I’ve been told I’m turning into a negative person.
My gut reaction is to feel bad about the Bucks one point heartbreaker of a loss. I want to complain about the tough shots Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry hit on a regular basis, as I wonder why the Bucks can’t seem to ever find guys to hit those same shots. I want to question the decision making of the Bucks rookie point guard down the stretch and rue the coaching staff for not letting the better shooter handle the ball when it was clear shots would need to be made. I want to be a little bitter about the whole experience and that’s what a negative person would do.
Yet I find myself incapable of performing in that role. I just feel too good about the whole thing to let any negativity interfere. Sure, some things could have been done better and the Bucks could have come out with a win. But when Milwaukee can head out on the road into the Western Conference and play a division leader to a virtual standstill it’s hard for me to feel very empty.
The Bucks gave Dallas their very best shot – literally. The 53.3 percent Milwaukee shot in this one was as good a performance as they’ve had on the road all year. A lot of that had to do with Andrew Bogut’s all-starish 13-14 (6-8 from the stripe) for a career high 32 point performance.
Bogut was matching the superstar Dirk shot for shot in the fourth quarter. So what was it that allowed the Mavericks to prevail if Bogut was a pseudo-superstar in this one? Well when the Bucks would have to send double teams over at Dirk, he was able to kick out to guards that combined to shoot 10-16 on threes. Bogut was skipping it around to guards that finished the night 4-11 on their own three-point shots. Having a superstar is one thing; having everyone else step up to the plate to make their shots is another.
While the guards didn’t have it going (Brandon Jennings: 5-16, Charlie Bell: 1-4, Luke Ridnour: 4-11 and Jerry Stackhouse: 3-6) Carlos Delfino continued his habitually stellar play. Delfino finished 8-12 from the field and connected on 4-5 threes including a monster 31-foot three with the shot-clock winding down and the Bucks down four. Hitting that shot allowed the Bucks to be choosey with how they’d defend the Mavs final offensive possession, as anything other than a three-point play would allow the Bucks a chance to at least tie and send it in to overtime (more on this later).
- I really can’t say enough about Bogut’s offensive prowess Tuesday night. Sometimes I think he has his full array of moves on display and then I see a night like tonight where he REALLY has his fully array out for everyone to see. He scored in so many different ways on the burly, solid defending Erick Dampier that Damp probably will be trying to block shots in his sleep tonight. Bogut’s play alone prevents me from being able to get too down on this loss.
- Brandon Jennings came out hot, hitting his first three shots and four of his first five, but that wouldn’t last. He struggled to get many good looks the rest of the game and when he did have them he couldn’t convert. I know he’s the future and I’m more than willing to live through his ups and downs, but in a road game that appeared eminently winnable, I would have really loved to see Luke Ridnour handling the ball and working the pick and rolls with Bogut near the end. Jennings took two questionable shots with less than three minutes to go; one was taking on multiple Mavs defenders in an attack at the rim with no other Bucks around, and may have been better served off the ball. I know he can look back at this and try to learn something, so it’s hard to balance teaching, growing and winning and I do not envy Scott Skiles for having to make those decisions. That being said, if the Bucks really wanted to win this one, Ridnour may have been a better two-man game partner for Bogut, as he has a much more reliable mid-range jumper if he’s left alone like Jennings frequently was.
- Stackhouse keeps knocking the rust off and has done well when thrust into duty since his return, but he does have a penchant for turnovers. Tuesday’s theme seemed to be dropping the ball, whereas some games it’s losing his handle. It’s probable that his has to do with rust, so I’ll just be glad that he’s generally hitting open shots and contributing on offense and move on so long as it’s not a recurring theme a month from now.
It’s exhausting to so much as watch Dirk play on the opposing team, so I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have to match-up with him as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova had to do all night Tuesday. But they kept trotting out there and giving it their best with varying degrees of success and I have a hard time finding any problems with the effort they gave. LRMAM had a greater deal of success, a couple blocks and a steal I’ll address in one second, but most importantly he appears to realize that fouling Dirk is a huge no-no. Occasionally Ersan would get a silly foul on Dirk, because Dirk lives for that kind of thing, but it’s almost as if LRMAM saw the bait and wouldn’t take it … at least not until the right moment when the man with the bait wasn’t ready for it to be taken.
On the Mavs last possession the ball was clearly going to be in Dirk’s hands. How to stop it was the question and Luc had the answer few have had this year. He waited for the right moment and pounced on Dirk’s left handed dribble, getting first his arm inside and then his whole body on the loose ball. LRMAM’s final defensive play on Dirk was such a perfect attack it reminded me of a cobra stalking its prey and waiting to strike. He’s had the challenge of trying to stop a posted up Dirk at the free-throw line before, so he waited to let Dirk get in just the position he wanted before he struck. It was the defensive play of the night and probably as fine a defensive maneuver as anyone will put on Dirk all year long.
Last second plays have often been a problem for the Bucks of the past few years, so when they’re able to get a shot going towards to hoop with time expiring, it’s another thing I don’t really feel compelled to complain about. It’s possible that Delfino doesn’t really have enough last second shot attempts in the NBA to qualify as a good option for a team that needs a bucket to win, but when he’s 8-12 and has had success attacking the hoop, it’s hard to question the logic. Plus he’s got the size to shoot over a defender and shoot over a defender he had to do as Dampier challenged his 10-foot runner.
A question that may loom is whether or not the Bucks could have gotten the ball into Bogut for the last shot. My opinion is that it’s tough to get it inside off an inbounds play and three seconds isn’t a lot of time for Bogut to make a move. It probably would have resulted in a rushed shot and a finish no less disappointing than the one that actually happened.
But disappointment need not show itself around me tonight. I’m feeling good, feeling great because the Bucks have strung together a couple weeks worth of strong performances, their record over that time be damned. For a team that has the future in mind while playing for right now too it’s more important that the pieces start to show some signs of coming together and being greater than the whole they currently make up and in that department, the Bucks are making progress.