Defense remains in absentia: Wizards 104 – Bucks 102
The hundreds aren’t the way to go for the Bucks. The Bucks have allowed their opponent to score 100+ points on eight occasions this year. The Bucks are 2-6 in those games. They have held their opponent under 100 points nine times. The Bucks are 7-2 int hose games. Sometimes, it’s just that easy. But for as much as the idea is easy, the execution of that idea isn’t quite as easy.
The stats against Washington were not pretty Wednesday night. The Wizards largely had their way with the Bucks defense:
- 54.3 percent shooting
- 25 made free throws to nine for the Bucks
- Six players in double figures
- 25-10 advantage on fast break points
- 13 dunks/layups to eight for the Bucks
54 percent shooting? Doesn’t that say it all? Not often can a team win a game in which they allow 54 percent shooting unless they’re on fire themselves. The free throw differential was excessive as usual and while the Bucks made up those points by hitting six more three’s than the Wizards, that kills them. Having to make three’s is difficult. Teams don’t often shoot more than 40 percent on three’s and that’s what keeps the Bucks overall shooting percentage down. But that doesn’t even kill them in this one if any defense is played.
The Buck guards aren’t having much success keeping their men out of the paint.
Nick Young for one was shredding the Bucks. The same Nick Young whose game I was so critical of Wednesday morning. The Nick Young who does nothing but score. Well, he again did little but score (he did chip in five rebounds) but he scored a whole bunch. Young poured in 21 points on 7-12 shooting. Toss in his 7-7 performance from the free throw line and he joins Vince Carter, John Salmons and Thabo Sefolohsa as the latest shooting guard to score with great efficiency. The return of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should help the Bucks in the next few games, but still won’t fix the Bucks alone. Jennings has been getting shredded with some regularity too and that reared it’s head again when Earl Boykins sprung for 11 in the fourth quarter. It’s tough to nail down what exactly has put the Bucks in this rut, but they need to figure out how to consistently bring more effort on the defensive end.
That’s enough about the defense. It hasn’t been great and they’ll have to figure it out soon. But the offense isn’t without it’s faults.
- That three-point shooting to free-throw shooting situation I was talking about? It rears it’s head at seemingly the worst times. The Bucks are down 100-99 with 33 seconds left. They bring it down the court and work the offense a little, eventually leading to a pick and roll in which Brandon Jennings dribbled into the paint drawing Charlie Bell’s man off of him. Jennings kicked it out to bell standing outside the three-point line. This was probably the best shot the Bucks could get at this point. Bell shot and missed leading to a Wizard three-point lead with less than 20 seconds to go. But if the Bucks have a guy who can drive here he could have caught that ball outside wide open as Bell did and made a move to get into the paint for free throws or a lay-up. It’s an offensive dimension they lack and brings the probability of a basket from roughly 50 percent on plays like these down to the high 30’s. More often than not, Bell won’t make that shot.
- The Brandon Jennings struggles continue. 17 points on 7-21 shooting with seven assists and zero turnovers. Some things to like, some things to hate. He hit a clutch three with roughly 10 seconds left that tied it up, but then fouled Boykins with one second left while he was shooting, putting a 94 percent free throw shooter on the line in a tie game. And that was the game. Jennings was 5-13 inside the arc, a small victory in a way. He hit a number of runner/floater shots that he hasn’t been making lately and it was his uncharacteristic 2-8 showing behind the arc that really brought down his percentage. This is a probably a realistic idea of how good he is right now, but not any glimpse into the future. He’ll get better and he’ll probably be a pretty significant threat on a more consistent basis as early as next year. The seven assists and zero turnovers are a good indication that he is indeed a point guard though.
- Bogut STRUGGLED. I was worried Brendan Haywood’s length and strength would give Bogut problems and they certainly did. He was getting very few clean looks and his touch didn’t seem to be there even when he did get some looks. On the plus side he was able to dish out five assists, a sign that he recognized it was not a favorable match-up for him.
- With all the negative things I’ve had to say about this one, you must be wondering how the Bucks were even this close. The bench. Luke Ridnour and Hakim Warrick each had 20. Ridnour on his typical collection of pull-up jumpers and occasional three point shot and Warrick on a few jump shots and a bunch of dunks/layups and free throws. The Bucks were 9-12 on free throws — Warrick was 8-8. That’s the kind of Warrick performance that we’d love to see every game and the Bucks need more often.
Good teams don’t win close games, they avoid them. That’s the adage I think most sums up a game like this. If the Bucks were all that good, they would have blown the Wizards out of this one. On a basic level, they outplayed the Wizards, only nine turnovers to the Wiz’s 17. The Bucks didn’t play sloppy, but lacked the ability to absolutely get buckets when they needed them. And the defense sucked. So that’s how we ended up here. Now 9-8 the Bucks outlook doesn’t really change all that much. They still need to figure out how to bring more effort on the road and they will be better when they get LRMAM back ideally. Chalk this one up as a bad loss and one to remember when the Bucks are trying to scrape together a few wins to make the playoffs at the end of the year.