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.
“We’ve had four games in the preseason and it feels like a lot of the things that we’re talking about in practice and the film sessions are carrying over to the court,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Next four or five days, whatever it is, great opportunity to kind of focus in on the areas where we need to improve and get better. I think we’ll all be ready and anxious to start the regular season.”
BOX SCORE: Bucks 143, Timberwolves 121
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.
“Sometimes our offense is our best defense,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “When you keep making threes like that it’s draining.”
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 three-pointers, and filled up the stat sheet throughout the first half. Then, in a 30-point 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 25 1/2 minutes played, Antetokounmpo already had collected a triple-double 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 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 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.
Over four games, Wood averaged 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 19.3 minutes while shooting 66.7% (20 for 30) from the field and 3 for 8 (37.5%) from three-point range.
“Christian’s been great this preseason,” Budenholzer said. “I think statistically it’s pretty obvious – I think he’s scoring, rebounding, he’s played a lot of minutes. For a player who is trying to find his way in this league he’s done a lot to establish himself. … He’s earned his opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it.”
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.
“It’s big,” Bledsoe said of the confidence boost the team has gotten throughout the preseason. “To see everybody out there with confidence, playing, I think Coach Bud just is doing a great job of letting everybody play our game but at the same time within our offense.”