Milwaukee Bucks stars in first taste of World Cup tune-up action

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 9: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 9: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Between USA Basketball’s big scrimmage and Greece taking on Hungary, World Cup preparations stepped up for the Milwaukee Bucks stars on Friday.

With just three weeks remaining until the 2019 FIBA World Cup gets underway in China, preparations are beginning to ramp up in intensity for all of the teams set to take part.

As we’ve already explored in detail, this year’s World Cup will provide plenty of cause for excitement and interest for Milwaukee Bucks fans, and Friday’s batch of tune-up games offered the first real taste of what lies ahead.

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Under the bright lights of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, USA Basketball put on something of a showcase in the traditional scrimmage between the main roster and the select team.

With the players fighting for their place on the plane to China, or to at the very least leave an impression that could see them fall into consideration for future tournaments, three Bucks players found themselves in the thick of the action.

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez took their place on the Blue Team, which ultimately prevailed 97-78 winners, comprised of players on the primary roster, while Pat Connaughton suited up against his club teammates for the White Team comprised of members of the Select squad.

Middleton and Lopez have been widely tipped to be in contention to make the final squad chosen by Gregg Popovich, Jerry Colangelo, and the rest of the hierarchy at USA Basketball, and based on Friday’s evidence there’s no real reason to believe that has changed.

In particular, Middleton took his place in the starting lineup, while even Lopez emerging as one of the first few subs off the bench could be viewed as a positive sign.

In the action itself, performances were a little bit more muted with the minutes load being shared around. Having said that, Middleton represented a notable exception, logging a team-high 21:10, and chipping in with nine points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal on 4-of-8 shooting from the field.

Lopez had to settle for just 10 minutes of action, contributing two points, two assists and a rebound on 1-of-2 shooting during that span. On the other side, Connaughton logged just under 18 minutes and left a strong impression of himself with seven points and four rebounds, although he did miss all three of his long-range attempts.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, Greece continued their preparations for the World Cup on home soil with a clash against Hungary in the Aegean Internattional Tournament.

While Thanasis Antetokounmpo remained sidelined, Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to action after sitting out Greece’s win over Iran.

The NBA MVP logged 21 minutes of action, and poured in 19 points and eight rebounds to help his team cruise to a 83-59 rout over their Hungarian counterparts.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: The double edged sword of FIBA World Cup participation. dark

For Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Lopez, the hope will be that this was just the beginning of a long and successful summer of international action.