The Milwaukee Bucks looked like a team that was having a good camp on Tuesday night. They looked like a team that had spent some time together before October 1, which wasn’t the case for the last three Bucks pre-season openers.
The Cavs looked like a team full of young guys.
And by young guys, I generally mean players who aren’t very good, either because they are never going to be very good or they just aren’t consistently good yet. Jeremy Pargo, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Jon Leuer – these guys all had their share of mistakes. Over dribbling, late on passes, sloppy passes that got stolen. They had their issues. But Thompson had some highlights – he blocked a shot, ran the court and was rewarded with a dunk. Generally when Thompson was around the rim, he finished strong. Leuer hit some of his patented mid-range jumpers. Waiters looks like he’ll be explosive eventually. Pargo probably isn’t going to last in the league.
Needles to say, the Bucks properly handled the Cavaliers, 97-80 to take down their pre-season opener.
We’re at a point where the Bucks certainly have more talent than a team like the Cavs, that much is obvious even in a pre-season game. Tuesday’s game didn’t look all that different from many of the games Milwaukee played in the second half of last season, at least in terms of point differential. They controlled the pace, they outplayed the lesser competition and got what they wanted. In this league, among the guys that are playing – and in pre-season that’s everyone for the most part – having more talented players than your opponent on a nightly basis leads to positive things.
The Bucks looked much sharper than Cleveland. They moved the ball quicker, with more authority than I’d seen a Bucks team move the ball at this stage in the season in quite a while. That probably owes to these guys having been together since the middle of last season. They are a bit more familiar with each other than the past three Bucks teams at this point. It showed.
Milwaukee’s much ballyhooed length defensively was on display as well. The Bucks blocked eight shots, grabbed 11 steals and between Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels must have deflected at least a half dozen other passes. Scott Skiles coached teams have historically been very aggressive defensively. It leads to a fair share of fouls, but if things go well, it could lead to plenty of blocks and steals for this group. The personnel may line up well with his style as a coach.
The length could lead to even more running opportunities for Milwaukee too. We know the Bucks were a fairly up-tempo group last season, but several Samuel Dalembert blocks led to fast break opportunities for the Bucks. Skiles has always said it’s the Bucks’ defense that’s going to fuel their tempo on offense. If they have to inbound the ball constantly, they aren’t going to be very quick. If they’re struggling for rebounds, they won’t be very quick. But if they’re getting stops or blocking shots into the hands of teammates, this is a group that will be quick on the run, especially with Jennings, Ellis and Harris on the perimeter.
- Tobias Harris was authoritative on offense whenever he was in the game. He was getting points in the flow of the offense, not forcing anything, but he still made his presence known. 11 points in 24 minutes in the start for the sophomore. And he’s fantastic at busting out. I get the feeling he’ll never be a fantastic rebounder from the wing, largely because he’s focused on running out. That isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially with guys like Ersan Ilyasova and Dalembert up front grabbing plenty of boards.
- Beno Udrih hit his head on Larry Sanders’ knee in the second quarter and left the game never to return.
- When his knee wasn’t bashing the skull of Udrih, Sanders was being fairly productive in a simple way. He had multiple tip-ins and dunks around the rim. 10 points for Sanders, plus he grabbed eight rebounds in his 17 minutes and generally played a simple, big man game.
- Jennings and Ellis looked very much like Jennings and Ellis. You could grab these two on any day of the year, throw them together in a five on five and they would play the same way they always play. Both are good at scoring and they share the ball well enough for the team to have offensive success. It just seems so easy for them. Each scored 15 points. Jennings on 6-14 shooting and Ellis on 5-12 shooting. They combined for 12 assists as well (seven for Jennings, five or Ellis).
- “Up goes another. He’s a willing shooter.” “He shoots off the palm of his hand and those are not good jump shooters.” Just a pair of comments from the Cleveland announcing team regarding John Henson. His debut wasn’t anything all that impressive, but he did grab seven rebounds and score six points in 12 minutes. He just looked incredibly unpolished doing it most of the time. I was actually surprised when I looked at his stat line.