After their unceremonious playoff flameout against the Miami Heat, we finally got a renewed taste of Milwaukee Bucks basketball and their revamped roster for the 2020-21 season against the Dallas Mavericks. The 112-102 loss had an unsurprising amount of sloppy play from both teams, but especially the Bucks as the game wore on and their new arrivals clearly tried to feel one another out. It was a putrid night from deep though, going 9-38 (24.3%) compared to the Mavs 17-43 (39.5%) performance.
Even with an early injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks emerged from the first quarter with a narrow 21-19 advantage. In the second quarter, Giannis took over with 17 points alone in the period while Milwaukee pushed its lead to 59-53 by half. By the third, Dallas waved the white flag with their bench while Bud still ran his starters for at least half of the period. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help matters, as the Bucks fell into a hole 91-74 after three. The scrub squad didn’t stage any miracles in the fourth, with the Mavericks taking the first of this two-game preseason series.
Giannis ended with 25 points and 10 boards in just 25 minutes, while Khris Middleton chipped in 18 points of his own. If Jrue Holiday was a quiet backbeat with four points in 21 minutes, Bobby Portis was a drumset, taking seemingly every opportunity afforded him to get 14 points and 13 boards in 20 minutes.
We’ll get another opportunity to see these two teams face off on Monday at 7 pm CT.
Bonus Bucks Bits
It wasn’t all that surprising given he was the default starter last year when Wes Matthews wasn’t, but Donte DiVincenzo entered the starting lineup along Giannis, Brook, Khris and Jrue. Bud also opted to run his starters to start the second half while Dallas went with an all-bench lineup. So, basically, this:
NOW Bud wants to play the starters heavy minutes?!?!?!— Brew Hoop ⌛️ (@brewhoop) December 13, 2020
It was two swings-and-misses for Giannis from beyond the arc to start the game, including a scripted play to open the contest for him. The latter triple attempt was one of his patented air balls. He hit his first in four attempts just before halftime though.
In better and still somewhat novel Giannis news, we did see him splash home a turnaround fadeaway jumper from the elbow
It was a scary moment in the first, when Dorian Finney-Smith popped Giannis in the mug and he fell to the floor. Thankfully, beyond cleaning up some blood, it appeared he would be okay and he returned after it was revealed as a cut under his eye. Bobby Portis got the first call once he went to the bench.
We got a fresh glimpse of Jrue Holiday as the defensive stopper the Bucks envisioned, with him taking on potential MVP candidate Luka Doncic in this game. Torrey Craig did get the assignment later, even when Jrue Holiday was on the floor. Luka ended 5-13 with 13 points in 16 minutes.
Khris Middleton, who spent the last two years in a contest with Eric Bledsoe for who could notch the most dunks, was cruelly stuffed at the rim on one attempt tonight. I bet his old teammate will get a kick out of that highlight.
Portis has moved around the league for myriad reasons, and he had a few baffling moments like his penchant for posting up at the elbow and insisting he finish the play, but one thing for certain is he will run the floor and drive right to the rim. He had a few instances of it tonight, one a nice connection with Jrue Holiday, the other as he ran behind Giannis as the reigning MVP demanded all of the Mavericks attention (and fell to the floor while doing so). That freed up Portis for a dunk off the feed from Augustin.
Bobby Portis seems like the new Michael Beasley. Never met a shot he didn’t like, and if he gets the ball it’s more than likely it’s gonna end up at the rim.
I am curious what D.J. Augustin will offer the team as a secondary playmaker. It is still the first preseason game, but it was a little distressing when he had the chance to take Dwight Powell off the dribble from the top of the key and opted instead to pass to Jrue for a 3-point attempt. Powell is certainly more nimble than most bugs, but still. What Augustin did show was a penchant for wanting to feed the rolling big man with pocket passes into the paint; that should yield positives as him and Giannis share the floor more often.
The Bucks used transition as much as any team in the league last year, and there were several swell sequences in this one, some of which stemmed from long passes instigated by Jrue Holiday. Their transitions last year often felt predicated on Giannis or someone else barreling towards the rim, so it’s nice to see a little variation in their attack even in the early going.
Jordan Nwora, the Bucks 45th selection in this last draft, saw his first NBA action to begin the fourth period. He hit his first attempt too, splashing a triple in transition.
His fellow draftee, Sam Merrill, came in a few minutes later in the fourth. He was able to knock a dribble stepback triple for his first NBA bucket.
My favorite Jim Paschke line of the night, following a D.J. Wilson slam, “D.J. Wilson playing like the MVP of...something, tonight.” In all fairness to him, Wilson showed positive stuff in the minutes he got en route to 14 points. He also hit the most 3-point shots out of anyone on the Bucks tonight.