Jabari Parker played well in Iowa and the Bucks won a practice game

(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Going into their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday evening in the metropolis that is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Bucks’s roster was in a sadly familiar state for anyone who paid attention to the team last season–six players, including two presumed starters, were unavailable for the squad.

For one reason or another, Larry Sanders (illness and mysterious outpatient procedure), Brandon Knight (groin), Nate Wolters (ankle), Ersan Ilyasova (knee), Johnny O’Bryant (knee), and Damien Inglis (foot) were all inactive, leaving the Bucks with 10 players in the active lineup against the Wolves. It only got better from there as starting center Zaza Pachulia left the game in the first half with a sore hamstring, leaving only John Henson and totally legitimate NBA player Micheal Eric on their center depth chart.

Despite the shorthandedness, the Bucks pulled out a tight 105-98 win over the Timberwolves in front of a surprisingly active crowd at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The biggest storyline going into the game was the first non-Summer League matchup of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, the #1 and #2 overall pick in the most recent draft.

Though the game was not televised (a source of consternation to many), my commitment to the coverage of Bucks basketball led me to drive to Iowa with Brewhoop’s own Eric Buenning and investigate just how this Bucks team is progressing through the preseason.

As it turns out, Parker won the battle of rookies with an impressive double-double consisting of 21 points and 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks, and a game-clinching dunk after the Wolves cut a double-digit Bucks lead down to a single point in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Though he started the game ignobly with two offensive fouls in the first three minutes of the game, Parker recovered to come up with key baskets throughout the game.

The lack of depth also afforded some players that didn’t start an opportunity to make their mark on the game as well – most notably, O.J. Mayo, who scored 19 points on only 10 shots, due to his ability to draw fouls and convert 7 of his 9 free throw attempts. Most notably, Mayo looked comfortable driving to the basket and finding teammates in transition instead of hanging out on the perimeter waiting to chuck up shots. This is a welcome change.

Giannis Antetokounmpo also got some extended run off the bench, scoring 19 points, pulling down nine rebounds, and blocking two shots. All of his scoring occurred around the rim or at the free throw line:

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While that doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping to see some improvement in Giannis’ shooting, he was generally impressive around the basket and displayed the ability to get there pretty much whenever he wanted. He pulled off a tasty Eurostep and soared for a one-handed in the span of three possessions in the third quarter to match the high-flying exploits of Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Some more quick observations from my first viewing of this new-look Bucks team:

  • Jared Dudley continued his impressive preseason performance, converting three of his four three-point attempts and a four-point play to score 12 points on a mere 6 shots. If his poor performance in Los Angeles with the Clippers really can be attributed to injuries–and those injuries are behind him–Dudley could prove to be a valuable shooter and may have some significant trade value if he continues this performance into the regular season.
  • Kendall Marshall‘s facilitation had better be valuable, because he doesn’t seem quick enough to get by point guards on offense or effectively guard them effectively on defense. He finished Friday night’s game with six assists and only one shot, a three pointer that he missed. Marshall will have to prove that his three-point shooting last year wasn’t a fluke if he wants to be taken as any kind of scoring threat on the floor. The faction of people enamored of “pure” point guards might be salivating at the thought of having a pass-first player at the point, but if he can’t at least keep defenses honest, his ability to set up his teammates may very well be negated by the fact that opponents will barely have to guard him.
  • Pachulia managed the impressive feat of starting at center and recording precisely zero rebounds in his 13 minutes before exiting with a sore hamstring. I don’t even have a joke for this one. It’s seriously amazing.
  • Khris Middleton‘s 14 points came on 17 shots, including a concerning 2-for-7 performance from three. He contributed a pair of assists, steals, and blocks as well in a pretty well-rounded performance.
  • In a familiar sequence of events, the Bucks maintained about a 10-point lead throughout the game until a late push by the Timberwolves shrank the lead down to 1 with about a minute left. Then this happened and a pair of free throws from Giannis allowed the team to maintain its lead.
  • These teams meet again on Wednesday, October 22 at the Bradley Center for the rematch. I hear this one might actually be televised.

Categories: Recaps

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13 Comments

  1. This is like music to my ears! Lets go Bucks! Keep the lineup young and fresh. the gelling will form over the course of the season and it will undoubtedly be fun to watch. That is one of the most heart wrenching things about the Bucks in every aspect of their existence…..they get your hopes up, engaged and then they let us down…hopefully not this season…sixth seed? second round?

  2. Regarding what you said about Middleton’s game: “a concerning 2 for 7 performance from three.” What’s concerning about ONE PRESEASON game where he shoots 27% from 3? Had he made one more shot, it would’ve been 43%.

    I feel more concerned that we have a coach wasting our 6’11 kid on some half-assed point guard experiment when he should be working on his shot.

    • Totally agree. Middleton will help in offense through the season and he will lead the score in ~10 games. Maybe more.

      I didn’t see the game, but it is very promising that Parker feels more comfortable in offense game by game. There is so much difference in his in game attitude compared to his first 2 preseason games. More reasonable shots.

    • Bruh, it’s pre-season. Giannis can figure out his jump-shot in the gym, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen during games, and it’s not like he can’t shoot them while playing the PG position.

  3. It would be nice if Kendall was able to get on the floor for a fair opportunity to show his skills and develop them.

    Only five minutes in the 2nd half — during which time he had four or five assists. Altogether, Kendall had 6 assists in 17 minutes, which figures to (my favorite new stat) better than 12 assists per 36 minutes.

    Without Kendall and/or some other capable point guard, we’ll suffer through more of what happened against the T-wolves last night: sputtering and stumbling — spumbling — down the stretch to finish close games in frustrating fashion (although we were bailed out in this instance by Jabari’s dunk and some free throws).

    I’m not sure why Bucksketball has to take such a negative stance on so many of our young players, damning them with faint praise, emphasizing their negatives over their positives, and mostly missing the promise by viewing them through some sort of tainted lenses.

    If you’re not a potential superstar with a flair for sensational highlights, then Bucksketball has little use for you. Two years ago it was Tobias being diminished (last night, he had 22 points and 9 boards in 33 minutes); last year, Bucksketball didn’t have much use for Khris Middleton or John Henson; this year it’s a big yawn for Kendall with no concern that he isn’t even being given a decent chance to establish himself with the Bucks (while undistinguished vets like Ers, Jerryd, Jared, and O.J get lots and lots of important minutes).

    I wish Bucksketball would acknowledge that it takes more than a couple of superstars to make a championship team (cf. the San Antonio Spurs). Yes, it is okay, even worthwhile, to get excited about the other guys on the team who actually might have a lot to offer, even if they don’t wow Buckskeball with spectacular dunks and national buzz.

    P.S. As I’ve stated a fair number of times, I’m a big fan of Bucksketball, but I gotta keep you guys honest, or at least offer another side to the story — even with a measure of sincere sarcasm, which I hope is not frowned upon. I hope this site is a respectful but vibrant forum for differing viewpoints, and that more fans put in their opinions. I hope it’s fun.

    • The writers at Bucksketball are generally pessimistic but, it’s hard not to be with how bad the team has been for the past 5+ years. BWhile I’d usually agree with you on needing a pass first PG for a young team it’s hard to argue Marshall’s defensive flaws. I’m rolling with Brandon knight all day this year the dude is a stud and wants to get better every year. I would imagine a guy like marshall would prefer a more established team to latch onto long-term anyways so you could argue it’s a waste of time for guys like knight and wolters. Either way I’m sure we’ll meet again swisch

      • When I wrote about wanting differing viewpoints, I didn’t mean different than mine… kidding, kidding.

        I appreciate the back-and-forth, and look forward to further fair-minded but feisty debates.

        I’m a big fan of Brandon, but don’t see him as having the knack at point. We still need him to be a big part of our passing attack, but I don’t think he should be the primary guy, the point man. I like him at shooting guard, and wouldn’t put it past him to become an all-star at that position.

        • It’ll be a fun year swisch but, my man knight is gonna get off this year. You heard it hear 1st! He just had like 6 or 7 assists in limited action the other game. Having Kidd as his coach will only help. I REALLY like Marshall but, his future is questionable here while its all but certain Knight will get locked up. I respect your hype and enthusiasm though. Cheers mate

    • The perfect and ideal thing would be someone to be realist rather than pessimist or optimist, but I’m wondering when people are complaining about Giannis and arguing that he is overrated and hyped. He may be, but I like to see it as enthusiasm. The guy isn’t even 20yo and in compare to the No.1 draft this year I really don’t see many differences. How can Wiggins can develop his shot and considered a potential all-star and Giannis not? They are both more defensive guys atm and at the offense I think we have to see Wiggins in action, cause I think even if Giannis’ talent is still raw he may pass and dribble better than Wiggins.

    • I’ve been telling you all along that Marshall is to much of a liability defensively. That’s why the PG position is the ideal location for B.Knight where his athleticism and ability to play better on-ball defense are the biggest determining factors.

    • EXACTLY what I said! I think they’ll exceed this 25 win plateau everyone has chalked up for them. Especially in the weak Eastern conference