In their last preseason tune-up, the Bucks fell at home to former head coach Jason Kidd’s Mavericks 114-103. Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 26 points and Dallas was led by 17 from Jalen Brunson. Khris Middleton sat this one out and was replaced in the starting lineup by Jordan Nwora. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis rested for the Mavs.
This one started out with a flourish, as Giannis wasted no time pulling up for a triple on the Bucks’ first possession, kicking off a 7-0 run that took just over a minute.
Giannis really pulled up to start this game. pic.twitter.com/k8TYlzBB30— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 16, 2021
Giannis poured it on from there, hitting another three and scoring 12 of Milwaukee’s first 18 points, but Dallas led by a point after one quarter. After shooting 54% in the first, the Bucks went cold in the second as the Mavs got hot from deep. They led 67-50 at half, though Giannis had 20 points on 8/9 shooting.
Milwaukee managed to close the deficit to ten a couple times in the second half but still trailed 91-77 entering the final period, which featured heavy minutes from end-of-bench guys, some of whom likely saw their last NBA action for a while. Eventually the Bucks would come up short in their preseason finale by 11... but whatever.
- Clearly Giannis is ready to go, as evidenced by his white-hot start. His much discussed jumper sure looked smooth again tonight, but I’ll withhold judgment until we see it in the regular season. I’m most encouraged by his new routine at the line. While he short-armed his second attempt and finished a middling 6/9, he’s dribbling only once now and taking no more than 6 or 7 seconds. I have a feeling the counting on the road will go away in time.
- Once the second quarter began the defense looked rather messy. Sluggish closeouts and a missed rotation or two resulted in a few too many open threes or easy rim opportunities for the Mavs, and Mike Budenholzer called a couple really quick timeouts to nip the issues in the bud (sorry for the pun) quickly.
- Jordan Nwora had a rough shooting night (6/17 and 1/9 from deep for 15 points) but managed a couple nice defensive plays in the third. Since the preseason ended with zero minutes from Semi Ojeleye and just a few in Utah for Rodney Hood, Nwora likely surpassed both in the rotation pecking order. I expect we’ll see him off the bench at some point before half on Tuesday night, especially if Ojeleye and Bobby Portis remain out.
- After a couple nice preseason outings, Sandro Mamukelashvili is looking a lot like a two-way rookie these last two games. Defensively, he’s not dissimilar from other young bigs who need to add muscle in that he can’t stop opposing players at the rim without fouling, as highlighted by his 3 personals in under 5 first quarter minutes. Thankfully, this year will see a full G League season and should get some big league, garbage time frontcourt minutes with only Brook Lopez, Portis, and Giannis able to slot in at the 5.
- Jason Kidd has heard the concerns about the Mavs’ scarce three-point shooting as Dallas put up 39 triples on the night. They hit 14 for a very average 35.9%, most coming from a 7/13 second quarter. Still, that’s the best Dallas has shot from the outside this preseason, and Kidd would be wise to keep fostering that, lest he want his offense to be similarly disappointing to the ones he fielded in Milwaukee.
- Old friend Sterling Brown had a solid night shooting 3/6 from behind the arc with an 11/5/4 line. It’s nice to see him continue to get opportunities in this league; he’s always been a solid player defensively, plus put up career-best shooting and scoring numbers on the tanking Rockets last year. He should see regular minutes in Kidd’s (his first NBA coach!) rotation.
- George Hill capped off a mediocre preseason with 4 points and 2 assists in 21 minutes. While we saw the Bucks win a ring with meager production from reserve point guards, one hopes Hill can recapture at least the shooting we saw from him just over a year ago after going just 1/12 in these exhibition games.
- Thanasis had a chase-down block after throwing the ball away that would make his little brother proud and also flashed a nifty baseline spin on Dallas two-way wing Eugene Omoruyi, who was getting cooked all night.
- Bud went with a Hill/Georgios Kalaitzakis/Nwora/Thanasis/Mamu lineup to close out the third... and it went just as you’d expect. “Keystone Kops” was the descriptor that came to mind. Hill seemed exasperated out there as the only established NBA player.
When we next see this team on Tuesday night, the games will actually count for something... PLUS they’ll raise a banner and hand out some bling. The night they won the title (which happened to fall on this writer’s birthday) and the parade still were the highpoints of Bucks fandom, but Ring Night should be right up there next to them. This party still ain’t over!
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