In front of three to five thousand of their closest friends (I’m not very good at pegging attendance, but I can assure you it was low) the Bucks may have put on a first quarter act that they will not top this year in Saturday night’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The first quarter started out in typical fashion for the Bucks, Andrew Bogut down low, Michael Redd leftside, Redd left side again, Redd left side again and (any guesses?) Redd left again. After that, the Bucks looked a little lost. There was some hesitance on the part of the offense as the T’Wolves attempted to key in on Redd. The question all off-season has been where else is the offense going to come from? In a pivotal first quarter, Brandon Jennings made the most of an opportunity to show who else could score for the Bucks.
After assisting Redd on three of his shots, Jennings was getting plenty of room to operate and prove he could hit an open shot. And prove that he did, at least tonight. Jennings came into Saturday’s game having hit six of his last 33 pre-season shots, but went 4-4 in the first quarter and even knocked down a three for good measure. While that’s all well and good, realistically Jennings is going to have to do his damage from the line and in the paint this year. Jennings made three trips to the line on the evening ending up 5-6. He hasn’t been shy about putting up shots thus far in the pre-season and he shouldn’t be if he’s getting room, but it’s going to be key for Jennings and the Bucks that he balances out his attempts with drives that result in free throws, assists or layups. He was able to do that Saturday night.
The Bucks continued to foul against the Timberwolves, allowing 36 foul shots on 70 field goal attempts. I had a chance to ask Scott Skiles about this after the game, as I’d think it’d be a pressing concern for him. Not so much though.
“We don’t want to foul as much as we’re fouling, but also knowing as much as we work on our defense, if the guys are giving a great effort there may be games where we foul a bit much. We don’t want to lead the league in fouls or opponents free throw attempts, on the other hand I’ve been part of a couple teams that probably fouled a little bit much, but when the season was over and we looked back we saw that it really busted up the other team’s offensive rhythm.”
I get the impression that Coach Skiles would much rather take a foul than give up anything easy or be any less aggressive on defense. It’s evident that the Bucks foul an awful lot, but Saturday night they also limited the Timberwolves to 38% shooting and had 11 combined blocks and steals to only five for the T’Wolves. The Bucks aggressiveness ideally will allow them to run on offense and afford the Brandon Jennings’ and Hakim Warrick’s to make plays in the open court and that worked out very well Saturday.
Kurt Thomas is making a strong case to be the starting power forward opening night. The thing that really sets Thomas apart from other players, aside from his noted defensive capabilities, is that he never bogs down the offense. Every time Thomas gets the ball he makes a quick decision. You won’t see Kurt Thomas messing around with some jab steps from the wing or swinging the ball around with one hand in a post up move. You will see Kurt Thomas taking a quick open jumper or swinging the ball to the open man in the corner. You’ll also see Kurt Thomas knocking people over, grabbing defensive rebounds and sneering at opposing players: these are all good things.
Ersan Ilyasova considered initially to be a possible front runner in the opening night power forward race, seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle a bit. Not necessarily because he hasn’t played well or won’t play well, but more because of fit. Ilyasova isn’t as nice a fit with the first unit, he’s more a finesse guy in a lineup that would require muscle. Ilyasova might not see a lot of time with the second unit either though, because Hakim Warrick is dunking everything in sight and playing with a bag of Doritos on his shoulder. So where does Ersa Major fit in? To be determined.
As everyone has been saying all pre-season, Redd and Bogut both look ready to go. Redd logged 24 minutes Saturday, with Bogut doing him one better at 25 and each man played well. After a hot (and important for him) start, Redd cooled down in the second half, but still finished with 15 points and four assists, exactly what the Bucks need out of him. Andrew Bogut went the opposite route of Redd, starting with little fan fare and then putting up six points and six boards in the second quarter, including a few dunks where he showed no problem getting off the ground quick. Bogut looked as explosive as ever (not that he’s ever been all that explosive anyway) and both are allowing Bucks fans to breath easy for now. Redd looks like he may even have a stronger start this year than he did last after a summer of rest and no Olympics. Redd on the issue:
“I had a chance this summer to refresh my mind, be around my family and just get stronger. That’s my goal, stay healthy and be strong. D-Wade called me this summer and told me, ‘you’re going to come back stronger’, that’s my goal, stay healthy.”
That’s our goal for you too, Mike. Stay healthy. So far, so good.