SAN ANTONIO — Knees wrapped tight in ice, Eric Bledsoe held back laughter when pondering the prospect of tossing alley-oops full time to new teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That would be so “easy,” which was a word uttered frequently Friday by the Milwaukee Bucks to describe what it’s like to play with their newest acquisition after a 94-87 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
“As a coach, you want that every night,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We know it’s hard to do. But I thought the intensity, I thought Eric gave us a little life there; his speed there in that first half I think makes the game a lot easier for everybody. For the first time playing together, I thought they did a great job.”
Making his Milwaukee debut after being acquired by the team Tuesday through a trade with the Phoenix Suns, Bledsoe played 28 minutes against the Spurs and scored 13 points to go with seven assists and three turnovers.
Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo provided one of the highlights of the night while foreshadowing what should become a common occurrence this season in the second quarter. On the fast break with LaMarcus Aldridge closing in, Bledsoe flipped the ball behind him to a trailing Antetokounmpo for an alley-oop dunk that put the Bucks ahead 43-41 with 2:24 remaining in the first half.
“Eaaaasssy” is how Antetokounmpo described what it was like to play with Bledsoe.
“It’s really easy to go play with him because you know he’s going to find you,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to make the right play. That’s how we want to play. We want to play with an edge. I think Eric helped a lot with that, but everybody stepped up.”
Considering the little time the group actually spent together, that’s exactly what was needed to secure the win over the Spurs.
Bledsoe didn’t join the Bucks in San Antonio until Thursday, and was unable to practice because Milwaukee hadn’t yet received confirmation the trade with Phoenix was finalized by center Greg Monroe passing his physical. So Bledsoe didn’t actually participate in any on-court work with the team until Saturday morning’s shootaround.
The Bucks typically spend approximately an hour at game-day shootarounds. But in this case, the team stretched the light workout to spend extra time working to acclimate Bledsoe, who was announced as a starter for Friday’s game by Kidd before the conclusion of shootaround.
During the shootaround, Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo spoke about how the Spurs might guard the Bucks in the pick-and-roll.
“I told him that if he goes downhill, it makes everything a lot easier,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to make a play for someone else. He’s going to make a play for himself, or I’m going to be wide open on the roll. It’s easy knowing that your point guard knows what you’re thinking. It’s just easy when you go downhill.”
Antetokounmpo would finish with 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting with 12 rebounds and five assists. Five of Bledsoe’s seven assists came in the first half, and despite the Bucks initially planning to play the newly acquired point guard for just 20 minutes, he ended up playing nearly 30 minutes.
“He’s another wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Good defender and scorer, strong, fast. He has a lot of talent.”
Added veteran San Antonio…