The Philadelphia 76ers are a team designed to play poor basketball with great effort between the months of October 2014 and April of 2015.
So far, so good.
Philly failed to score a basket over the final 8:21 and missed its final 14 shots. The Bucks turned a narrow 82-81 lead into a firm 93-81 victory over that stretch and everyone in Milwaukee got to feel good about a very festive opening night of NBA basketball.
|Khris Middleton, PF 28 MIN | 5-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +11Aggressive, without being forceful. That’s what it seems Middleton’s night was like. When he caught the ball and was open, he was getting a shot up. Only five of his field goal attempts were “contested” (someone within 3.5 feet), per NBA.com. He’s definitely playing a confident brand of basketball right now. Unfortunately for him, those shots he was putting up with great certainly weren’t falling through the rim. IT seems like that could change easily enough.Middleton is one of many Bucks who seems to feel free grabbing a rebound and pushing the ball up the court, which makes him an intriguing player. He doesn’t seem to have the decision making skills or vision to do as much as some of his teammates in this role, but it’s overall a positive for the Bucks to have more guys initiating transition offense.|
|Jabari Parker, SF 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +15He still isn’t getting many looks out of the post, which I’m partial to with regards to him. After six shots in the first quarter, he took only five the rest of the way. There’s a lot of talk about being unselfish among players on this team and Jason Kidd, so it seems like maybe there’s some of that going on here. But honestly it just doesn’t feel like the ball is moved towards Parker much, especially when he’s out there with Brandon Knight. That’s not a criticism of Knight, just an observation.Kudos on the double-double.|
|Larry Sanders, C 27 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 15 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +13This indispensable NBA.com stats site says Sanders was in the vicinity of 18 rebounds on the night. He grabbed 15 of those boards, which was a much higher percentage than he grabbed on opening night, so that was certainly a positive improvement. Sanders defended the rim well on opening night and appeared to do so again Friday night, in which he blocked four shots and helped the Bucks take back their rim in the second half.Philly was living in the paint and putting in dunk after layup after dunk early on, but Milwaukee defended much better as the game went on and naturally, Sanders was a huge factor there.
Also he almost went and dunked on his own hoop. Jason Kidd was cracking jokes about it after and actually said it seemed like that relaxed the team. The Bucks were up three at that point and ended up winning by 12. HMMMM.
|Brandon Knight, PG 29 MIN | 2-8 FG | 8-10 FT | 7 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | +6He remains a work in progress, but it’s fun seeing those little signs of progress. For example, after splitting one pick and roll, which he LOVES to do, he attacked the rim and instead of launching himself like a missile towards the rim, he kept his dribble alive and moved through the paint. After clearing the lane, he looked back and found a delayed Larry Sanders open under the hoop and hit him with a pass that Sanders turned into a thunderous dunk. That’s fun. More of that.Otherwise he did more Knight things. Extreme aggression. Occasional turnovers. Sometimes kickouts.|
|Jared Dudley, SG 16 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +6He didn’t seem to make much of a difference, but hey, tonight’s a night where we can feel good about everything. The one thing about him starting that I really like is how it allows Giannis a little more freedom to operate. We’re watching Parker’s presence occasionally be restrained and I can’t help that restraint may be amplified if Giannis too was thrown into the lineup with Knight and Parker. Maybe having these guys who can initiate on different units makes sense.|
|Ersan Ilyasova, PF 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -2Merp.|
|John Henson, C 21 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 6 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -1The six blocks kind of snuck up on me. He’s so long. There’s a thing that’s happened twice in two games where OJ Mayo has thrown up lobs for him and tonight they connected and it was fun. One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed much for Henson is how much he makes contact with people on the defensive end. A few times Sixers got free passes into the paint and towards the rim off the ball because he didn’t tag them. That’s something he historically has struggled with and it hurt a bit in the first half.|
|Nate Wolters, PG 10 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +5Played! Didn’t make too much of a difference to the naked eye, but Jason Kidd was complimentary of his defense. I can’t in good conscience give him a real grade, so I’ll just give him a C and move on.|
|Kendall Marshall, PG 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +4Played! But only for a bit. He didn’t direct much positive action on offense himself, but simply having him in there opens up more opportunities for Bucks that are not Brandon Knight, which makes him an interesting contrast. Again, not a knock on Knight, because he’s a good option as a guy driving to the paint, but it’s definitely a thing that he takes more possessions than a guy like Marshall.|
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 14 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +2I have already pledged to give Bayless a C every night, so that is what it is. But he was very effective in this game as a backup point guard and if a team needs a backup point guard, they could do much worse than Bayless. He blew one layup extremely bad, but aside from that he was an active player doing positive things.|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | -9It’s surprising to see a night in which Giannis didn’t shoot a free throw. That’s been such a strength of his, I’ve come to expect at least four every night. His game was as focused around the rim as ever.One drawback to his willingness to bring the ball up after rebounds is his long arms and high handle, which occasionally cause him to lose the ball. Once he turned the ball over in a rush to get up the court and another time he nearly did. I’m cool with this, because youth and trying is better than not, but it’s something to watch.|
|O.J. Mayo, SG 28 MIN | 8-13 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | +10When do they ship the Sixth Man of the Year to his house? Tonight? Can we do express delivery tonight? Can we get one of those flying Amazon robot drones to go grab it from the league offense and have it waiting for him when he gets back from Washington?For the long time Buck fan, I’ll say that Mayo tonight reminded me of Michael Redd. He was feeling it and he was looking to get up shots when he caught the ball, but he was looking to make the right play too. Redd did that more often than he got credit for. Kidd noted after the game that he was impressed with Mayo’s defense and willingness to be a playmaker, which was reflected accurately by his five assists.|
He’s willing to mess around with his rotation, that’s for sure. Ilyasova? Five minutes. Zaza? No minutes. Henson? 20 minutes. He’s mixing and matching as he sees fit right now. Coaches are often criticized for not creating stable environments for players. But coaches are criticized for playing guys who shouldn’t be playing too. It’s a tough job, figuring out how to divvy up a fixed number of minutes, so I don’t envy Kidd. Through two games, he seems to have done well enough.
Three Things We Saw
- The crowd was very excited. Also very rich. Many billionaires and millionaires, with seemingly every minority and majority owner of the Bucks in attendance. They got a little bit of their money’s worth on Friday, as for one night, it seemed like the Bucks were the darlings of the city leading up to a game. And for one night, the team delivered on the promise that had so many people excited about them.
- Led by Larry Sanders, Milwaukee did a FAR better job rebounding the basketball against Philly, besting them 55-42 on the glass. Milwaukee grabbed 15 offense rebounds, led by Sanders’s seven.
- This was fun. It’s getting fun to watch the Bucks again. It was safe and it still is safe to assume this team isn’t going to be very good and will have more bad nights than good nights this season, but tonight was a good night. And Wednesday night was a good night. It’s fun that so many guys can do so many things and that the team seems to be playing fairly hard, if not perfectly smart all the time. But effort and athleticism can make up for mistakes. Last season it seemed like effort wained and we know there were some athletic and talent deficiencies. This year’s team? They’ll have problems, but through two games, it looks like they won’t have those same problems.