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Milwaukee vs. Indiana: Searching for Bright Spots in a Dismal Game

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A forgettable performance featured a few decent moments from D.J. Wilson

NBA: Preseason-Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In what was largely a game worth forgetting, Milwaukee fell to Indiana 86-104. Milwaukee failed to make a significant splash in the first half even while Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton played a majority of the first two quarters. Down seven at halftime and without Giannis Antetokounmpo or Thon Maker set to appear for the night, the second half didn’t immediately feature the scrub units as expected, with Middleton and Brogdon getting spot minutes to start before leaving the scrubs to sweep up. Unfortunately the scrubs didn’t do much cleaning up as the mess that was this game continued to the merciful end when Milwaukee lost.

Three Main Observations

  • The baskets weren’t kind to Milwaukee in the first half, shooting just 38.1% with most of that coming from a period of positive basketball to close the half. Players like Rashad Vaughn were forcing shots, D.J. Wilson was off the mark on a couple of open looks and they missed a number of close bunnies at the hoop. Turner impacted that somewhat, but even Sabonis was able to deter guys at the rim. There’s nothing to really take away from that given they had decent looks, but I will give a quick shout-out to Mirza, who connected on 3-4 from deep on the half.
  • Preseason again left us with really the only impression that matters: Brogdon and Middleton are still real good. In their limited time, Brogdon made a few dart-like passes to the perimeter and helped turn Milwaukee’s offense around as the second quarter winded down. Middleton seems primed for a year of pull-ups and splashing jumpers in his typical swish-like fashion. He had a few stepback pull-up threes that barely grazed the rim and even managed to get a competent pick-and-roll game going with John Henson to end the second quarter. Apologies for stating the obvious, but this putrid performance didn’t leave a whole lot to walk away with.
  • D.J. Wilson showed significantly more than last game, even putting the ball on the deck for a nice contested finish at the rim and hurling a full-court pass to a cherry-picking Gary Payton II for an easy lay-in. I suppose if there’s any other positive to impart from this game, it’s that Wilson flashed some skills we hadn’t seen from him before.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • D.J. Wilson received a pass early in the first near the basket and instead of just going up contorted his body to force a pass to an awaiting Henson. Before that he was more than willing to fire away from the outside from the corner on the previous possession. He needs to show that same willingness near the bucket even with his weak frame.
  • Snell had some slippery hands in the first quarter. He fumbled the ball on several passes initially and got tripped up while trying to go coast-to-coast. He could’ve stroked a sweet corner pass from Brogdon, but juggled the ball once more. Hopefully it was just a peculiar blip from the usual sure-handed wing.
  • Gary Payton II got an early substitution with Telly as the first guys into the game. Payton II had a nice up and under layup and a dunk off a baseline cut in the first.
  • Brandon Rush hit a three upon entering the game, which already made it a more memorable game for him than against Dallas.
  • Malcolm Brogdon helped spark an 8-point stretch in the second that helped save us from a good bit of unwatchable basketball. First he hit a pull-up three, followed by a nifty reverse layup at the rim and then he penetrated to the paint and kicked to the corner, sparking a series of ball movement that ended in a wide-open D.J. Wilson line drive jumper rattling in. It was quite a welcome sight after the eye sore that was most of the first half.
  • Jason Kidd opted to go with the same starters he opened the game with rather than heading right to the scrubs in the second half. It seemed to fly in the face of his pregame comments, but I can believe he wasn’t very heartened by their first half offensive execution.
  • Milwaukee looked entirely lost all night on offense. Outside of a few possessions where Middleton or Brogdon were creating something or Teletovic knocked home a three, it was largely a series of blunders with the Pacers picking balls off like they were picking apples. It was all too easy for the Pacers to deter Milwaukee from what they wanted to do with Turner thwarting their efforts inside and their offense flowing as smoothly as a clogged drain. This will be a good one to erase from our collective consciousness.
  • It may’ve been against the second units, but D.J. Wilson had a confident pump fake and drive to the hoop from the perimeter, hitting a shot against contact and heading to the rim for a chance at an and-one. Those types of plays are what will make the difference between him being a utility spot-up player and a more central part of Milwaukee’s offense in the future. I hadn’t seen anything quite like that from him yet, so it was a nice note to get during a tough-to-watch tilt.
  • Sterling Brown didn’t get any minutes in tonight’s game after going 0-fer from the field in his first preseason game. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle his and Rashad’s minutes for the rest of the preseason given they’re probably battling for the same fourth guard minutes this year.
  • Rashad Vaughn looked like himself again, missing shots and forcing stuff for most of the night. He did have a few finishes at the rim driving to the lane, but those made up for a few bunnies he clanked too. He ended 6-12 from the floor.
  • James Young didn’t appear in tonight’s game despite being cleared from the concussion protocol that kept him out of the preseason opener.

UPDATE! James Young won’t be appearing in any Bucks games for the foreseeable future, since the team released him almost immediately following the game.

Farewell, James Young. Maybe we’ll see you again soon, as a member of the Herd.