After months of talent-deprived summer league games and roster churning preseason tilts, the regular season feels like a birthday and christmas all wrapped into one. That’s why tonight is a cause to celebrate, as we will finally see a full game from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Thon Maker and the entire merry band of Milwaukee Bucks. That excitement is tempered slightly by the horrific injury that occurred to new Celtics star Gordon Hayward last night. A gruesome ankle issue made fans, viewers and players sick for one of the league’s shining stars. But basketball must go on, and at least we have Giannis to cheer us up.
Milwaukee ended the preseason with a 1-3 record after a stronger showing against the Detroit Pistons finished with a 107-103 win. Giannis had some outrageous blocks in the game, pummeling one in particular so hard it’s a wonder it didn’t shatter the backboard. More importantly though, Milwaukee showed a higher propensity for firing from deep, averaging 30.1 3-point attempts per 100 possessions. That ranked 11th in the league over the preseason, and while one can never read too deeply into the muck of preseason stats, one can hope that promising trends somehow carry over. What wasn’t necessarily promising was the Bucks offense until the final game, due largely to the fact their preferred starting five finally got some run. Thon Maker’s first appearance also resulted in eight points, eight rebounds and two assists in his 26 minutes.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
I mean, come on.
Block of the Night: Giannis with the chase down swat on Ish Smith!! pic.twitter.com/DyVc1SDu6h— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 14, 2017
Boston overhauled much of their roster in the offseason, replacing guys like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk with the likes of Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They also added the number 3 pick in the draft, Jayson Tatum, an offensively talented forward out of Duke. Really though, all that matters with Boston after last night’s game is the Hayward injury. If Hayward is out all year, which I would guess he is, a deeply depressing fog descends over Boston’s season. While I still think they have enough talent to land in the top four of the East, whatever sort of Eastern Conference crown hopes they had are likely dead. It was a depressing moment last night for all basketball fans, but it also shines a brighter spotlight on not only Kyrie’s ability to lead a team, but the development of their two young forwards, Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Player to Watch: Jaylen Brown
Brown ended last night with 25 points and six rebounds, flashing some impressive ability to flash to the rim off the dribble and use his athleticism for ferocious finishes. He even had one particular smashing jam in transition against Lebron James who smartly stepped out of the way. For all his athletic gifts, his shot remains a work in progress. Defensively, the rangy Brown was matched up against Lebron throughout the evening, a tough ask for anyone let alone a second year player. His reward will likely be matching up Giannis Antetokounmpo tonight. I can’t think of a more terrifying way to start the season defensively.
And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out today’s Locked On Bucks episode: