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Milwaukee vs. New Orleans: Bucks Fall to Pelicans in Preseason Finale

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A Giannis-less Bucks squad puts a capper on a forgettable preseason

Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

And so ends the shortest preseason you may ever experience, with the Milwaukee Bucks falling 127-113 to the New Orleans Pelicans to put a bow on their winless preseason. If you missed the first quarter of tonight’s game, then I’m jealous, because the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks laid an egg while the Pelicans ran roughshod to ensnare a 35-20 lead. For anyone who tuned in to start the second, you were greeted with far better play, as the Bucks whittled into New Orleans lead until they trailed by only two at halftime, 57-59. They shot only 26.9% (7-26) from behind the arc. The Bucks bench crew led the Pelicans re-establish a larger lead to end the third, with Milwaukee entering the final period down 98-90. The fourth quarter saw Bud empty his bench and the cleanup crew couldn’t pull out a conquering victory.

Khris Middleton more than picked up the scoring slack in Giannis’ absence, pulling his usual array of crossover moves before drilling jumpers directly in people’s grill. He wound up with 29 points in just 26 minutes on 9-16 shooting. Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo added 15 and 14 respectively.

The Bucks got their first chance to face off against their former teammate Eric Bledsoe. Bled went for 14 points on 5-11 shooting, so basically a Bledsoe night. Zion Williamson for some reason played to the final buzzer, ending with 31 points and nine boards.

Milwaukee tips off the regular season against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, December 23 at 6:30 pm on TNT.

Bonus Bucks Bits

The Bucks gave Giannis a well-deserved rest for the final preseason game after he signed his super max this week, as Bobby Portis got the start in his place. They listed him as out with a sore back. D.J. Augustin was also out with a calf sprain.

D.J. Wilson is probably gonna be a pumpkin come the real season, but it has been encouraging to see him look decent finishing as a roll man inside. In the first tonight, he had a solid finish through contact. He had a similar bit of chemistry with Middleton in the second period too for a lay-in.

Even if his deep ball wasn’t falling at all, it was encouraging to see Donte DiVincenzo take every offensive opportunity afforded him in the second period on an all-bench lineup (besides Brook Lopez). It would’ve been nice to see him try to initiate a little more as a playmaker, but a last preseason game is as good an opportunity as any to try to fine tune your jumper into regular season shape. Hopefully, he got some misses out of his system.

Sam Merrill got second quarter minutes in this game, alongside a lineup of Holiday-Middleton-Wilson-Portis. I wondered if that could portend anything to come...then I saw Thanasis get second quarter minutes too. Still, whether Jordan Nwora or Merrill might get spot duty as a pure shooter in the regular season could be something to monitor. Merrill calmly knocked down two triples in the period.

Bud won his coach’s challenge tonight, overturning an offensive foul call on Khris Middleton. The Bucks promptly turned it over.

We all know Donte is one of the better Bucks at slinking around screens. Well, he met his match tonight against Steven Adams; in the third quarter Donte plowed into the Kiwi and was stopped in his tracks while Lonzo Ball got free to hit a bank shot from the elbow.

When Adams and Zion were sharing the floor, Bud opted to have his center Brook Lopez match up against the former Blue Devil rather than let Williamson see what havoc he could wreak upon Portis Jr. It’s not all that surprising given Portis’ defensive reputation, but it still tells you all you need to know given Bud felt better with his center against the fleet of foot Zion. FWIW - Zion won that matchup tonight, even if Brook did have this notable block.

Jrue Holiday got more of a starring offensive role in this one, and one place he got a chance to shine: down on the block. Several times tonight he posted up his defender and in the third, he found his way to the charity stripe and missed a little fadeaway on the other. We’ll see if that wrinkle works its way into the offense when Giannis is playing.

We got our first (and likely last) sighting of Nik Stauskas for this preseason in the fourth quarter. He wasted no time missing his first shot! We also got our first extended look at Mamadi Diakite, the rookie out of Virginia, who scored his first NBA bucket on a putback.

The Bucks shot just 10-40 tonight from deep. In their three preseason games, they shot merely 31-111 (27.9%) overall, while their opponents shot 51-121 (42.1%).