A lot of negative things can be taken out of this one.
Virtually every weakness the Andrew Bogut-less Bucks have was exposed in their 112-98 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Monday night. Without Bogut, the Bucks had few answers for Tim Duncan inside and had to resort to double teams on him more often than not. In turn, the Spurs were able to work the ball around, find the open man and hit open three after open three. Sans Bogut, the Bucks struggled to keep the Spurs off the boards. Coming into this one, the Bucks were out-rebounding the Spurs 45.8-42.8. Sure, Bogut was gone, but the Bucks have still looked sharp on the boards even without the center. The Spurs absolutely crushed the Bucks on the boards (more on this later).
The Bucks certainly haven’t seen a team like the Spurs.
The Bucks have faced a pillow soft schedule thus far, fattening up on the dregs of the NBA. Bobcats, Grizzlies, Nets and Knicks are all no Spurs. They offer little in the ways of crisp ball movement. None of the teams the Bucks have been able to knock off has had a go-to guy like Tim Duncan. So a logical question to be raised after this particularly brutal defeat is, are the Bucks close to being as good as their record indicates?
Well, probably not. But I don’t think they’re as bad as this game would indicate either. They fall somewhere in the middle. It’s easy to panic now that they’ve lost a game on the road to a good team. It’s easy to look back and say the first 11 games were a mirage and the Bucks are as bad as everyone thought coming into the year. And it’s even easier to say Michael Redd is killing the Bucks and needs to be shipped out on the next flight out of Milwaukee. But those are all very reactionary responses. We knew this road trip would be difficult with Bogut and even moreso without him. Realistically, the Bucks ending this trip 1-3 is no disaster. 2-2 is terrific and 3-1 would be special. I just urge Bucks fans (and Brandon Jennings fans who’ve begun watching the Bucks) to remain calm and recognize this is only one game and the Bucks can learn from it. Not every team has Tim Duncan.
- Jennings is going to have games like this, like it or not. Everyone has bad games, rookies, veterans, all-stars and role players alike. No one is immune to a night where shots aren’t falling. And that’s what tonight was for Brandon, a 12 point, seven assist, five turnover, 6-21 effort. When a guy like Brandon has an off night like this one, it’s interesting to take a look at why he struggled. Was he shooting bad shots and forcing the action? Not really. He was 1-8 inside the paint. Coming into this one he was a 58 percent shooter on shots inside ten feet and while that may be a little high of a number to carry on, he’s certainly not going to go 1-8 in the paint on most night. Very little that he did looked forced, a positive sign.
- I can already hear the cries for Michael Redd’s head. In his 11 minutes Monday he was able to very effectively do one of the things the Bucks have been struggling with this year, get to the free throw line. The problem though was his accuracy once he got there. 1-6 on the evening, a very atypical result for a career 84 percent free throw shooter. This may have just been a case of him needing to knock the rust off and get his legs back under him, I didn’t even anticipate he’d be ready until Wednesday. I encourage everyone to give Redd some more time before you jump on the “trade Redd for expiring contracts” bandwagon.
- When the Bucks were hanging around in this one, it was largely because of Ersan Ilyasova. 8-13 for 20 points with four steals to boot. He grabbed a sub-par four rebounds on the evening, but it seemed like whenever he had position a long rebound went sailing over his head. Ersan’s strung together a few nice scoring games together now and is looking like he’s grabbing a more permanent hold on that starting power forward position with each game.
- Sometimes pictures illustrate points so much better than words can do. So with that in mind, I give you the third quarter:
- Some of them pile up on each other, but that’s 11 shots made inside the paint for the Spurs in the third quarter alone. It’s easy to see why the Spurs turned a 50-49 deficit into a 86-74 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bucks had nothing for Duncan most of the game, but especially had trouble with him in the third when he had 15 points.
- The final rebounding numbers? 46-29 in the Spurs favor. That’s even more gruesome than the 26-14 edge the Spurs had on free throw attempts and the 48-40 edge the Spurs had on points in the paint. All of these numbers indicate largely the same thing: the Bucks had no answer for the Spurs muscle and aggressiveness inside.
- And when the Spurs weren’t getting to the line or scoring in the paint? 10-21 on three’s, led by Matt Bonner (that guy?) and his 6-8 effort from behind the arc off the bench. Time and time again the Spurs found him wide open on the perimeter after a double team and good ball swings. The Spurs put on a ball movement clinic and brutalized the Bucks when they attempted a zone to cut off the Spurs work inside.
This was the Bucks low point defensively this year. Without Bogut it takes a heck of an effort all the way around for the Bucks to compete with teams that can score inside and they didn’t have that tonight. Too often the Spurs were able to find open shooters after poor or lazy rotations by the Bucks. It usually wasn’t the first pass, but that doesn’t completely excuse the Bucks.
I know this one was bad, but again, I urge patience. Let’s see if the Bucks are able to compose themselves and either pull one of the next two out or at the very least drop in a couple respectable performances. I don’t necessarily have problems with losses at this stage in the season, but 10-20 point losses aren’t a good sign. A tip shot here or a tip shot there can decide a close game, but the Bucks were pretty thoroughly out-played for large portions of this one. They’ll have to right the ship by Wednesday night defensively, or they could be in for another long one.