NORMAL, Ill. -- For Wes Unseld, there shouldn't be that much emphasis on preseason games, contests he calls nothing more than "glorified practices." For the Washington Bullets, following last night's preseason opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, they better hope their coach is right.
It wasn't just the fact that the Bullets lost to the Bucks, 109-103, before a crowd of 3,684 at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University. It was the way the Bullets lost, falling behind by as many as 19 points in the third quarter while playing what could be their season-opening starting lineup.
Despite the loss, there were no long faces as the Bullets boarded their bus after the game.
"I wanted to see how some individuals would react," Unseld said. "Some reacted very well."
But not well enough. Todd Day scored 17 points to lead Milwaukee.
Tito Horford, a free agent who played two years with the Bucks, scored 15 points to lead the Bullets.
"I was very excited to see the way Tito played," Kevin Duckworth said. "I thought he did well."
Milwaukee has two promising young guards in Lee Mayberry and Day, and a pair of up-and-coming forwards in Anthony Avent and Vin Baker. But a pair of veterans, Brad Lohaus and Frank Brickowski, were the players who did the damage during the third quarter when Milwaukee put the game away.
Add 24 turnovers by Washington, and it becomes a poor preseason game, but one the Bullets hope they can build on.
Washington trailed 49-41 after one half, but Brickowski and Lohaus combined on nine points during a 20-13 run to open the third quarter that increased the Bucks' lead to 69-54.
When Brickowski scored on a layup and converted a three-point play with 2:44 left, Milwaukee had its biggest lead of the quarter, 77-58.
By the time Unseld inserted his free agents and rookies to play out the fourth quarter the Bucks were on a roll, opening a 22-point lead at one point. The Bullets managed to get the deficit to six points in the final minute.
While the Bullets wait for injured forward Pervis Ellison to return from his off-season surgery on both knees, the performance of the front line during the remaining seven preseason games will need improvement.
With the starters limited to about two quarters of play, Duckworth scored just eight points (before leaving in the third quarter with foul trouble), Tom Gugliotta scored seven (all in the third quarter) and Don MacLean had two (on two third-quarter free throws).
As is expected for the first preseason game, both teams got off to sloppy starts.
The Bullets hit just seven of 18 shots (38.9 percent) in the first quarter, while Milwaukee was just slightly better (10 of 25, 40 percent).
Impressive for Milwaukee was 6-foot-11 first-round pick Baker, who demonstrated the ability to rebound, pass and score in helping the Bucks to a 38-30 lead with 5:22 left in the second period.
Washington, with a small lineup that had 6-7 Kenny Walker playing power forward, one managed to pull to within 39-37 after the former NBA slam-dunk champion scored on a dunk with 3:32 left.
Washington 20 21 26 36 -- 103
Milwaukee .25 24 33 27 -- 109