The Milwaukee Bucks are undefeated.
Correction: the Milwaukee Bucks are preseason undefeated.
No one should confuse the Bucks’ 93-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night for much more than a first rehearsal for the regular season opener on October 26, though — in the absence of any other data — it did provide us some interesting talking points for what the Bucks could be in the 16/17 season:
Starters struggle. Jason Kidd’s first lineup curveball of the season: starting Malcolm Brogdon and Rashad Vaughn against the slightly more experienced backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The early results were anything but encouraging, as the Giannis-helmed Bucks’ offense couldn’t get out of first gear against a Bulls defense that simply hung back and waited for the Bucks to attack. Six minutes in, Chicago led 14-3 (yikes!) before Kidd called uncle and inserted Greg Monroe, Michael Carter-Williams, and Matthew Dellavedova.
And to be clear, it doesn’t really mean anything (*PRESEASON DISCLAIMER*), but there’s also nothing encouraging about the starters looking rather toothless in the short period we saw them up against the Bulls’ starting five. On the plus side, Giannis and Jabari did start to look better in the second quarter when they shared the court with Dellavedova spotting up off the ball, and Parker in particular looked intent on taking a more proactive role in the Bucks’ offense. Still, this was very much a first-game-of-preseason type of performance from the Bucks’ young stars.
Bench bump. On the plus side, the Bucks’ bench bailed them out and then some in the first half, outscoring Chicago’s 37-12 and sparking a 52-28 run over the final 18 minutes of the first half. Monroe looked engaged on both ends, Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic were sharp in their Bucks debuts, and MCW was doing a bit of everything (some bad, mostly good).
While Monroe was up to his usual tricks inside, Delly, Telly and Michael Beasley each splashed a pair of first half three pointers, providing some hope that maybe the Bucks are going to use the three-point line this season (maybe!). Bottom line: Delly is a lock to rejoin the starting five soon, but it will certainly be interesting to see if a Moose-and-MCW-infused bench can give the Bucks a consistent edge over rival reserve units. While it’s far too early to call it a trend, bench play and defense was critical to the early success of the 14/15 Bucks, and we saw a bit of both tonight.