MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks ushered in the Mike Budenholzer era on a high note, edging the Hornets by one point in their first game of the season.
Now, they’ll try to do the same for their new home Friday night when they christen the Fiserv Forum against the Indiana Pacers in the Bucks’ home opener.
The Bucks’ victory left plenty of room for improvement. Milwaukee committed 21 turnovers and watched as a 20-point lead disappeared down the stretch and turned into a nail-biting final possession.
“We were a little bit sloppy with the ball,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had eight of Milwaukee’s 21 turnovers. “When we’re up we tend to play bad basketball, so we’ve got to stay within our principles. We gave them a chance to believe they could come back. … Got to do a better job taking care of the ball, running our offense and moving forward and not allowing teams to come back.”
Along with the inability to preserve a big lead, the Bucks showed flashes of other characteristics that led to a disappointing season a year ago. For starters, they let Charlotte shoot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc (44.6 percent overall) and while Antetokounmpo flirted with a triple-double (25 points, 18 rebounds, eight assists), he was 7 for 12 from the free-throw line.
“Gotta knock them down,” Antetokounmpo said.
Budenholzer had a completely healthy lineup for his Bucks debut but opted to leave Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson off the active list after both dealt with injuries during training camp.
“It’s tough for both those guys,” Budenholzer said. “They’re both really good players. Figuring out who is going to be on the inactive (list) every night is not going to be easy. They’ve both had kind of nagging things that kept them out of quite a bit of practice time and preseason games and so I think it’s just the best place for them and the best place for our group.”
Indiana opened its season with a victory, too, knocking off Memphis 111-83 on Wednesday night.
The Pacers’ bench shined in the season opener, outscoring the Grizzlies‘ reserves 58-32, and could become the team’s biggest weapon this season. Tyrke Evans and Cory Joseph combined for 25 points against Memphis while Greg McDermott connected on 5 of 9 shots for 12 points in a 24-minute stretch.
“We’re trying to be the best second unit in the league,” Joseph said. “We think we have the talent to do so. We’re playing together. We’re playing hard.”
The Pacers added another option to the mix Thursday by signing guard Davon Reed to a two-way contract. Reed, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Miami, was the 32nd selection in the 2017 draft but saw minimal action for the Suns last season after undergoing surgery to repair his meniscus.
Phoenix waived Reed earlier this week to clear a spot for Jamal Crawford.