Do you remember having a snack before going to the beach or pool as a kid? You were so excited to jump into the water as soon as you got there, but an adult, maybe a parent, told you to wait “at least 30 minutes” after eating before you could start having fun.
That is precisely how things are with the Milwaukee Bucks at the moment.
As much as we’d like to see Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo play together in real life right away, that’s not how things usually work in the NBA. That Lillard is great. Giannis’s great. What matters is how long it takes for them to get along.
We look at how well both Lillard and Antetokounmpo do in pick-and-roll situations and believe that when they play together, they will do even better. But Sunday’s 108–97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in their first preseason game together, which was shown all over the country, told us that Milwaukee will need a lot of patience—more than we’d like—as it gets used to its new, dynamic point guard.
Antetokounmpo was his usual dominant self before taking a break for the second half. In just over 15 minutes, he scored 16 points, grabbed eight boards, and blocked two shots. Lillard wasn’t as sharp, but he showed off his excellent 3-point range and finishing skills by scoring 14 points, setting up three others, and making all six free throws in 22 minutes.
Lillard and Antetokounmpo weren’t quite Stockton and Malone, though not yet. It was only natural for the Lakers’ defense to pile up on the two giants, making it hard for anyone else to beat them.
In some cases, Antetokounmpo just did something out of the ordinary when a play went wrong.
Not a lot of cooperation happened overall. The space gets messed up when the Bucks switch the pick-and-roll, and Lillard screens for Giannis.
Let’s not get this wrong: this is a GREAT problem for Adrian Griffin, the first-year head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, as he tries to get the most out of two of the best basketball players in the world. Even though Sunday didn’t go as planned, shooters like Jae Crowder, Brook Lopez, and Malik Beasley could get open looks because of how much attention Lillard and Antetokounmpo commanded. Additionally, remember that Khris Middleton, another All-Star player for Milwaukee, did not play in the game.
Even though we have visions of Milwaukee’s great offensive play, it’s important to remember that any great pair or team needs chemistry, which takes time. That was emphasized again when the NBA’s newest superstar duo made their start on Sunday.