Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It’s a nice little family function
Lopez brothers star in exhibition opener
CHICAGO – When the Milwaukee Bucks added veteran big man Robin Lopez in the offseason, there were two major questions that logically followed.
Could he and his twin, 7-foot brother, Brook, share the court together like they did at Stanford over a decade ago? Would Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer give that pairing a shot together?
It didn't take long for those questions to get at least an initial answer.
With numerous veterans – including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe – sitting out, Budenholzer opted to include the Lopez brothers together in the starting lineup for Milwaukee's first preseason game Monday night in Chicago. Those two played a starring role over the first three quarters as the Bucks claimed a 122-112 win over the Bulls at the United Center.
Brook and Robin logged just over 15 minutes together on the court, playing together for the first few minutes of each of the first three quarters. It was their first time playing together since March 28, 2008 when their Stanford team lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tourna
During their shared time together Monday, the Bucks were plus-18 points and solid at both ends. Robin led the Bucks with 14 points along with five rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes while Brook had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 181⁄2 minutes.
"They've both been great – Robin adjusting and understanding what we're doing quickly has been one of the things that stood out in Madison and really in open gym, too," Budenholzer said prior to the game. "I'm excited as having both those guys as an option."
The twin synergy of the Lopez brothers was never more apparent than during a stretch during the second quarter. Milwaukee's turnovers – which by the end of the night numbered 21 leading to 32 points – had allowed the Bulls to convert a double-digit deficit into a threepoint lead.
Then the Lopez brothers took over and the Bucks never trailed again.
A 12-0 Lo-Bros run began with Robin
running into the paint to put back a missed three-pointer by Wesley Matthews. Brook then grabbed a defensive rebound at one end and knocked down a 20-footer at the other.
After that, it turned into a two-man game between the brothers. Brook dribbled into the corner and handed off the Robin, who elevated for immediately hoisted and drained a three-pointer – a skill he had rarely utilized in the past that will likely become much more common in Milwaukee. On the next possession, Brook again went to the corner and this time ran a pick-and-roll with his brother, hitting Robin on a baseline roll for a bucket.
When play resumed after a Bulls timeout, Brook kept the momentum going by sinking his third triple of the night to conclude the 12-0 run. After the triple, Brook looked to his brother on the bench before stirring an imaginary cup of tea and drinking it – a celebration popularized by Robin.
Defensively, the Lopez brothers combined for five blocks while shifting between different spots within the Bucks' defense. When together, Brook reprised his role from last season of playing centerfield in the paint protecting the rim while Robin was tasked with staying out
on shooters. When apart, Robin got his chance to protect the paint while calling things out to the defenders in front of him.
Outside of the Lopez brothers, the Bucks received solid contributions from up and down the roster. Sterling Brown came on strong in the third quarter and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. Two-way guard Frank Mason III started at the point and chipped in 14 points, six assists and four steals in 27 minutes. Dragan Bender was a positive off the bench with 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in 18 minutes.
Donte DiVincenzo, in his first game since last March, didn't put up noteworthy stats – he was 1 of 8 from the floor with four turnovers – but was impressive at times while running the point and making plays for teammates. Thanasis Antetokounmpo lived up to his reputation as an energy player with nine points, 10 rebounds, a few high-flying plays and a couple chippy moments including one where he drew a technical foul.
The Bucks opted to sit six of their veteran
players, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Bledsoe, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova and Kyle Korver for the preseason opener. D.J. Wilson also missed the game due to a strained left hamstring.
“Just giving other guys opportunities," Budenholzer said. "Had a good scrimmage yesterday so it's almost like a little bit of a back-to-back . ... (The scrimmage), that's part of why some of the guys aren't playing today. I think they'll play, most likely play, the rest of this stretch of games (this week)."