........................Yes, it was preseason, and yes, there is a lot of basketball to be played, but the debuts of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard went about as well as we could hope as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-97.
From the jump, it was the Giannis and Lillard (and Beasley) Show, with the hoped-for pick-and-roll connection flashing immediately. The first P&R had Giannis seamlessly dragging three defenders his direction at the elbow before finding Jae Crowder for a disgustingly open three — which he promptly missed as we’re come to expect from role players. While Lillard was not overly prolific with his jumper, his feel for navigating and scoring around the rim was a joy to watch, and the superstar whistle+genuine know-how for drawing contact put him on the line time and again. The aggressive team defense was on display with Malik Beasley’s effort a standout (if somewhat erratic to watch), although the Lakers benefitted from decent transition play and a good first half from Anthony Davis to maintain contact at the half with the Bucks up 56-53.
Antetokounmpo would end up resting the rest of the way and Lillard would join him midway through the third, so what follows are quick observations of the non-starters: Robin Lopez struggled to keep up in the aggressive defensive scheme, MarJon had a solid bounce-back game on both ends of the floor, Cam Payne continues to be a huge upgrade at backup PG, Pat Connaughton is ready as ever, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Andre Jackson Jr.’s defensive motor and instinct remains admirable, and Bobby Portis will remain a great iso scoring option. Chaos ball kept the fourth quarter somewhat interesting, but the Bucks bench would hang on for the victory.
Most importantly, here are Giannis and Lillard’s stat lines from their first night together:
- Antetokounmpo: 15 minutes, 16 points (7-10 from the floor), 8 rebounds, 2 blocks
- Lillard: 22 minutes, 14 points (3-10, 2-7 from three), 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds
Stat That Stood Out
With the starting lineup beginning to come together, coach Adrian Griffin ran a 13-man rotation tonight which was more like a 10-man group until the rookies/Thanasis got burn to finish the game. Those top 10: Giannis, Lillard, Crowder, Beasley, Brook, Payne, Beauchamp, Robin, Bobby, and Pat Connaughton. With Khris Middleton coming back, it’ll be of real interest how Griffin sets up his regular season lineups, and ultimately who is in and who is out.