Bucks end pre­sea­son with a bang

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Uw Gameday - Matt Ve­lazquez

Eighty-four points. Four­teen of 21 three-point­ers splash­ing through the net. Giannis Antetokounmpo with 24 points, eight re­bounds and seven as­sists. Good game for the Mil­wau­kee Bucks? More like an in­cred­i­ble half. All of the above hap­pened in the first half Fri­day night at Fis­erv Fo­rum. The Bucks didn’t take their foot off the pedal, ei­ther, in what ended up as a 143-121 vic­tory over the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves in the pre­sea­son fi­nale for both teams. If that’s what the dress re­hearsal looks like for the Bucks, it’s hard to imag­ine what the ac­tual show will look like when the cur­tain rises for the NBA’s reg­u­lar sea­son on Wed­nes­day. Yes, the Tim­ber­wolves were without An­drew Wig­gins and Jimmy But­ler – and But­ler has made it ob­scenely clear how much the Tim­ber­wolves need him – but this was the kind of boat race two play­ers weren’t go­ing to stop. The Bucks moved the ball and spaced the floor beau­ti­fully, net­ting 25 of their 48 three-point at­tempts (52.1%), with 11 play­ers hit­ting at least one three-poin­ter in a game where the mar­gin bal­looned to as many as 41. Antetokounmpo was at the cen­ter of all of it, look­ing ev­ery part the MVP can­di­date he projects to be. He made his first eight shots, in­clud­ing a pair of three­p­oint­ers, and filled up the stat sheet through­out the first half. Then, in a 30point game, Antetokounmpo came out of the half­time break with an even fiercer at­ti­tude, throw­ing down mon­ster jams at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. When he checked out with just un­der five min­utes to go in the third quar­ter af­ter just 251⁄2 min­utes played, Antetokounmpo al­ready had col­lected a triple­dou­ble with 32 points, 12 re­bounds and 10 as­sists. While Antetokounmpo was clearly and de­servedly the star of the night, the Bucks as a whole were an im­pres­sive unit. Every­one got in on the party. Khris Mid­dle­ton put up 22 points while mak­ing 5 of 8 three-point­ers. Mil­wau­kee’s back­court of Eric Bled­soe and Mal­colm Brog­don com­bined for 27 points (5 of 6 on threes), 11 re­bounds and nine as­sists. The Bucks also got an­other strong per­for­mance from Chris­tian Wood, who came out look­ing like the pro­hib­i­tive fa­vorite for the team’s fi­nal ros­ter spot. In a game coach Mike Bu­den­holzer planned to treat like a reg­u­lar-sea­son con­test in or­der to get reps for his ro­ta­tion play­ers, Wood was one of 11 play­ers who got play­ing time in the first half thanks in part to Brook Lopez get­ting into early foul trou­ble. Bu­den­holzer could have opted for Tyler Zeller at cen­ter, but in­stead sent in Wood with Thon Maker miss­ing his third suc­ces­sive pre­sea­son game due to left knee sore­ness. In 16 min­utes of ac­tion, Wood scored 19 points on 7 of 9 shoot­ing, in­clud­ing mak­ing his first five shots, along with seven re­bounds. Of course, as im­pres­sive as Mil­wau­kee’s dis­play was on Fri­day night to fin­ish the pre­sea­son at 3-1, it and that record don’t carry weight any­more. Now, the slate gets wiped clean as the Bucks spent the next four days get­ting their fi­nal prepa­ra­tions in for Wed­nes­day’s sea­son opener in Char­lotte. The re­sults might not mat­ter any­more, but the feel­ing in the Bucks locker room does. And each player on the ros­ter is go­ing into the sea­son with the ut­most con­fi­dence in him­self, his team and Bu­den­holzer’s sys­tem, which to this point has stag­ger­ing re­sults and dou­ble-digit Bucks vic­to­ries in ev­ery pre­sea­son game Mil­wau­kee’s starters have par­tic­i­pated in.

Bucks for­ward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tim­ber­wolves guard Josh Oko­gie bat­tle for a re­bound.

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