MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks returned home Monday morning for a matinée against the surprising Sacramento Kings. The Bucks were coming off three days rest, heading back to Fiserv Forum on the back of their first loss of the season against the Boston Celtics.
The Kings loomed as a potentially dangerous matchup for a Bucks team that may have already cast their eyes to the week ahead, and a difficult four-game West Coast trip against some of the league's more difficult opposition.
The Sunday afternoon time slot in Milwaukee proved a hit, as the arena filled up well before tip-off, with the hot starting Bucks proving to be as entertaining as any team in the league. Walking around the Forum pregame, you can feel the expectations rising, as a franchise long mired in mediocrity, begins to sniff something special on the horizon.
The early time-slot had proven to be troublesome for Mike Budenholzer’s squad in the past, though Matthew Dellavedova admitted he enjoys getting the action out-of-the-way early.
“I didn’t know that we’d been struggling [actually], but I like the early tip-off,” Dellavedova admitted. “You can come in a little bit earlier and get the body moving. No shoot-around is nice, you can get to the arena, get done and go out to dinner, places are still open, it’s nice [laughs].”
Get it over with early they did, as the Bucks coasted their way to a dominant 144-109 victory. In the process, the Bucks smashed the franchise record for 3-pointers made (22) and attempted (56), as the Kings' breakneck speed played right into the hands of the ‘let it fly’ Bucks.
Pat Connaughton sealed the record, connecting on the Bucks 20th long range bomb with 3:04 left in the fourth quarter. Dellavedova joined Thon Maker on the floor for the final 7:48 of playing time, though he denied the group was aware that they were gunning for the record.
“Oh, I didn’t know that, what was the record?” Dellavedova asked.
When I revealed the number and the time of the make, he smiled, but hardly seemed shocked.
“I don’t think anyone really knew, but that’s just how we play. If we’re open we’ll shoot it.”
The two Aussies once again received valuable time on-court, continuing to get an opportunity to shake off any early season rust. That was largely thanks to another ridiculous performance from MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who cruised to a 26 point, 15 rebound, 11 assist night.
Antetokounmpo had multiple highlight real dunks, but one in particular nearly lifted the roof off of the Fiserv Forum, as Giannis committed a felony on his fellow Greek countryman.
After the game, The Pick and Roll asked Antetokounmpo where the dunk ranked in his long line of poster dunks, but with a smile, he remained respectful of his friend.
"Oh nah, It's low, it wasn't that impressive," Antetokounmpo said with a wry smile. "That's my guy, that's my countryman. I'm not going to talk about him, it was a two [out of ten]."
Dellavedova dished out 5 assists in his time on court, while Thon Maker added to the 3-point party by hitting one of his own.
Post game, an upbeat Dellavedova was all smiles, as he discussed his early season experiences with The Pick and Roll.
“[My] body feels great, [I’m] feeling really good, though I was hoping we could put a bit more distance on the scoreboard so we could play a bit more of the fourth. That group in the fourth quarter has been playing a lot of pickup ball with the coaches, [and] staying in great shape, so I think that’s why we have really good chemistry out there at the end of games.”
The great chemistry Dellavedova speaks of is filtering from top to bottom on the Bucks roster, who moved to 8-1 on the season and 6-0 at home with the win. The dominance has been particularly pronounced at home, where they hold an average winning margin of 19.2 points.
Despite the tangible positive vibes that were filtering throughout the locker room, this is a group that is far from getting ahead of themselves, in fact, they believe the best is yet to come.
"Sacramento have been playing really well, so I think the style we are playing by moving the ball and shooting a lot of threes is leading to keeping distance between [us and] the opposition. We’re improving, but still have a long way to go," Dellavedova claimed.
The Bucks are pacing the Eastern Conference through nine games, but in their mind, they are just getting started.
The Bucks now head out on a four-game road trip, kicking off in Portland on Wednesday morning. The difficult trip also has stops at Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver, with Dellavedova well aware of whats ahead.
"[The trip] is going to be a different challenge. It’s a long road trip against teams that are playing well, who also play different styles [of basketball], so it’s going a good test for us."
The Bucks and Trailblazers tip-off at 2pm, Wednesday (AEST)