Unable To Hang: Magic 117 – Bucks 92

The NBA is a funny place.  In almost every way, the Magic are a superior to the Bucks.  Milwaukee had no business ever hanging around with Orlando, but they came out with something extra, hung around with the Magic and made a game of it.  What was it that set the Bucks apart from their recent miserable selves in Wednesday night’s game?

It was more than effort and energy.

I’d say for the first time in over a month, the Bucks looked decisive and played offense with a purpose.  There was no hesitation off screens from Brandon Jennings, just him making quick decisions.  Andrew Bogut was going right at Dwight Howard and working hard to get him in early foul trouble.

Notice anything interesting?  Hint: Michael Redd isn't shooting.

But that couldn’t (and didn’t) last all game.  The Bucks eventually reverted to form in the second half as the game slipped away.  Shots weren’t falling and the defense collapsed.  The good half the Bucks played in the first seemed like a distant memory as the clock expired on this one.  76 second half points and a 40 percent shooting performance don’t really afford the Bucks the opportunity to look back on this game and smile about much.

The moral of Wednesday’s story is a team on the attack will always fare better than the opposition.  In the first half, the Bucks were on the attack often and made quick decisions.  In the second half?  The Bucks of old were back.  They were passive; they dribbled too much and stopped making jump-shots.

Offense

  • When the Bucks were at their finest, Jennings was shooting or passing quickly off the pick and rolls.  In the second half he over-dribbled and that rarely helps the situation.  The NBA is all about quickness.  Make a quick move, think quickly and react.  Jennings wasn’t the only one who had trouble with this.  The Bucks too often are bogging down offensively and holding the ball too long without attacking or passively dribbling around the perimeter.  In the early part of the game this wasn’t an issue, but during the 14-0 fourth quarter run the Magic went on it was a huge problem.
  • 16-46.  That was the combined makes and attempts for Jennings, Bogut and Michael Redd.  A team with the talent level of Milwaukee is sure to avoid winning a game when it’s “best” three players shoot a touch better than 33 percent.
  • Speaking of Redd, it was very noticeable that he wasn’t getting many shots or even touches early.  As the Bucks found a nice rhythm in the first quarter, he took only a few shots as noted by the screen above.  It seemed like that opened up the offense for Bogut and Jennings to get the looks they wanted.  Even Luc Richard Mbah a Moute got a few early post-up touches against Vince Carter. Is it much of a shock at this point that the offense was better without Redd getting looks?  I don’t envy Coach Skiles for having to figure out how to get his guys to mesh.
  • Remember when Jodie Meeks earned some more minutes?  He’s responded to a playing time increase with 4-15 shooting, including a miserable 0-7 on three’s.  He didn’t even grab a single rebound to help make up for his offensively liable effort Wednesday.  In short, Meeks was part of the passive problem and not the aggressive solution against the Magic.

Defense

  • The Bucks came out with so much promise in the first quarter.  Jennings had three deflections early, Bogut a block, Ilyasova a deflection, LRMAM a poke away steal (credited to Redd who came up with it) and Kurt Thomas chipped in with a block, the Bucks were all over the floor.  And then they gave up 76 second half points.
  • Orlando shot 1-9 on three’s in the first half and while that was surprising, it wasn’t a total shock, as the Bucks have actually been pretty good about defending the three-point line this year.  But the wheels fell off in the second half as Orlando went 9-12 in blowing the game open.  Jason Williams led the charge hitting all five of his second half three-point attempts.  J-Will was hitting off the dribble, off catches and with great swagger.  It was all VERY J-Willish.  After the first Orlando game in Milwaukee, coach Scott Skiles talked a lot about keeping Orlando from getting comfortable on their three’s and trying to run them off of those shots, it was clear it was a big part of Milwaukee’s game plan.  It likely was again Wednesday, but it was tough to tell in the second half.
  • The insertion of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute into the starting lineup went swimmingly, as the Bucks carried their strong second half play from Monday into a 49-41 lead at half Wednesday.  Now if they can just figure out how to put consecutive halves into the same game, they’ll be in good shape.
  • Carlos Delfino was the odd man out of the starting lineup, and then played only nine minutes in which he managed to miss two shots and hit one off the side of the backboard.  Not exactly a strong case for reinsertion into the starting lineup.

Final Thoughts

The Bucks are now 3-11 with Michael Redd this season and have had only fleeting positive moments with him in the game.  This season is falling apart faster than anyone would like, or not fast enough.  It all depends on where you as a fan want the Bucks to go.  Is it time for Milwaukee to pack it in and sacrifice this year in order to gain better draft position?  Or do the Bucks need to dig deep within themselves and pull out reserve energy to jump back into the playoff picture.

Milwaukee sits in an interesting place: they sit tied for eighth in the East, but behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot, but also have the ninth worst record in the entire league, on the cusp of a possible top five lottery selection.  The Bucks could theoretically improve their chances to lose if they were able to find takers for the contracts of Luke Ridnour (who had another nice night Wednesday with 20 points on 7-10 shooting) and Kurt Thomas, the wily post defender.  If they were able to move those two, they’d have to rely more heavily on some combination of Charlie Bell, Roko Ukic, Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson. Surely that would mean their doom.
But at this point, it is beginning to look more attractive by the day if the Bucks aren’t able to compete with even middling Eastern Conference teams (Charlotte, Detroit and Washington all have embarrassed Milwaukee over the past month).

Categories: Recaps

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

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