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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls: A Smackdown Fit for the Fiserv Forum

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An absolute beatdown rings in a new era of offensive basketball for Milwaukee

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA T

A modern offensive system for the Milwaukee Bucks is real, and it’s spectacular. Giannis Antetokounmpo thrived with 19 points, 13 rebounds and a bounty of space at his disposal. If 45 3-point attempts is the future, it sure looks delightful.

Milwaukee’s offense came out like a scorching hellfire with Bud’s new system in place, passing above, below and around the Bulls throughout the first half to take a 63-43 lead heading into the locker room. In case you were curious, that also came on 26 freaking 3-point attempts in a single half. They hit that mark in just 36 full games last season. The second half only continued the decimation, with the majority of Milwaukee’s starters being pulled part way through the third quarter. By game’s end, Chicago went home with their tail between their legs, destroyed 116-82.

Main Observations

A Whole New World

The lack of an inside presence at center offensively was noticeable, and in a good way, early on. Brook Lopez naturally spotted up in the corner when applicable to start a possession. On one play, he posted up near the elbow, and after Brogdon rejected the post-up by passing it to the top of the key, Lopez naturally propped himself up in the corner to space the floor. If Giannis was posting up and going to work, Lopez drifted to 3-point land at a prime passing angle. Not to mention the fact there’s no center on Milwaukee’s roster from last year who could pull this move off in any way, particularly since it only happened because he vacated the paint and gave Giannis the chance to draw so much attention.

Baby Steps

Milwaukee’s offensive flow looked like it had adapted far quicker to Bud’s new system than the defense. Some of that is likely due to the rapidly rotating cast of characters that Budenholzer trotted out tonight, but even the starters looked a bit lost on the defensive end. Assignments got swapped around and one possession in particular their over-aggressiveness from last year seemed to rear its ugly head, but thankfully the Bulls inept offense rarely found any consistency unless they pushed the pace early in the possession. It will remain a work in progress, but offensively, my lord was that some beautiful basketball. Crisp extra passes, not a single player inside the arc, acres of space for Giannis to penetrate and attack or kick out. Take it with a grain of salt given the combination of preseason basketball and Bulls crappiness, but this was the most aesthetically pleasurable offensive performance in some seasons.

Passtetokounmpo

Giannis faced some issues finishing tonight (although 7-10 ain’t too shabby) going down hard on some aggressive attacks at the rim (thanks Jabari). However, in between the fabulous dunks he managed to land, what stood out most was his ability to traipse through the middle of Bud’s offensive system and facilitate. He routinely found space to work in the lane and either dished to someone waiting in the corner, drew defenders or patiently waited for a cut to the rim. He seemed to be the passing catalyst, even more so than Bledsoe at points, and it should only expand as he gets more comfortable.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • For those that care about such things, Eric Bledsoe was not rocking the headband tonight.
  • Donte DiVincenzo was the first player off the bench tonight, perhaps a ringing endorsement, or a coaching tactic by Bud to see whether the rookie can handle the bigger stage. Unfortunately, his first basket didn’t come until an uncontested layup with less than five minutes to go in the game.
  • It was pretty clear Bud gave his guys the green light to launch early in the shot clock from three. Middleton, Brogdon and Bledsoe all tried their hand at a rapid-fire shot the second they spotted up at the 3-point line in the first quarter.
  • Bud wasted no time trying out a smaller lineup with Ersan Ilyasova at the five, even with Robin Lopez still in the game for Chicago. He got toasted early defensively, but his spacing in the corner gave him a sweet stroke off a Giannis dish.
  • Donte looked hesitant to shoot early on, but he had a gentle touch pass give-and-go sequence with Ersan Ilyasova where Donte re-fed Turkish Thunder as he curled to the rim from the corner. He flashed some decent chemistry with Ilyasova later on too. He’s a little frisky in the halfcourt as a passer and defensively as a brutishly willing rebounder for a guard.
  • In today’s entry of “lineup I don’t need to see again,” Bud trotted out Brogdon-Frazier-Snell-Maker-Lopez. Not only was Bud placing an impressive amount of emphasis on Brogdon to carry some of these deep bench lineups, but I figured Thon wouldn’t even get preseason minutes at the 4. It was quite pleasurable when Middleton re-entered the game, although Snell did a decent job guarding a baby-fat toting Jabari for several possessions.
  • Giannis pulled up for a three, straight in Jabari’s grill by the way, but his stroke looked more compact than I recall it in year’s past. What do y’all think? Was this just a result of being hurried?
  • Extra pass was the name of hte game tonight. Late in the second, Bledsoe willingly drifted to the corner to clear the lane, allowing Brook to play some pick-and-roll with Middleton, who promptly fed the shaved-headed twin as he rolled. Brook shoveled it to Bledsoe in the corner as his defender sucked in, who twirled it to Giannis on the wing for a final pass to Middleton for a completely open three atop the arc.
  • Eric Bledsoe actually seemed to play within Bud’s system when he shared the floor with Milwuakee’s other marquee players, but as the half wound down he grew far too enamored with his own dribble rather than letting the offense do the work for him. They really only looked smooth when he pushed the pace and found someone for a quick slam. This is the duality of Bledsoe, one you hope is reined in by often sharing the floor with a bit of superior talent. I’m chalking most of this one up to the mess that is late second quarter preseason basketball. This was cool though.
  • John Henson took over for Brook Lopez for an admittedly smaller crowd in the Fiserv Forum tonight as the second half got underway. As most of you were wondering, he did in fact get off a corner three. It bricked, but at least it wasn’t a midranger!
  • An underrated favorite possession of mine was when Bledsoe found Giannis rolling to the rim over two defenders, where Robin Lopez stopped Giannis’ momentum. That left Henson without any defenders though, freeing him up for a rim-run from the top of the arc, straight down the lane for a finish off the feed from Giannis. I can just see Henson parked beneath the rim in year’s past, mucking up spacing and making it easier for Lopez to guard two guys. Frenetic is the optimum word under Bud. Here it is:
  • Donte moonlit as a point guard in the waning minutes of the third quarter. His shooting woes may’ve continued, but he did a decent job on a ballistic drive to the rim with a scoop pass to Connaughton for an open three on the wing.
  • Christian Wood finally made his way to the court when the fourth quarter began. He looked hurried on the floor, making poor mental mistakes and unforced errors, while flashing few of the athletic plays that helped him stand out throughout the Bucks’ summer.