The new-look Milwaukee Bucks, who went through an off-season transformation that consisted of the additions of 11 new players, took the floor for the first time Tuesday in Cleveland for their pre-season opener. How did it go? Not so great. The Cavaliers looked like they were in mid-season form on both ends of the floor, while Milwaukee looked like, well, a team with 11 new guys who’ve never played together before. The Bucks’ poor shooting doomed them in this contest, as they shot just 37.7% from the field and 22.2% from three.
The Cavs squashed the Bucks with a 15-0 run in the first quarter and they never looked back. But you know what? That’s okay. While the optimal outcome wasn’t achieved, the brand new Bucks squad showed some good things in their first outing together.
The most anticipated aspect of this game was certainly the NBA debut of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee’s first round pick from Greece. To sum things up, he did not disappoint. Giannis looked extremely poised while on floor, and in fact, looked shockingly comfortable for an 18-year old kid getting his first action against some of the best basketball talent in the world.
Giannis looked especially comfortable on offense, where his innate passing ability was evident from the get-go. He also showed promise shooting the ball, making a three as well as an impressive fade-away jumper from the elbow. Another facet of Giannis’ performance was his ability to get to the line, where he made 7 of 10 free throw attempts. He did record 5 turnovers, but those kinds of mistakes are inevitable for someone making the transition to the NBA game.
Giannis’ impact was felt of defense as well, where his incredible length challenged a good amount of shots and helped him to three blocks. He does have obvious room for defensive improvement, as he misplayed a number of rotations which led to easy baskets for Cleveland.
All in all, it was an impressive outing for the rookie, who tallied 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a team high +13 player rating in his 29 minutes of play.
Gary Neal had a decent game off the bench for Milwaukee, going 3-8 from the field and scoring 7 points. Neal look good penetrating off of ball fakes, something the Bucks can use to create open shots.
It didn’t take long for Larry Sanders to tally up his first technical foul of the year, as he was T’ed up in the third quarter after barking at a ref. Larry finished with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in his 20 minutes of action.
New big man Miroslav Raduljica proved that if nothing else, he’s an absolute load on both ends of the floor. The 7’1″ Serbian tallied 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks and 2 steals in his debut with Milwaukee.
Oh yeah, and some dude named Stephen Graham (31 year-old training camp invite) led the Bucks in scoring with 15 points.
The Bucks starters were bad in this game, plain and simple. The five of them recorded player ratings of -21, -10, -21, -19, and -24. Ouch.
O.J. Mayo shot a pitiful 3-10 from the field, including 1-5 from three. Not good for a guy who the Bucks absolutely need production from on offense.
Caron Butler, the supposed leader of this Bucks squad, took some really awful shots in route to a 1-5 shooting performance on the night. Not to mention he tallied up 4 turnovers. It was a pretty sloppy game for Caron and he’ll need to pick it up sooner rather then later.
Brandon Knight showed flashes of brilliance on defense and in transition (it’s quite refreshing to have a point guard with big size), but was burned by Kyrie Irving on multiple occasions. Knight also struggled to find his shot, shooting just 1-8 on the contest.
The REALLY BAD: Ersan Ilyasova left the game in the second quarter after spraining an ankle. Thankfully, his x-rays were negative and there is no fracture. Expect Ersan to miss a few games, but hopefully he doesn’t have to sit out extended time. The Bucks will need him to be in good shape once the season rolls around.
The Bucks are back in action Thursday night against the Timberwolves in Sioux Falls.