MILWAUKEE — Two things stood out to Giannis Antetokounmpo as he glanced at the stat sheet while addressing media members Thursday night following the completion of the Milwaukee Bucks’ first undefeated preseason since 1997: 3-pointers and turnovers.
Despite the Bucks committing 21 turnovers and going 11-for-40 (27.5%) from 3 in a 118-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Antetokounmpo called it “scary how good we can be” in the regular season when they’re able to live up to the team’s expectations.
“Just the habits that we built these five games, I think defensively the way we played, we were really active as a team covering for one another, but going 5-0 doesn’t mean nothing,” said Antetokounmpo, who finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. “It doesn’t count.
“As we move forward, it gets harder and harder, and hopefully in these five games we built good habits that can carry over into the regular season.”
Coach Mike Budenholzer wasn’t always pleased with the team’s preseason defensive effort entering Thursday night’s matchup, but he did like the way the Bucks turned up their intensity to hold Minnesota to 31.3% shooting. The Timberwolves finished the preseason 2-3.
“We weren’t as good as we liked to be defensively through the preseason, but I think our guys have a lot of pride in being really great on that end,” Budenholzer said. “We’re still learning, trying to get better offensively and trying to figure out who’s going to play, the rotations, and [we have] just so much good depth.”
Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game with 61.2% shooting in the preseason. Milwaukee is now set to open the regular season next Thursday at Houston, where Antetokounmpo anticipates stepping his game up to another level.
“As I move on into the regular season, usually I get better,” Antetokounmpo said. “I learn how guys guard me, I learn how my teammates want the ball and it gets easier. Obviously, you get mentally and physically tired, but it gets way better. I feel real good.”