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Preseason Recap: Milwaukee Bucks 104, Chicago Bulls 127

Rim protection? Rotation players? Who needs ‘em.

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NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

In a preseason matchup that featured only two or three players likely to see significant game action for them this year, Milwaukee fell by 23 to their neighbors to the south. Jordan Nwora led the Bucks with 25 points on 9/17 from the floor, connecting on 4 of his 9 three point attempts. Patrick Williams led the Bulls with 22 on the same 9/17 shooting line as Nwora. Box Score

While no one was expecting the Bucks to play even the majority of their regular—and likely still jet-lagged—rotation players just two days after returning from their trip to Abu Dhabi, it was a bit hilarious to see this so close to tip:

Yep, it would be one of those games. Milwaukee traveled to Chicago with just nine players, only eight of whom (Bobby Portis dressed! And stayed glued to the bench all night!) appeared in this game. Their starters were Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jordan Nwora, Jevon Carter, MarJon Beauchamp, and training camp signee Marques Bolden. YTwo-way guard A.J. Green, Lindell Wigginton, and Luca Vildoza came off the bench.

For those keeping score at home: yes, that is indeed only three guys actually on the fifteen-man roster. As such, it’s nigh impossible to glean much from this in terms of what this means for the 2022–23 squad, but we’ll try anyway.

Milwaukee led initially behind some early buckets from Nwora—who took it on himself to be the alpha dog—but their lack of strength and defensive ability was quickly apparent. Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond bullied the feeble attempts of the Bucks’ undersized bigs routinely, but this is no shocker. Similarly, when driving inside Patrick Williams and Javonte Green found clearer runways than O’Hare during a thunderstorm as Milwaukee’s wings did their best matador impressions. Chicago led 29-22 after one thanks to some bad Milwaukee turnovers, though despite the miscues and defensive ineptness, the score narrowed to 61-59 Chicago at half.

Things got away from the Bucks in the second half as their shooting cratered, and the Bulls continued hammering their opponent down low. Down ten entering the fourth, Chicago extended their lead to as much as 27 even as they emptied their much fuller bench... which included an Antetokounmpo! This has to be the first instance where an Antetokounmpo was present for a Bucks game, but on the other roster. Anyway, Kostas hit a shot and the Bucks lost big. Whatever.

Three Bucks

MarJon Beauchamp just isn’t ready for real NBA minutes. While I thought he acquitted himself well in Summer League with his shooting and flashed some real chops checking opponents on the wing, he’s been very overmatched in the preseason facing incomplete rosters. Getting caught out of position defending ball screens multiple times, he stood by and watched Bulls blow past him for some explosive dunks. While Charles Lee ran a couple of plays for him in the third, he missed his next 6 shots en route to a 14 points on 16 attempts in 38 (!) minutes of PT. He did try to jam it right in Drummond’s face at one point... which went about as well as you’d expect. Drummond then spent the rest of the evening trying to stuff Mamu through the rim.

Nwora The Scora stuffed the box score. He corraled 5 boards, dished 3 assists, came up with 3 steals, and blocked a shot in addition to his great offensive effort. With decent prospects of seeing early-season minutes due to the Khris Middleton injury, providing some semblance of value when he’s not creating shots—which he actually did a decent job of tonight—is his admission ticket to an actual rotation job somewhere, sometime.

Marques Bolden probably will win G League MVP. The Duke big man was 9/11 from the field, including 3/4 from deep. No, he can’t stop anyone in the paint, but the young fella will get his kicks with the Herd and put up some nice numbers.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Tonight’s update on the new defensive strategy: Chicago took only 31 threes! Chicago also outscored Milwaukee in the paint by a whopping 72-36 margin. At various points, Bucks defenders reverted back to helping on drivers once the Bulls started blazing through the lane, which predictably resulted in open threes. It might take some time to find the sweet spot between helping onto cutters and staying home on shooters with their full frontcourt unit in the weeks ahead.
  • Jevon Carter was seemingly the only rotation candidate out there tonight. After a big second quarter where he knocked down some great kick-out threes in the corner, briefly stealing Nwora’s thunder, he sat for much of the second half. His final line was 8 points a lukewarm 3/9 shooting, with all his makes from outside the arc and just one attempt inside it. On the heels of some big games so far this postseason, that’s good enough for me.
  • A.J. Green is a Bucks two-way player. I’ve heard some takes that were actually strongly critical of the front office for giving him that spot because 1. he only shoots and 2. it became clear he’s likely not going to be a good shooter in the league. While both are true—he was 2/11 from downtown tonight—and yes, there are more deserving candidates for that slot... it’s a freaking two-way guy, people. How can one get so worked up about a marginal NBA player who can be cut with no penalty at the drop of a hat? Are we that quick to jump down Jon Horst’s throat? I digress...
  • Lindell Wigginton looked to be staking a claim at that other two-way spot with a nice second game in the U.A.E., but looked arguably worse than everyone last
  • The last time the Bucks won a preseason game was October 10th of last year, but they’ve dropped 11 of their 12 contests dating back to 2020. Hey, at least they won an NBA title in that span. They’ll get one more shot at a W tomorrow evening at Fiserv Forum when they take on the Nets.

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