Riding high off their 88-74 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Madison and tied for the best winning percentage in the NBA this far, the Milwaukee Bucks are on an absolute tear as they head to the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana to take on the Indiana Pacers. Okay, so “tear” may not be the right word for a 2-0 start to the preseason, but there won’t be many opportunities to bask in the glory of a perfect record. Enjoy the high while it lasts.
Milwaukee dispatched a depleted Mavericks team last Saturday night at the Kohl Center on the back of Jabari Parker’s acrobatic dunking display. His ferocious finishes may have to start coming with a Surgeon General’s warning. With 21 points on a healthy 9 for 14 shooting, his continued aggressiveness has been a welcome sight thus far, even if he didn’t necessarily flash the sort of new skills that scream BREAK OUT SEASON INCOMING.
It was also the debut of first-round pick Thon Maker, who nailed a couple long jumpers to finish 3 of 6 from the field en route to 9 points. Maker looked nimble defensively on the perimeter and polished off an alley-oop from fellow rookie and stately speaker Malcolm Brogdon. An auspicious start to be sure.
Besides Michael Beasley’s disastrous playmaking foray, few others stood out. We did get to see the first pairing of the Giannis-Jabari-Teletovic lineup though, something mentioned by Zach Lowe in his League Pass rankings. We’ll see whether that generates any more offense in this game and how it matches up with the small-ball lineup the Pacers trot out, though as of Tuesday night the Bucks PR notes listed Matthew Dellavedova, Rashad Vaughn, Giannis, Jabari and Miles Plumlee as the probable starters. Oh and there’s also the (mild) revenge factor for that eye-gouging season-ending loss against the Pacer’s B-squad last April.
Despite ranking just outside the top ten in pace last season, Larry Bird was entirely dissatisfied with Frank Vogel’s offense. So, he sent Vogel and his .580 winning percentage packing and brought in former Trailblazers coach Nate McMillan to rev up the team. Although McMillan’s old teams played at a glacial pace, he already understands who signs the checks around Indiana and has the 2-1 Pacers playing at the third fastest pace thus far this preseason. However, Indy will likely be without Paul George on Wednesday due to illness (he’s listed as doubtful), which would presumably hand Glenn Robinson III his second straight start.
To motor Nate’s new go-go machine, Bird brought in several established names, including swapping the oft-overlooked (but Brew Hoop favorite) George Hill in a three-team trade that netted them Atlanta’s Jeff Teague. After Paul George’s very vocal displeasure with playing the 4 last season, they also traded their first-round pick for Thaddeus Young. And of course, what team that’s predicated on speed wouldn’t be in the market for...Al Jefferson? Look for Jefferson to man the Pacers’ bench mobs and if Monroe and Jefferson start battling down low, don’t worry, there’s no need to adjust your dial — this isn’t a 90’s NBA Hardwood Classic replay.
Keep an eye on promising second year center Myles Turner, who the Pacers are banking on as a franchise cornerstone after an encouraging rookie season. The slippery tactics of Joseph Young and old Buck Monta Ellis aren’t bad either.