And then it was the Nets, or the Big 3 of us, or them. The game against the Nets wasn’t anything like the game against the Grizzlies, to say the least. Two teams were now facing off who are rivals and where the matchup counts, or at least it felt like it more than the matchup against the Grizzlies.
The Nets probably still have some vengeance against the reigning champs the Bucks, our Bucks, for the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, and it showed in the final score where Brooklyn albeit not in their home arena, took the preseason win. The Bucks looked defeated, and probably felt like it, too.
Milwaukee, on their home floor, had all their major players, which they didn’t have against Memphis. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and a host of others played. They didn't exactly have their Big 3 as Khris Middleton is out with a wrist injury. The Nets had their Big 3, and I mean without injuries or usual controversy. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Ben Simmons all came to play during this preseason game. Simmons was a leading performer at the half garnering much praise for his play on the floor. All of the talk was worthy as he had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists respectively. Not a highlight stat night for Simmons, but as they say, it’s sometimes in the quality, not the quantity and in the details he possessed in his 6’10" Australian frame against Giannis’ Greek physique was on full display in this game. Simmons, in particular, has been through a lot considering what happened in Philadelphia, joining the Brooklyn Nets, and having to face media criticism on his decision through it all, but all the Nets have this problem. Durant, known as "KD" to fans, made headlines this summer in what was projected to be a blockbuster trade, but as innovative as he is, it became the "blockbuster return" as the 6’10" slim Durant decided to remain in Brooklyn. That decision was proved to be the right one as far as anyone could see in the preseason game against Milwaukee, as Durant did what he always does for the Nets, crossing lanes and rising up for the shot above any and everyone else on the floor. Irving, acting as the ball-handler and even had Antetokounmpo diving at his ankles at one moment, is a media darling and has a knack for not showing up to certain basketball games, but he doesn’t shy away from the basketball spotlight on the floor and he did that in this preseason game.
Antetokounmpo, the once timid, oversized but underdeveloped prospect from Greece turned MVP, delivered 24 points, 14 points, and 6 rebounds for his hometown Bucks. A star like him needs all the help he can get, and he got it that night it seems, but only time will tell on this. The loss against the Nets in the preseason shouldn’t make the Greek Freak’s form phase out, especially as he’s been honing it in overseas competition this Summer. Giannis has played more basketball this Summer than anyone, more than all the folks in Summer League, the Drew League, and Jamal Crawford’s Crossover camp. The Bucks frontman looked to be in top-notch shape as he rammed through the paint as he does with his eurostep and fancy footwork, which even saw him posterized Simmons at one point. Whether or not this will carry over into their third regular season game which is against the Nets, is yet to be seen, but that is the point. Antetokounmpo still has a knack for his best posting pictures from Bucks workouts and games on Instagram, and the caption after the Nets preseason game read something of that effect. "All that matters is what you can carry over from the preseason to the regular season," the caption read under a picture of Antetokounmpo dunking over Simmons.
That’s the motto the Bucks will probably need to follow, and more of Antetokounmpo's lead as usual, but it is preseason. That’s why the details matter and matchups like the preseason one against Brooklyn even in a loss says a lot. The Bucks probably would have liked to take that game, seeing as it was the last one and all their stars were present. Preseason analytics, though, might not matter as much as the long story from the regular season.
The Bucks still have much to look forward to, including 4 regular season matchups against their foe Brooklyn and one is right around the corner after opening night. The Bucks have time to snag a win on Brooklyn, as Brooklyn did them on Saturday evening.
That’s what matters most. That the Bucks have time and they are admittedly a new team in a new season taking their time. They will have to fight for it against the Nets’ Big 3 and time is on the line for when the Bucks get their Big 3 back and healthy with Middleton’s return riding on everything. The Bucks can count on their squad until now, though, and that always helps. The young legs of MarJon Beauchamp, Jordan Nwora, and whoever else Milwaukee wants to bring to Cream City will be there behind Giannis. That’s, perhaps, why they didn’t rush the game against Brooklyn and felt they needed the win. They played like it. Like the game against Memphis and the other preseason matchups, which included 2 against the Bulls, the Bucks fought until the end and came up short. With Brooklyn, they had been trailing all game and played catch up, then fell again.
The Bucks fight didn’t go unnoticed. It was a night against Brooklyn, and everyone was watching even in preseason. It’s too early to tell how the matchup will eventually play out and that’s a good sign for the Bucks. Their level of unpredictability for better or worse is high this season, but that’s why the experts have film from the preseason game against the Nets to look over and judge. The film will probably tell the experts, fans, and everyone watching that the Bucks are a team preparing for a new, long journey and preseason losses come with the territory.
The preseason game against the Nets is only the beginning. The Bucks will need to make a step to secure the win, but their ability to jump, dribble, pass, and shoot, doesn’t seem to be under much scrutiny. Not nearly as much as Brooklyn, even with their Big 3 and other core of stars and athletes. Both teams have a lot to work to do as usual business in the NBA. For the Bucks, it’s on the floor rather than outside controversy and that helps.
The preseason does help the eye, mind, and soul. The loss to the Nets put the Bucks at 0-5 in. A winless preseason sticks out, but it’s certainly not as daggering as later on when a team fails to make the playoffs or is 21-61. The Bucks don’t appear to be that team and they haven’t lost what makes them click yet.
We'll see if the Bucks can get the win against the Nets in a regular season matchup, which is tonight Oct. 26 again hosted at Fiserv Forum. The Bucks, with the exception of the injury list from preseason, will be in full form.