Help Wanted: Bucks 81 – Bulls 83
From my TrueHoop Network Season Preview:
Botching last second plays seemed to be a rite of passage in Scott Skiles’ first season as Bucks head coach last year, so hopefully he’ll have this figured out by October 30.
It looks like it may still be an issue.
The Bucks were down two with 12.9 seconds left after two missed free throws from Joakim Noah. The Bucks were faced with a similar situation roughly ten seconds earlier when they went to Brandon Jennings on the inbound pass. Jennings went at Derrick Rose after failing to find Hakim Warrick streaking to the basket. Jennings looked to have an opportunity, but ultimately was blocked on a fade away in the lane by Rose, resulting in a rebound for Noah who was subsequently fouled.
So do the Bucks go back to Jennings?
Not quite. Jennings got a double screen from Warrick and Ersan Ilyasova, looked back over his shoulder and fired a pass to Ilyasova, who cut to the right of the top of the key outside the three point line. Ilyasova immediately pump faked, never a good sign with him, and then fired a contested three over Luol Deng, also known as the Bulls longest most active defender. Predictably, Ilyasova air balled the shot and the Bucks air balled a very good opportunity to win a road game in their division.
Things were so perfect. The Bucks were up 18 with 6:56 left in the third quarter, the defense was swarming, every loose ball was going the Bucks way, turnovers were being forced and the Bucks were hanging in their offensively. But when things were their bleakest for the Bulls, Deng, Brad Miller and Jannero Pargo led the Bulls all the way back when Pargo hit a three with six minutes to go in the fourth.
As described above, the Bucks had a shot in the end, but were unable to convert.
It’s difficult for me to even talk about the Bucks offensive performance in this one, but I’ll do my best.
- On the plus side, Jennings and Andrew Bogut combined to shoot 18-37, a very efficient effort from the Bucks two healthy stars. Jennings hasn’t done much in the assists department over the past two games though. He seems to pound the ball a lot and in the pick in roll game he lacks a partner that can explode after setting the pick. Warrick can do this to an extent, but he’s a tad clumsy and often has a bigger man on him weighing him down. The Bucks starters combined for a +35.
- The Bucks bench? -45 on the evening. -45. The bench contributed zero threes and managed to make just 5-19 shots from the field. The biggest minus on the evening? Roko Ukic. Ukic played just six minutes, but was 0-3, missed two threes (though to be fair one was a heave to beat the shot clock), fouled once and had a -15 plus/minus rating. Ukic gives the Bucks second unit very little that they do not already have. He is an adequate to good defender with size as a point guard, but can’t shoot at all. Seeing him on the court and Jodie Meeks on the bench was frustrating, though Meeks did little in a two minute stint earlier in the game.
- The Bucks percentages: 39.6% (36-91) shooting overall, 20% from behind the arc (4-20) and 50% from the free throw line (5-10). Not a strong first post Michael Redd effort on the season. Hard to believe the Bucks were up 43-29 at halftime? Well the Bulls shot under 30% in the first half.
- Hakim Warrick was unable to duplicate his phenomenal Saturday free throw effort. Warrick shot just two free throws, but finished with 11 points and ten rebounds in his first start of the year. Former starter Kurt Thomas got his first DNP-CD of the year Tuesday.
- If you’ve been watching the Bucks for the last year you probably already know that the Bulls shot a lot of free throws Tuesday night. The Bulls shot 20-31 on the evening from the line. 15 extra points from the line went a long way towards making sure the Bucks lost this game.
- The Bucks did a great job of forcing turnovers all game long, 18 total that led to 23 Bucks points. After turnovers the Bucks were often able to transition and get easy buckets, exactly the way they want to play defensively. There were few brighter examples than a Brandon Jennings steal of a Derrick Rose pass with just over a minute to go, which led to a Jennings jumper in the lane, putting the Bucks down just one.
- Rebounds, specifically offensive ones for the Bulls, were a significant problem on the evening. Luol Deng had seven himself on the night (who was that who was saying Deng wasn’t worth his contract? 24 and 20 on the night for Deng) and the Bulls outrebounded Milwaukee 53-44.
Noted basketball statistician Dean Oliver has identified “Four Factors” toward winning basketball games. To be short, the factors are shooting, taking care of the ball, offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line. Statsheet.com has charts graphing how each team did in every game with regard to these factors and it pretty accurately sums up Tuesday’s game.
The Bucks problem with free throws allowed and allowance of offensive rebounds appear to have gone a long way towards sealing the deal for the Bulls Tuesday night. The Bucks are going to need better performances out of their wings in the future, specifically more than two three pointers and one free throw made out of all of their shooting guards and small forwards combined, to avoid similar fates if they are going to continue to allow this many free throws. And judging from last season and the pre-season evidence, the free throw problem isn’t going anywhere.