For their encore in Abu Dhabi, the Milwaukee Bucks went with more of an understudy performance, getting throttled in the third with backups as the Atlanta Hawks took the preseason series 2-0 behind a 118-109 victory.
Bud opted to sit Giannis Antetokounmpo for this one, slotting Pat Connaughton in his place. I’m glad for the Abu Dhabi fans that they got to see the Greek Freak at least once, but it seems prudent not to overtax Giannis after his Eurobasket play. Milwaukee fell behind by up to five in the first period, but rallied behind aggressiveness from Jrue Holiday to take a 25-24 lead. The second period turned into a foulfest as both teams buckled down somewhat on the defensive end. Milwaukee manufactured points through some nimble pick-and-rolls and attacking Trae Young, but the Hawks star made up for it and then some with 31 first half points on 7-9 from deep as Atlanta led 63-55. When he hit from the logo, you knew it was just one of those games he wasn’t going to miss.
Jrue Holiday, Trae Young and Brook Lopez all sat after the first half, alongside a few other Hawks starters giving way to backup brigades for the final 24 minutes. It grew painfully obvious that without Giannis, Khris or Jrue, there really aren’t too many Bucks who can put pressure on an opposing defense. The third quarter just unraveled from there with the books backups getting blown off the court trailing 96 to 75 with one period to go. A Lindell Wigginton heater in the fourth quarter added a drop of drama to this one, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get within spitting distance. In the waning moments, the crowd started chanting, “We want Giannis.” The wisdom of the crowd.
Milwaukee is off until next Tuesday when they take on the Chicago Bulls.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Milwaukee’s new defensive tactic of not helping off shooters and relying on playing the pick-and-roll two-on-two when it involves Brook Lopez got through the paces again. It’s no surprise either, as Trae Young is one of the most difficult litmus tests I can imagine for rolling out this particular scheme. Still, it’s worth noting they usually just switched PNR when it involved Bobby Portis. I thought they looked a little more comfortable overall, but part of that was likely the lack of DeJounte Murray offering another PNR option that is a lethal midrange shooter. Young’s brilliance did come somewhat at the expense of the interior, but it was more that his deep ball was rolling.
- Mamu got early minutes again for this one, and was able to nimbly stroll by Frank Kaminsky for a simple lay-in at the bucket. I’m doubtful he’ll crack any regular rotation but he certainly provides decent backup big minutes and acquitted himself decently with nine points (most of which came from the free throw line), four rebounds and four assists.
- In the wing war for minutes, Jordan Nwora drew first blood this game as Bud gave him the initial nod before MarJon Beauchamp. Nwora delivered with a corner three swish in his first opportunity. He continues to look like a player who’s had two more years of experience against NBA competition vs. Beauchamp, whose offensive performance is...uneven at best right now, and that’s being quite generous.
- I enjoyed seeing Jrue Holiday ruthlessly try to attack Trae Young’s size, even calling Jevon Carter up for a super-small pick-and-roll to get Young switched onto him.
- George Hill had an incredible baseball full-court sling to Bobby Portis in the second period; Portis ultimately had to bring it back out, but put on a dizzying array of spin moves before putting Aaron Holiday on skates and nailing a baseline jumper. Fun stuff.
- I hadn’t seen much of Hawks rookie AJ Griffin at Duke, I just knew he was supposed to be a helluva shooter; he didn’t disappoint, even with a very rigid set shooting motion. He had 13 on 4-8 shooting.
- Chalk another one up in the “maybe it’s better if you just stand and shoot” ledger for MarJon Beauchamp. His first offensive appearance featured him taking steps while trying to gather and dribble past his defender in the corner. He was largely a non-factor offensively after that, besides his three turnovers. Defensively he looked OK applying pressure on the perimeter, and he had a few decent possessions against AJ Griffin in the second half.
- Mike Budenholzer successfully challenged Brook Lopez stuffing a John Collins dunk attempt into a box. I’m not sure how often Bud will be using challenges on Brook complaints during the season, so nice of him to throw the big guy a bone.
- De’Andre Hunter was dusting Pat Connaughton in the third period, showcasing some of the size concerns that occasionally come with Pat on that end. Hunter was able to get to his spots or hit casual turnaround jumpers from the elbow with relative ease despite fairly sticky D from Pat.
- Garbage time = Thanasis time. Salute.