The Milwaukee Bucks opened their 16-17 campaign on Wednesday hoping to be a very different team from the one that struggled to 33 wins a year ago. Forty-eight minutes later…well, they’re still hoping.
The Bucks’ anemic shooting (3/16 threes) and another off-kilter defensive performance ultimately proved too much for even Giannis Antetokounmpo to overcome against the Hornets, who rode the steadiness of their starting five to a fairly easy 107-96 win. After the game we sat down to discuss what went right and wrong:
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- We didn’t exactly see Peak Giannis on Wednesday, but it’s saying something when “OK Giannis” nets 31 points on 21 shots with nine boards, five assists and a single turnover. Often times it was more brute force than pure elegance — twice he recovered attempted passes to score at the rim and he got on the ground to force three jump balls. But even with Nic Batum and company pressuring the ball relentlessly, Giannis was not to be denied. Jason Kidd admitted after the game that the Bucks proactively avoided an all-out “Point Giannis” approach due to Charlotte’s willingness to full-court pressure, and at times that might have left the Bucks’ offense out of sorts, especially in the first quarter.
- Matthew Dellavedova was solid in his debut, but Malcolm Brogdon was even better, taking advantage of the Hornets second unit to post a steady eight points, five rebounds, five assists and no turnovers. Neither guy was bashful about huddling up their teammates, either, though the volume of on-court discussion between plays reflected the Bucks’ general lack of cohesiveness on the night. The Hornets were the better prepared team on Wednesday, and it showed in the frustration levels and body language of the Bucks at times.
- Jabari Parker never really got on track Wednesday, turning it over twice early before going to the bench with a pair of fouls in the latter stages of the first quarter. He finished with a not-terrible stat line of 13 points on nine shots with six boards and three assists, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got the better of him on both ends and the Bucks will need a lot more from Jabari this season if they’re going to compete with good teams.
- Michael Beasley played first quarter minutes at small forward and went 1/5, launching four long twos and missing a layup in transition for good measure. To his credit, he was also on the court when a Brogdon-led group helped make a second-half run, but it didn’t take long to see why a guy with a tremendous amount of talent has often struggled to find a steady NBA paycheck.
- While Parker and Antetokounmpo both connected on triples, the Bucks overall were just 3/16 from deep including 0/5 for Mirza Teletovic, who started as part of the “big wing” lineup we’ve seen Jason Kidd use regularly in the absence of a viable shooting guard. While Bucks fans were no doubt frustrated by their team’s lack of competitiveness, there was certainly some irony in Teletovic drawing boos after missing his last threes in the fourth. If the Bucks are ever going to be a team that succeeds from deep, they’ll need Teletovic to keep shooting them.