Milwaukee Bucks roll on as Thon and Delly remain in limbo

Jan 1, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker (7) at an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks opened up Fiserv Forum in impressive fashion, initiating cruise control early on Saturday morning en route to a 118-101 victory over Central division rivals, the Indiana Pacers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo again led from the front early, but in stark contrast to their season opener against the Charlotte Hornets, the Bucks never let up, cruising home in front of a rowdy home audience.

As mentioned above, it was the first regular season game to be held at the sparkling new Fiserv Forum, and fans were greeted with t-shirts, rally towels and wristbands that lit up in unison during different portions of the night. It was an electric atmosphere from start to finish, as Milwaukee went on to remain undefeated, moving to 2-0 on the season.

Among all the positives, was again disappointment for Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker, who still patiently await their opportunity to impact the 2018-19 season.

Highlighting their status in the pecking order at present, both were involved in a post shoot around scrimmage earlier in the day. The two Aussies joined other members of the Bucks squad yet to play a major role, in a full-court 5-on-5 game with members of the Bucks coaching staff that lasted around 20 minutes.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer revealed pregame that two inactive players from the Charlotte game would remain unchanged, leaving Maker in street clothes as the game tipped off.

Speaking with The Pick and Roll postgame, Maker’s instinctual positive outlook shone through despite the obvious disappointment he must have been feeling. After first confirming the left knee soreness that had hampered him during the preseason was fully healed, he elaborated on his mentality after picking up his second healthy scratch of the season.

“There’s no frustration, I can only control getting better on my own or asking somebody for help,” Maker said. “Just getting in the gym, you can control that as a player. If you do have frustration you can let it out on the court but it’s the NBA, you’ve got to stay hungry and get in the gym. Right now I’m starving.”

It comes as a significant shock that Maker finds himself out of the rotation, particularly in light of the Milwaukee block party he hosted at the Bradley Center during the first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs.

Maker touched on that Boston coming out party, when explaining how he’s able to remain upbeat, despite desperately wanting to be on the court.

“I hate missing playing. I didn’t like not playing in the preseason but injuries happen, so I just had to find a way to get back and get ready,” Maker explained.

“Last year I was in this position and I was always putting in extra work, I was in the gym at 12am all the way until 3am sometimes. My name got called against Boston and I came out ready. It’s just how the NBA goes.”

Potentially complicating things for Maker is the sudden floor spacing prowess of John Henson. The longest tenured Buck on the current roster, Henson had only connected on one long-range attempt in his six-year career before tonight. During the preseason, Henson spoke about the need to extend his game to the perimeter to keep up with modern times and he did just that on Saturday morning, hitting two triples to suddenly become a floor spacer – not unlike Aron Baynes in last years’ playoffs.

The ability to stretch the floor and shoot the long ball was Maker’s definitive point of difference over Henson in the battle for back-up center minutes, and this latest development could throw a wrinkle in his ability to work back into the rotation if it holds true.

Meanwhile, Dellavedova earned his first minutes of the season against the Pacers, though it was only the final four of the contest, as both teams were ready for the clock to wind down.

Budenholzer again opted to go with rookie Donte Divincenzo and Tony Snell with the backup guard minutes, relegating Dellavedova to the unusual role of watching from the sidelines.

The Bucks look every bit an Eastern Conference contender through two games in the 2018-19 season, and with an entirely revamped offense, have morphed into an irresistible force in periods through the early going.

For Delly and Thon, it remains a waiting game, though the atmosphere in Fiserv Forum for the home opener has Maker champing at the bit for his chance.

“I thought [the atmosphere] was really cool.  I was just imagining that through the playoffs when everybody is dressed in all black like the [2017] Toronto series. Then you get the lights going on and the towels, oh my god, I started sweating just thinking about that on the bench.”

The Milwaukee Bucks will enjoy two nights off, before hosting the New York Knicks at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday morning – Tip-off is at 11:00am (AEST)

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Australian basketball writer in Milwaukee 🇦🇺🛫🇺🇸 Free agent on the Bucks beat.

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