The much ballyhooed, highly anticipated, totally gripping idea of Giannis Antetokounmpo starting at the point guard position turned out to be … not very interesting. Milwaukee’s positionless, talented sophomore played 23 fairly uninteresting minutes split across a variety of roles in Milwaukee’s 106-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night.
Giannis finished with four points, while missing all five shots he attempted and connecting on all four free throws he attempted. His five attempts were the second lowest among all participants for Milwaukee. The majority of his time at point guard was spent dribbling the ball over half court, dropping it off to a big that had come up to the high post, then cutting through Cleveland’s defense while the ball was swung in the other direction. Rarely did the ball seem to return to his hands. It wasn’t the attacking, interesting fourth quarter Giannis we saw in Chicago, but a more passive version, for reasons that are unclear.
Did the Bucks want to work on getting offense in the half court out of the high post? Did Cleveland’s defense not allow for as much penetration, given some of the looks they were throwing at Milwaukee? Only the Bucks really know. Or at least I don’t know. So I won’t speculate.
There were a handful of occasions in which Giannis passed, cut and did get the ball back and at least a few times in those scenarios, he looked to Jabari Parker coming across the paint, posting up in the low block. Parker looked very good out of the post on Tuesday night. Once, he caught against the very well-regarded Shawn Marion and put a spin move on Marion that led to an easy dunk.
Another time, he caught at the top of the key and spun on rookie wing Shane Edwards, which led to an and-1. Parker appeared very polished and more explosive than I thought he looked against Chicago. Of course, he was catching in the post more often, which seemed to help him offensively. His footwork seems pretty good for a guy his size and he has a quickness or strength advantage over most players that have been matched up with him on the block this season.
In the most recent Bucksketball Podcast, I brought up some concerns about Parker’s athleticism. I think I’m mistaking jumping high for being athletic, which is probably a stupid mistake to make. While Parker doesn’t appear to be a world class leaper and doesn’t have point guard quickness, his strength was very impressive on Tuesday. On one dunk, he had to bring the ball through another set of hands and didn’t even flinch. He has a solid grip and his knowledge of how to use his body and stay on balance will serve him quite well in his NBA transition.
Parker finished Tuesday night’s game 7-12 (4-4 FT), for 18 points. He’s scored in double figures in all four Bucks games and Tuesday night was his first game with a shooting percentage higher than 40%. Progress.
Other quick notes:
- Zaza Pachulia continues to pass the ball well. This was a strength of his last season – he posted a career high 16.3% assist rate. He had three assists on Tuesday and Milwaukee seemed to go out of its way to get the offense running through him at times. Maybe that’s not a great long term strategy, but it’s nice to have a guy who can pass out of the high post. He could really help provide spacing alongside John Henson or Larry Sanders.
- O.J. Mayo had 13 points on 5-8 shooting ((1-3 3FG, 2-2 FT). He looked like a good shot-maker and a capable complementary player. His hand-eye coordination was impressive on an especially difficult pass he had to catch from Jerryd Bayless and put up as a layup in one motion. He did it and his finished on the opposite side of the hoop.
- I hardly noticed this during the game, but Jared Dudley finished 5-5 from behind the arc. The thing I noticed more with him was how quickly and willing he was to swing the ball to open shooters. Combining shooting with a willingness to keep the ball moving could be crucial to Dudley’s value this season.
- Kevin Love remains great.