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Bucks vs Pacers Final Score: Giannis awakens, but second quarter swoon propels Indy

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers James Brosher-USA TODAY Sports

It was an inauspicious but endlessly intriguing start for team all-length, as the Bucks finally mobilized their lengthy leviathan in Evansville on Wednesday night.

With Dellavedova a healthy scratch for rest, Jason Kidd unveiled a starting lineup with John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker alongside the Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker — about 36 feet of collective wingspan for those scoring at home. But after Giannis helped the Wingspan Clan stake the Bucks to an early 21-20 lead, everything went sideways quickly. Rodney Stuckey and the Pacers reserve keyed an absurd 41-6 Indy run to give them a commanding 62-31 at the half, ultimately dealing the Bucks their first preseason loss, 101-83.

Giannis was undoubtedly the Bucks’ star, pouring in 20 points on a flurry of drives to the hoop along with six assists and five rebounds in a stat line that should settle any looming fan anxiety. Jabari added 11, including a 3-pointer, and while Thon only scored 2 points, he was a team-high +16 for the team.

Indiana’s blitzkrieg offense proved too potent though, as Jeff Teague (15 points), Rodney Stuckey (21) and Myles Turner (9) ran the Bucks’ lackadaisical defense ragged. Indiana got out on the break relentlessly, leading in fast-break points (17-8) and shooting a relatively torrid 38 percent on 3-pointers compared to Milwaukee’s 28 percent.

Maker started off Milwaukee’s offense with an errant 3-ball as Indiana raced out to an early 8-2 lead. But Milwaukee answered with a 14-2 run of their own, riding Giannis in the post against Monta Ellis over and over and over. Assuaging any trepidation that may have lingered after his first two lackluster preseason performances, Giannis spun, dunked and shot his way directly through the Indiana defense en route to 8 points in the first quarter. Parker got in on the action with a step-back jumper early, and looked aggressive in hunting his own shot. He even fired up a three! Thon hit two free throws after whirling a shot up near the paint, but that was about it. The rest of the half was a great lesson in appreciating the good times while they last.

Milwaukee applied full-court pressure at times, a tactic hinted at by Marques Johnson last week. Indiana’s quicker pace proved a fitting counter though, as their guards sliced through the pressure, scoring several easy baskets before Milwaukee could get their defense set. Indiana’s halfcourt offense was just as effective, and Milwaukee fell behind 29-21 at the end of the first quarter.

Greg Monroe entered for the first time to start the second quarter, joining Rashad Vaughn, Mirza Teletovic, Michael Beasley and Michael Carter-Williams. Predictably, the Bucks struggles continued, with MCW finally ending an over six-minute scoring drought that dated back to 4:00 in the first. For the second game in a row, Beasley’s presence torpedoed the Bucks offense behind an 0-6 start on an array of herky-jerky step-backs and an unmatched devotion to putting the ball near the basket the second it touches his hands. Even the starters returning couldn’t salvage the quarter.

Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis probed the Bucks defense at will, nailing pull-ups and kicking out to shooters in sequences far too reminiscent of last season’s porous perimeter defense. Despite the first appearance from Jason Terry and Vaughn scoring on a dribble drive (!), Milwaukee managed only 10 points in the second quarter, heading into halftime down 62-31 on 29% shooting. I made an executive decision to cut off Indiana’s scoring run at 49-12 at that point.

On the plus side, Milwaukee looked lively coming out of halftime, starting the third quarter on a 10-0 run thanks largely to Antetokounmpo. Henson even chimed in with a block on Monta Ellis before running the floor for a finger roll finish off the feed from Giannis. Giannis continued the aggressiveness he displayed in the first quarter, driving to the hoop for several emphatic finishes and scoring nine early points. We almost had a Dark Giannis sighting too after Teague earned a flagrant foul for shoving Giannis on a breakaway.

Parker hit a no hesitation 3-pointer and shot another, an encouraging sign after not attempting any the previous game. Milwaukee did a much better job of getting back on defense to start the second half, cutting Indiana’s lead down to 16 as both team’s subs started to trickle in. Giannis capped his night with an open three from the top of the key before leaving for good with three minutes left in the third.

The third quarter ended with the Bucks trailing 82-64, leaving the fourth quarter as a playground for both team’s bench squads. MCW, JET, Vaughn, Monroe and Mirza started the quarter as Terry scored his first points as a Buck off a feed from MCW. Some of the Buck’s non-guaranteed players, Jaleel Roberts and Orlando Johnson, got into the action, but neither connected in their few minutes on the court. The Pacers’ color commentator, Quinn Buckner, even took a cheap shot at Jaleel, quipping that there was a draft on one of his air balls. How rude! The manic MCW drives that have become a fourth quarter staple this preseason continued too. Despite the bench’s spirited effort, the Pacers lead proved too much as they prevailed 101-83 and ruined the Bucks quest for a perfect preseason record.

Next on the docket, Milwaukee takes on the Chicago Bulls this Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Thoughts and Tidbits

  • If you missed the game, here’s what Giannis and Jabari did:
  • While Malcolm Brogdon’s shot continues to look flat as a pancake, his ability to drive to the basket and kick to open shooters has been a welcome surprise. He found Thon for Milwaukee’s first shot of the game on an open three in the corner, and has played the same steady, mistake-free basketball he displayed in Summer League. He’ll get minutes regardless because of Middleton’s injury, but if he starts to hit shots with any sort of consistency expect him on the court far more frequently.
  • After two MIA performances, it was nice to see Henson get some run with the starters. He certainly looked more active on both ends, snagging eight rebounds and cleaning up some Giannis misses near the basket. We’re still waiting to see anything substantial from Plumlee this preseason though; we’ll see whether Kidd re-inserts him into the starting lineup this Saturday.
  • Michael Carter-Williams is getting every opportunity to show he can steer the junk truck at the end of games. He’s been up and down so far, and continued his streak of scattered play with a combination of out-of-control drives and pulling up for an ugly three that somehow dropped in.
  • Jabari Parker’s three 3-point attempts were the most he’s attempted in a game since the third game of his rookie season.
  • Michael Beasley’s erratic game may pay dividends when he’s hitting shots, but boy when those aren’t falling is he tough to watch. Jason Kidd may’ve felt the same way, as Beasley didn’t re-enter the game until late in the fourth quarter.
  • After Giannis decimated Monta Ellis in the post in the first half, Indiana smartly switched Ellis over to Thon Maker on defense in the second half, daring the Bucks to have their rookie beat them. It was successful in stopping Monta from becoming a turnstile, but Giannis wound up getting to the basket against anyone tonight.
  • Former Bucks Summer League member Julyan Stone snagged seven rebounds for Indiana but bricked his two three-point attempts. It was a familiar performance for anyone who watched him on the Bucks this summer.