The most bizarre thing about the second half for the Bucks was that it took so long to happen. I mean, we all know Michael Redd has been playing for appearances sake and with the hope that he’ll magically find his game and improve his trade value. He certainly hasn’t been playing because he’s been doing so well, but everyone assumed the Bucks were stuck playing him, through thick and thin. Then the Bucks-Bobcats first half happened.
It’s not often you’ll see a coach more at a loss for words and explanations than Kelvin Sampson was when he tried to explain what happened in the first half for the Milwaukee Bucks. After looking off in the distance (possibly for someone who could figure out why the Bucks are playing so poorly) Sampson said something to the effect of, “Basketball is a simple game. You just need to make your shots when you’re open. We’re getting good looks, wide-open looks, and not hitting them.”
Sampson looked fed up and it’s logical to assume Scott Skiles was fed up too judging from his second half strategy. The Bucks started the third with Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Kurt Thomas. The first man off the bench? Francisco Elson. I’d say Skiles wasn’t so thrilled with his starters, as Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Carlos Delfino didn’t see one second of action in the second half.
And when his team is down 22 at half to a mediocre team, how can you disagree with his moves?
While he may have gone overboard benching Bogut for the entire second half, the Bucks at least showed a little energy with the majority of their starting lineup sitting. Cutting the deficit to ten at one point in the fourth quarter, the Bucks just didn’t have enough to get over the hump with a lineup full of backups on the court. It was easy to get the sense that this half was about more than just today. It seemed like Skiles had finally had enough of the talking the talk but not walking the walk. Andrew Bogut had called out the Bucks a number of times lately, and each time he and the team offered little response. Skiles seems to have a strong dislike for a lot of talk. He’s a man who prefers to see action, here’s what he had to say Saturday before the Spurs game (that is, BEFORE the recent team meeting):
“The hard thing is then the next night or the next game whatever it is to come out there and back up your words with actions and lead the team.”
I don’t know what was said during the team meeting held on Sunday, but I’m certain this was not the plan for Monday.
I often find myself wondering what could possibly be going on in the heads of the Bucks players on offense. The problem with that is that there shouldn’t really be anything going on; it should predominantly be quick read and react situations. That’s how basketball should be played. Instead, the Bucks players are often left holding on to the ball for long periods of time or dribbling aimlessly on the perimeter. There is very few “attack mode” moments where a player is decisively going to the basket with a plan and I’m not sure anyone is really capable of it anyway.
- I’m sometimes amazed at the number of isolation plays the Bucks seem to run. Do the Bucks have many players that seem capable of thriving in isolation? Who on the Bucks is more talented offensively than their counterpart on the Bobcats would be defensively? Maybe Jennings and occasionally Bogut, but Michael Redd and Hakim Warrick don’t have the necessary skill to beat their respective men one on one when their guarded by the capable defenders the Bobcats have.
- If anyone questions why Skiles came back out with a completely different starting five, let me point you to the numbers for the Bucks recent starting five of Jennings-Redd-Delfino-Ilyasova-Bogut:
|Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Overall Rating|
Those numbers indicate that the Bucks score 45 less points than they allow per 100 possessions with this lineup. The STARTING LINEUP SCORES 45 POINTS LESS THAN IT ALLOWS PER 100 POSSESSIONS! This is more or less the worst five-man unit the Bucks could put on the court and they’ve started the last five games. Mysteriously, Milwaukee is 1-4 in those games. For the record, if Redd is swapped out and Mbah a Moute is swapped in, the Bucks improve to a +9.78 rating. That’s a 54.13 difference. Just saying.
- So in a game in which Michael Redd played 20 of the most ineffective minutes you’ll see on a basketball court, Brandon Jennings shot 9-18, had seven assists and scored 24 points. I know this is going to sound crazy, but he played as well in the second half as he has played in over a month. Jennings had 18 in the second half.
- Jodie Meeks earned some more clock with a strong game Saturday, but may have lost it just as quick. Skiles has commented on Meeks speed and athleticism as being better than the rest of the Bucks guards and Meeks showed that multiple times, but if he can’t hit wide open three-point shots, he isn’t going to play. It’s that simple. Once in the half court he decisively attacked his man and kicked it out to Bell for an open three (Bell missed) and later he ran the break and got Mbah a Moute a layup that resulted in two free throws. The Bucks don’t get much out of the drive and kick or transition game, so when Meeks flashes these kinds of plays, it’s a little bit of a big deal. Those plays are all well and good, but still, he’s got to hit his three’s.
- It’s not even funny how much better Mbah a Moute is at defense than every other Bucks wing player. He’s always tipping passes, getting in good position and grabbing rebounds (his ten led the Bucks). I missed some of the first quarter, but as soon as I tuned in, Mbah a Moute corralled a loose ball with a dive and then tipped a pass right after. Sure, he can’t hit a 15 foot jump-shot with consistency, but he does so many other positive things and is a great court-chemistry guy.
- Francisco Elson played as well as I’ve seen him play all year. He absolutely looked the part of a player who had been resting and working all year long. He was running around, being active and generally good Gadzuricish. Remember when Gadz used to be able to trap, grab rebounds and contest shots? That was Elson Monday. His plus eight was an accurate reflection of his contributions.
Skiles has had enough of the talking. He wants to see results and will obviously sit anyone he doesn’t think is contributing. All bets seem to be off right now and if the Bucks came back Wednesday with the same starters they had Monday I’d be astonished. How Bogut and Redd take their benchings will make for an interesting two days for the Bucks on this road trip. If they own up to their mistakes and do what’s necessary to get back on the court and get the team back on track, we could be talking about this game as a turning point in the Bucks season. If Skiles unusual tactic of benching two of his team’s stars is met with trouble? It could be a long couple months.