cameroncrazies02
And so it begins.  The Bucks stunned the NBA world by winning 60 games last season, attaining the #1 seed and battling to a 2-0 lead in the ECF before flaming out at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and a ridiculous shooting performance from the Raptors.  

The Bucks allowed Malcolm Brogdon to walk in free agency, but not before getting an IND 1st round pick in return in a sign and trade that saw Brogdon get $20M per year.  The Bucks in turn, brought in Wes Matthews, Kyle Korver, Thanasis Antetokounmpo to solidify an already deep rotation to include Khris Middleton, Pat Connaugton, Sterling Brown and Donte Divincenzo.  Horst pulled off a trade deadline deal last year to bring in Nikola Mirotic to hopefully provide more firepower, but it caused a lot of issues with their front court rotation, frequently forcing Giannis or Ersan to center.  They zagged this summer and signed Robin Lopez to, in essence, always have a 7' center on the court.  There has been a ton of talk of the Lopez brothers playing on the floor together and they experimented with it last night in their first pre-season game in CHI.  The Bucks bring back probably the deepest team they've ever had and it seems as though everyone has bought into the fact that minutes may be limited for some.  

In the Bucks intrasquad scrimmage and first pre-season game, there have been a number of highlights:
-Giannis's new-look jumpshot-Giannis worked on his jumper this summer and unless you have an astute eye for it, it's hard to notice a difference but it's there.  He has far less of a hitch on his shot, it's a bit more fluid through the shooting motion and he's shooting it more confidently, nailing his first two 3P attempts in CHI.  While Giannis doesn't absolutely need an improved jumper, it helps, the bigger concern is his FT shooting which is wildly inconsistent.

-Lopez Bros Twin Towers-a lot of talk has been made of Bud playing the two brothers together at times on the floor.  I have no idea how they plan to make that work and I'm skeptical it's something they'd use on the regular, more in spot scenarios when they play the likes of PHI who run a two center starting lineup with Embiid and Horford.  

-Depth-last season, Divincenzo was the first guard off the bench up until an injury cost him a bulk of the early part of the season and he never got back into the rotation.  Connaughton then got minutes, but couldn't consistently hit the 3 and they moved to a Snell/Brown movement off the bench before Connaughton regained a bench role late in the season.  Now they add Korver and Matthews to the group.  It's likely Matthews will get the start at the 2 and it'll be a fierce competition for who are the odd men out.  I have to say, I don't even have the slightest guess who gets the nod.  In the front court, it's likely DJ Wilson is the odd man out in the early part of the season in lieu of Ersan and Robin Lopez off the bench.  Hopefully winning cures all hurt feelings.  DJ, Sterling and Pat are in the final years of their contract so that will be a story to watch.

-Thanasis-it's pretty clear Thansis won't dress most nights.  He's clearly the end of the bench guy, along with Dragan Bender.  But watching Thanasis is fun and terrifying.  He is a cross between Thon Maker and DeAndre Liggins-athletic, always running at 110%, but not really in any clear direction, just trying to cause havoc.  If Thansis ever is seeing big minutes, it's probably not a good sign, but he's clearly loved by the rest of the team and will be fun to watch his development.
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cameroncrazies02
Bucks beat the Rockets tonight 117-111 after being down 16 at half.

A few observations-
-Giannis looked like an even better version of the freak.  Even with the defense collapsing on him and teammates not hitting 3's early, and having to go up against PJ Tucker and Clint Capela, he put up 30 on 11-17 FG and 2-5 from 3 while also putting up a triple double in just 28 minutes of work after getting a tough whistle all night and fouling out half way thru the 4th.  

-Bledsoe and Middleton were off-neither were very good offensively until Middleton hit a few 3's late in clutch time.  Bledsoe was out of sync early while getting a few quick, touch fouls also.  The refs were not kind to them tonight.  

-Brook Lopez dominated late to put the Rockets away.  After Giannis fouled out, the Rockets went small with PJ Tucker at center and Bud repeatedly pounded Lopez into the paint and he put up 6 points in the final few minutes to keep the lead and pull away.  While he didn't score a lot early, he had a big impact defensively with his zone drop scheme and forcing Harden to be uncomfortable.

-Wes Matthews was solid.  He picked up the defensive scheme rather quickly and did a great job on Harden in the second half.  He hit a huge late 3 when the Rockets cut the lead to 1 to put them up 4 with about 1:30 left that was a bit of a dagger.

-Robin Lopez wasn't great.  He didn't do anything real flashy, but he seemed really out of sync with the offense.  His old habits of diving to the rim and posting up stuck around.  He'll figure that out pretty quickly IMO.

-Harden/Westbrook was awkward and bad.  Harden did his usual thing, hoisting up ridiculous shots, drawing some bad fouls and trying to do it all.  Westbrook played a lot of second fiddle and seemed ready to shoot everything every time he touched the ball.  Westbrook got loose a bit when Harden was resting, but went right back to second fiddle when Harden came back in.  I said it in my preview, I don't see how these two work well together and I'd be hard pressed to see them be as dominant as some are making them out to be.
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wiscopetty
Can't go without mentioning Ersan. I thought he was great last night.
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oldballcoach1
Kind of a crazy night for the Bucks.  The first half seemed all over the place and down 16 didn't look good.  Then the 2nd half and a different game.  Some clutch shots from Ersan and Lopez sealed things and Matthews seemed like he had been with these guys for years.  I think he is going to make a big difference.  

On the negative, Bledsoe and Middleton seemed like mirrors of last season and I think it was telling that Bud took out Bledsoe and put Hill in late in the game.  A ton was spent on those two guys and I just hope they step up and play to match their contracts.  

This is a deep team and a very athletic team.  This is going to be fun.  
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blade12
I say the same thing about MLB and the Brewers but games that you should win but lose early in the year count just as much and really do matter when you are trying to get a better seed or home game/court advantage in the final weeks of the season. 

The Bucks have to win games like they lost to Miami on Sat.

2 things I question about this team: 
#1 - When Giannis is not in the game who can put the team on their shoulders and carry them especially late when they need to convert on 2-3-4 straight possessions?
#2 - I just don't know that this team is athletic enough.  
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George Stacy
our bench seems a bit thin.
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mayham
Watch the Boston game, live by the 3 the first half die by the 3 the second half . I thought I watching last years ECF  the way played tonight.
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blade12
That's 2 winnable games they let get away.  The trend of giving up 110+ every night is not going to win them many games.

Live by the 3 die by the 3 is right but when they aren't falling and Giannis has been walled off they have to turn to someone to consistently get buckets and they don't have that. Driving and kicking out for a 3 is OK but when those 3's don't fall who can catch on the perimeter and then blow past a defender and finish at the rim? Pat C and that is about it. 

Is DDV hurt? Sick? In the doghouse?

Did Bledsoe spend any time this summer in the gym working on any sort of a jump shot or shooting?

Giannis is about 2 weeks away from looking like Bill Cartwright from the FT line.
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wiscopetty
I wonder if Bledsoe hasn't fully healed from his rib injury. He is a non-presence out there right now. Agree with some of the other comments asking where Donte is in games like last night.

"Live by the 3, die by the 3" is accurate to the extent that that's what most of the NBA has resorted to these days: 3-pointers and layups. If they're falling, no one can stop them. But when the spigot shuts off like it did in the second half, they'll be in trouble. It also doesn't appear like the East is going to be the duopoly we assumed it would be before the season. Miami, Boston, and Toronto are all playing well early in the year.

Giannis is trying to do much right now. His constant foul trouble is going to be an issue if it continues.
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yzerman1
The Bucks have played four games and have done nothing to change my outlook on them.  Their season begins on May 1.  They are the best team in a weak Eastern Conference and are going to win around 60 games.   I thought at the time it was a mistake to not keep Malcolm Brogdon but that decision won't be answered until the Eastern Conference Finals.  So far there isn't a team in the East that has shown me it won't be the Bucks and the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  If the Bucks win 60, that means over the course of the season they are going to lose 22 games.  Last night was just one of those nights and they lost to a good Boston team.  
If you want to drink all day, you have to start in the morning.
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db11
They need to inject some athleticism into the lineup. Some of the off-season moves were lauded, but it has made them slow-and-plodding. The Lopez's post defense has been non-existent.

Can anyone get to the rim that isn't #34? Yeesh.
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George Stacy
i see a bunch of one and two dimensional players.  
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cameroncrazies02
Milwaukee Bucks are 11-3, 1st in the East, have had the toughest schedule in the NBA to date, have played 10 of 14 games on the road, have missed Khris Middleton the last 4 games and hold the highest point differential in the league.  Oh, and they're about to play 12 out of their next 15 games at home.  I'd say that's a pretty good start to the season.  We're not even 1/5 of the way thru the season, but I want to give out grades thus far just to see progression throughout the year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo A
How can you not give the MVP favorite on the best team an A+?  Well, lets start with the bad.  Free throw shooting and turnovers.  Giannis FT shooting has been abysmal this year, he's air balling at least one a game and is hovering around 60%.  It's a major concern late in games when it's close.  Middleton typically is the guy who will handle the ball up the court in these situations because he's such a good FT shooter, but Giannis can break down a defense in full court settings.  And yet he can't be relied on to go to the line.  His stroke looks improved, it just needs to be more consistent.  His turnovers are likely because he's handling the ball a little more and the fouls he's getting on the offensive end (a turnover on the stat sheet) have been horrific.  He gets such a bad whistle, it's preposterous.  So it's hard to fault him for that.  Now the good-everything else.  He's shooting, and making more 3's, he's absolutely dominating portions of games and putting up some ridiculous numbers.  Giannis tends to toy around a lot in the 1st half.  I'd bet more than half the games, he's had under 15 points in the 1st half, trying to get teammates involved, then just absolutely takes over.  He's the most dominant player in the game on both ends of the floor.

Khris Middleton B+
Khris tends to start season slow and after a summer full of Team USA duties, I was worried about a slump early, but he's been really good.  His percentages are all well above average and he's been steady.  The injury he's dealing with is a bit of a fluke.  He took a knee to the leg and it is said to sideline him 3-4 weeks.  I wonder how much of that is half recovery/half rest.  They may rest him a bit longer than the injury takes to heal, especially if they keep winning, and when he gets back, sit Giannis a game or two here and there.  

Eric Bledsoe B
Bledsoe started the season slow.  But he was dealing with a rib injury that he came back really quickly from at the start of the season.  Tonight was the epitome of Bled to this point.  His first half was an abomination.  Bad shots, lots of turnovers, too many helter-skelter possessions, a ton of fouls, then he took over in the 4th quarter with 17 points to net nearly 30 on the night and closed the game out to get the win.  You never really know what you're going to get from him, and his 3P shooting percentages haven't been great, but all his other numbers have been.  He's 18, 5 and 5 with great defense and above 45% from the field, nearly 80% from the line.

Brook Lopez B+
Lopez really started sluggishly from 3 this season, but Bud quickly moved to a more guessing game with him.  He sets such good screens that it allows him to pop out for an open 3, especially with a driving Bledsoe, but has developed a really nice pick and roll game.  It's almost immediate when Giannis comes out.  Almost every first possession of Giannis resting, Lopez will run a pick and roll and he's got such great touch and savvy around the rim, he's nearly automatic.  And while his offense has been a bit up and down, his defense has been on point.  He's blocking 2.5 shots per game and contests the most shots in the NBA by a wide margin.  While some of those contests aren't really trying to block floaters and runners on guards coming into the lane, he just tries to disrupt the paint and does such a good job of it.  

Wes Matthews C+
It's hard to put a grade on Wes.  He's got a bit of Tony Snell in him.  You almost don't even notice him on the court sometimes and really only spots up for 3P.  His shot has been up and down as well, but he's always a threat.  His positives come on the defensive end.  He can guard a multitude of wings due to his size and does a fantastic job at it.  

George Hill B+
He's so steady it's hard to ever remember him having a bad game.  He's shooting 50% from the field, 48% from 3 on the season!  Tack on 10 pts, 3 rebs, 3 assists per game and he's the perfect backup point guard and compliment to a sometimes wild Bledsoe.  And to think, we brought him in for cap relief, and yet are getting the best version of a 6th man any team could ask for.

Donte Divincenzo B+
DD has been one of the bright spots for the bench.  His energy, playmaking, ballhandling and defense are such a spark for a team that can get lazy at times.  He's not a pure lock down defender, but he tips so many balls and jumps passing lanes with his length and quickness, he's always a threat for a quick run out.  Oh, and he's shooting 42% from 3 on the season, 7-16 from 3 since entering the starting lineup.  I don't see him leapfrogging Wes Matthews in the starting lineup for two reasons-Bud doesn't make major overhaul changes like that unless an injury comes up, and why?  They're winning and it's working.  The starting group can get off to a good start and he keeps pressure on opposing teams when he comes off the bench.

Ersan Ilyasova D
Ersan has been terrible to start the year.  He's shooting 12% (!!!) from 3.  He's a below average defender, doesn't protect the rim and quite frankly isn't great at any one thing except finishing around the rim for layups.  His poor play was cemented tonight when he racked up a DNP in favor of DJ Wilson.  It was a bit of a surprise, Bud doesn't mess with rotations that much, but with the energy boost guys like Divincenzo and Brown have given, Wilson is going to get a shot at providing the same thing.

Robin Lopez C-
What really makes you appreciate all the things Brook does is watching Robin.  He comes in and it's a sudden drop off in production.  It's amazing how many times a guy, who touches the ball so little, can turn the ball over.  He has this slow, lumbering paint scoop shot he tries to put up, and is relatively successful with, but it's always a risk that a guard is going to come in and swipe the ball from him.  I don't see an upgrade any time soon at backup center, but I fear the day Brook gets hurt and Robin gets 30 MPG.

Sterling Brown B
Like Divincenzo, Brown brings a ton of energy, hustle and toughness off the bench.  He's been cranking in 3's left and right, to the tune of 6-12 from 3 since Khris went down and is a phenomenal rebounder.  He unlocks a lethal small ball lineup when he comes in at the 4 and Giannis moves to center.  It absolutely dominated a game for a 3 minute burst the other day and that's the versatility he brings.  The downside of Sterling is he gets horrendous tunnel vision at times.  The ball will swing around and stop in his hands.  He'll drive to the hoop with reckless abandon and completely ignore shooters around the perimeter.  Aside from that though, it's hard to knock him for what he does on the defensive end.

Kyle Korver B-
While you'd like to see his 3P percentage up (he's at around 34% right now), he is such a sneaky shooter and always finds space moving without the ball, a welcome addition for a team that doesn't have a lot of guys that can find that space.  My one knock isn't even his own fault.  Bud goes to an all bench lineup which leaves Korver on the island on the perimeter playing in front of Robin and Ersan/DJ.  That's not a strong point for him.  He should only be playing minutes when Giannis is in the game.

Pat Connaughton C
Connaughton is playing the least minutes of any rotational player, but he's been leapfrogged by stellar play of Divincenzo and Brown.  He does a lot of little things though.  He'll jump passing lanes, get weakside blocks, skys for rebounds, so he does offer quite a bit although it's not filling stat sheets.  I'd expect when Khris comes back, it takes Connaughton out of the rotation in favor of Brown and Divincenzo.

DJ Wilson INC
DJ hasn't gotten any burn on the season in real minutes up until tonight.  He was the first guy off the bench tonight in favor of Ersan.  And DJ is the anti-Ersan.  He's a complete ball of energy, always sprinting up and down the court, a really good on ball defender and pretty good shooter.  He has his bonehead moments of fumbling the ball or mistiming layups and dunks, but it's a welcome sight to see him back into the rotation. I hope he stays there for awhile, because him, Divincenzo and Brown entering a game is scary with how much energy they bring.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo/Dragan Bender INC
If these guys have to get into games, it'll be a bad day.  But god forbid there's an injury in the front court, I wouldn't mind getting a look at Bender.  G-League is a terrible barometer for success in the NBA, but Bender went to Oshkosh and absolutely destroyed for a few games.  He might be maddening to watch at 20 MPG, especially without any chemistry, but I have some semblance of confidence of him being able to come in, hit a few shots, grab rebounds and hopefully not completely destroy the defense.  
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db11
Bucks run their winning streak to 14 games and their record to 20-3 with a 28-point thrashing of the Kawhi-led Clippers.
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cameroncrazies02
The Bucks 18 game winning streak came to an end tonight at the hands of the short-handed Mavs without Luka Doncic.  This was bound to happen.  Every team the Bucks were playing were playing up for the challenge to snap the streak.  The Mavs came out really hot and had a recipe to beat them.  Lopez got ran off the floor early, in large part because of his poor play.  He missed three shots in the first minute, got rotated on a few times and had a rough time with their 5 out style.  The Bucks as a whole played really sloppy.  They were making really silly turnovers, fumbling rebounds out of bounds, missing easy passes and badly screwing up defensive assignments.  They got the lead in the 3rd I think before it was very quickly back to a 10 point Mavs lead.  Then Porzingis hit two ridiculous heat check 3's that pushed it to a 14 point lead with 5 minutes to go and that was about it.  On top of all that, Seth Curry channeled his inner Steph all night and hit ridiculous 3 after ridiculous 3.  What was most infuriating was Bud went to a really small lineup for most of the game.  Giannis and Middleton were the bigs in large stretches and the Bucks were confused play after play as to whether they were switching or not and it led to easy layups.  Bud caved far too early to cater to Carlisle's 5 shooters and the defense collapsed without Brook behind them.  They should've just stuck with their game plan.

What was fun was down 12-14 or so in the final 2-3 minutes, the reserves put the pressure on and cut it all the way down to a 3 point game.  Giannis was at the line for a free throw with 2.9 seconds to go, missed it, it came off awkwardly and Sterling Brown caught it underneath and tried to go back up with it and got blocked to seal it.  Even with the Mavs hitting something like 20 3's and the Bucks terrible all night, they still had a chance late.  All in all, I'm almost relieved the streak is over.  Now they can focus on game to game duties and especially with HUGE games against LAL, PHI and IND in 3 of their next 4 games, it'll show a real test.  I've bit my tongue quite a bit, but the Bucks schedule hasn't exactly been filled with juggernauts recently and even so, they were playing short handed teams without some of the top players, so now will be a real barometer for how good we really are.
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