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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: A Backup Battle to (Probably Not) Remember

Milwaukee made it close, but I can’t say there was a ton of excitement to glean from this one

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason OT is certainly a sight to behold, and we got plenty of it in the Milwaukee Bucks115-119 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Amazingly, the bench crew for the Milwaukee Bucks were able to take a lead after the first quarter, outpacing an OKC crew 30-27 despite 19 first quarter points from Paul George. The second quarter didn’t fare nearly as well offensively for Milwaukee, but the fact their scrub units could hold their own against the Thunder and trail only 55-48 is particularly impressive. Malcolm Brogdon and Tyler Zeller combined for 22 points as the primary scorers for the Bucks in those two periods. An even-scoring third for both teams led to a 79-72 advantage for OKC heading into the fourth. The Bucks got it close down the stretch, and managed to send it into overtime on a Tim Frazier sinker from deep. Despite that, they couldn’t pull it out in OT.

Three Pointers

Unsurprising Rust

After the majesty that was the open space provided in Milwaukee’s first game against Chicago, that same land provided a few less highlights with Milwaukee’s bench units running through Bud’s system. Unsurprisingly given the oddjob groupings on court tonight, they looked like they lacked communication and feel for who should drive, who should space and who should shoot when. Christian Wood tried to take it upon himself a few too many times, Pat Connaughton looked a bit less effective without others taking attention away from him, Delly seemed to toss passes with the arm strength of a baby wallaby, it was a mishmash of guys without a leader when Brogdon wasn’t on the court. Thankfully, bottom-roster lineups don’t really need much chemistry come regular season time.

Bottom Roster Battle

The faceoff for the 15th roster spot continued tonight, with Christian Wood vs. Tyler Zeller taking center stage. They traded off decent plays in the first half, with Zeller taking the lead off some solid 3-point hits and a nifty pass from the top of the arc to a cutting Donte DiVincenzo. Wood, meanwhile, looked to be forcing it, not playing in rhythm and playing like a guy trying to earn a spot in one play. It paid off in the second half though, when he went iso against Patrick Patterson and shoved the Thunder forward away with his strength for an and-one finish before taking it on a pump-fake monster slam to the rim for a jam. Tim Frazier threw his hat into the ring in the late stages of the second half, nailing a pull-up three in the third and using some shifty moves for a pull-up that bounced in with some sweet touch. He also hit the pull-up three to send the game into overtime. Wood snagged control as the game droned on in the fourth, but he also did so when I’d say player engagement was waning across the board. This was worth re-watching several times though.

Roster Churn in Motion

I’m sure this excites plenty of people, and the Wood news does warrant that. His upside is tantalizing, but he’s also still looked just okay through these preseason games with flashes of promising play. Those flashes are certainly more than we’ve seen from D.J. Wilson though, but I’m dubious that they’ll actually get rid of the second-year player. Decline his third-year option, sure, but sending him out in a trade before the season starts? Doubtful, in my eyes. If anything he may head out midseason in some sort of salary dump or as an additional contract fodder in a grander deal Milwaukee makes. Cutting him before the season started would be an incredible indictment on Horst’s part in regard to his first selection in Milwaukee. It would also signal a willingness on the owners part to cash in on eating a sizable chunk of change that isn’t contributing to the team. Those pieces are starting to add up too, between Spencer Hawes and Larry Sander’s. They should receive some relief soon with Mirza’s contract coming off the books thanks to his retirement. Theoretically, it certainly makes sense to dump Wilson given Milwaukee’s already had several players that seem like more viable contributors than him this preseason, I just doubt the organization actually pulls the trigger that quickly.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Milwaukee trotted out Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Donte DiVincenzo, Christian Wood and Tyler Zeller as its starting lineup tonight.
  • Zeller and Christian Wood traded off blows in their battle for the fifteenth roster spot in the first quarter. Zeller managed to nail a corner three, while Wood took his man off the dribble in an off-kilter drive that did result in a one-handed push pass to Brogdon for a three. Take of that what you will, but Zeller hitting a corner three is something that would actually be useful in a regular season game, while I don’t anticipate Wood going off the dribble much against competent big men. Kudos for his court vision though.
  • For those of you who wanted to see Brown play up a position defensively, he got the chance tonight taking on Patrick Patterson’s burly bod around the arc and at the elbow.
  • Delly and Henson didn’t mind that “if he ever puts it together” Nerlens Noel was tagging him, he slammed home two hanging slams on the rim in the first quarter.
  • Here’s something I think I’m really going to enjoy watching this season. Twice in the first quarter, Brogdon delivered the ball to Zeller near the top of the arc and whirled around him like a pole to drive immediately into the paint. The near man in the corner spaced the floor enough that his defender couldn’t help in on Brogdon, whose own defender gets smacked by Zeller’s body leaving Brogdon free for a shot at the rim. Better help defenders will be able to sink in off the guy in the far corner, but Brogdon’s savvy enough to deliver the pass when necessary too. Those runs through the middle of the paint were a staple of the offense tonight and put Milwaukee’s players in prime spots for efficient shots.
  • Even during a game he isn’t playing, Giannis still manages to be the most interesting part of this contest, courtesy of this Matt Velazquez article.
  • Donte hit a three...AND IT’S CAUGHT ON TAPE!
  • There weren’t many plays worth noting in the latter stages of the third quarter, but I’d like to call attention to Sterling Brown bottling up Jerami Grant in a fastbreak/transition opportunity. He used his length to stop Grant after several pivots, leading to a rushed shot that led directly to a Frazier three on the other end. It won’t get noted in the box score, but Brown showed good mettle against the larger, more athletic man.