I haven’t heard, but can already hear Bucks fans lamenting the Bucks lack of energy in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. After all, isn’t that typically what gets the blame when a team gets smoked? Effort and energy get cited in big losses more than alcohol in DUI’s. But I can’t help but think it’s even more simple a problem than lack of effort in this one.
The Bucks are just a little below average, whereas the Cavs are significantly above. So that’s pretty much that. Cleveland is full of keepers and the Bucks are in the beginning stages of figuring out who figures into their future.
Coming into the game the Bucks biggest strength was their three-point shooting. Well, the Cavs do it even better. Among the Bucks biggest weaknesses was allowing significantly more free throws than they shoot. Well, the Cavs shoot roughly as many free throws as they allow. So how did those things play out in the game?
Bucks: 4-20 on three’s and 12-16 from the line.
Cavs: 6-10 on three’s and 25-27 from the line.
So much for the Bucks making up the points they allow on free throw’s through their three-point shooting. Against some teams, they’ll get by with that mentality. Not everyone defends the three-point line very well. But the Cavs do. And so do other good teams. On top of that, the Cavs now have more capable offensive players than ever and still get in your face on defense. They’re pretty good. Against them, it’s not going to matter if the Bucks are going balls out from start to finish, because they are more talented virtually across the board than the Bucks.
The Bucks came out with a furious punch to the proverbial face of the Cavs in this one too. An 11-0 start had no one questioning the Bucks effort in the first three minutes. Funny how those things work out, isn’t it? But in the end the Bucks lose by 15 so it looks like they were lifeless. I didn’t see that though. I just saw one team that looked like a contender for the NBA title and another that looked like most of their guys won’t be around in two or three years. Effort shmeffort, this one was about talent.
- Brandon Jennings at least gives us something positive to talk about. 9-22 equates to above 40 percent for the first time in a long while for the rook. In finishing with 24 points, it was Jennings first time over 20 points since the Bucks win in Memphis. The Bucks went 1-6 in those seven games. That has to mean something, right? Jennings certainly never packed it in during this game, diving on the court for a loose ball in the fourth quarter was a good sign.
- Another positive on offense? Um, Roko Ukic. I’m digging deep here, but Ukic did well in this one. He played 15 minutes, not all of them of the garbage variety, and came up with seven points on 3-4 shooting. If Ukic throws together a couple of more outings like this, I’ll stop referring to him as the worst player in the league. Of course if Ukic gets the opportunity to throw together any more outings like this, it probably means the Bucks are getting hammered and I’m getting a little snippy, resulting in me again referring to him at the league’s worst. Quite a conundrum.
- The day’s biggest offenders on offense? Andrew Bogut and his 3-11 showing. He’s not shooting 40-foot shots exactly. Carlos Delfino who shot 1-6 from three and turned the ball over four times. Hakim Warrick posted 11 points and nine rebounds, but turned it over three times and generally did little when it mattered. He was on the court during the 29-0 run and didn’t exactly help the Bucks at that point. He also got dunked on by Shaq three times in a row, though that’s not his fault. Why would he ever be covering Shaq? Sigh.
- The Cavs went on a 29-0 run starting in the latter parts of the first quarter and lasting till near the midway point of the second. At times they had assistant coaches running their huddles. To say the least, this was not one of the finer moments for the Bucks defense this year. Delonte West went to work for a long stretch during the run, at one point posting up Luke Ridnour, drawing a foul on a made basket, making the free throw, stealing a pass of Ridnour’s and then hitting a jumper. That was just the beginning. I’ll save you the gory details, but West went for 21 on 6-9 shooting and 9-9 from the line. His +24 didn’t even lead the Cavs! Ugh.
- The second quarter was where the game was really decided. In that quarter, the Cavs were 9-10 inside ten feet, including seven dunks/layups. In addition, they were 9-9 at the free throw line. The Bucks were 4-10 inside ten feet, were 1-1 on free throws and 1-6 on three’s. I mean that sums up all of the Bucks problems right there, right? What do the Bucks do when they can’t hit a three, because the answer sure isn’t get to the hoop or to the line. Finishing inside ten feet was not easy for the Bucks in this one and is not one of their strengths. They simply don’t have the personnel. It’s so obvious that the majority of the Bucks either aren’t capable or have no desire to get to the rim that the better teams will attack that and make their jumpers difficult.
Having the personnel isn’t all that important this year though. If the Bucks can beat bad teams, hold their own as well as they typically do at home and sneak into the playoffs that would be terrific. I want to see them win as many games as possible and still think they can get to 37 and the eight seed. But it would be icing on the “we discovered Brandon Jennings this year” cake. What’s more important is finding out who the keepers are here. The Bucks are in the first year of a three year plan and most of these guys won’t see the third year of it. At this point it’s just important to find out which members of this team can make positive and consistent contributions to the stronger squads the Bucks plan to put together in the future.
And aside from seeing what championship level teams look like up close, that’s what we can take out of games like this. Did anyone (aside from Jennings) show they might be able to compete on another level? Well, yes actually Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for one. He wasn’t in for a second of that second quarter madness (I don’t know how he was left on the bench for so long) but competed hard against Lebron James when he was on him. If he can eventually step out and hit the three he has a very bright future.
So, that is at least something worth taking out of this one, because there certainly isn’t much else.