— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 6, 2015
If you are one of the five youngest teams (like the Bucks), here is how rare it is to make the second round (rare). https://t.co/JOmBxAljEY— Alex Boeder (@alexboeder) November 6, 2015
Check out Alexander Juneau's new column on the Bucks core. Bucks have a lot of growing to do. Will be a fun ride. https://t.co/ficLhzQFik— The Real Sylvan Z (@FunkLab3000) October 31, 2015
|15/16 NBA Season|
|November 7, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Jarrett Jack||PG||Tyler Ennis|
|Joe Johnson||SG||Khris Middleton|
|Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Thaddeus Young||PF||Johnny O'Bryant III (if Parker is out)|
|Brook Lopez||C||Greg Monroe|
|15/16 Advanced Stats|
|94.9 (26th)||Pace||93.2 (29th)|
|96.1 (29th)||ORtg||105.5 (9th)|
|110.0 (27th)||DRtg||111.1 (29th)|