Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It’s a nice little family function

Lopez brothers star in exhibition opener

- Matt Velazquez

CHICAGO – When the Milwaukee Bucks added veteran big man Robin Lopez in the offseason, 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 first preseason game Monday night in Chicago. Those two played a starring role over the first 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 first few minutes of each of the first three quarters. It was their first 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 five rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes while Brook had 13 points, five 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 deficit 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 five blocks while shifting between different spots within the Bucks' defense. When together, Brook reprised his role from last season of playing centerfield 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 finished 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 first game since last March, didn't put up noteworthy stats – he was 1 of 8 from the floor 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-flying plays and a couple chippy moments including one where he drew a technical foul.

Stars out

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)."

 ?? EUROPEAN PRESS AGENCY ?? Robin Lopez tied for the team high with 14 points and chipped in five rebounds in the Bucks' preseason-opening win over the Bulls.
EUROPEAN PRESS AGENCY Robin Lopez tied for the team high with 14 points and chipped in five rebounds in the Bucks' preseason-opening win over the Bulls.

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