I know the Bucks have been inconsistent this year, hell, I write about it every game. So glancing at a box score and seeing some shaky performances doesn’t really faze me anymore. But they took inconsistency to a whole new level in Friday night’s loss to the Raptors.
After playing what I thought was their best half of basketball all year long in the first half, the Bucks went away from everything that had been working for them and resorted to chucking up three-point shot after three-point shot against the Raptors zone defense. The more they chucked, the better Toronto felt, because Milwaukee ended up 5-26 from downtown, including a 3-15 performance in the second half. And, as has been the case often times this year, once the Bucks offense gave out their defense soon followed suit.
Quickly, the Bucks double digit lead became a single digit lead and then it was a one possession game and then the Bucks were trailing. It was a slow and painful deterioration, but that’s only because Luke Ridnour wouldn’t let the Bucks bungle their terrific first half any sooner than they did. Remember those three threes I said the Bucks connected on in the second half — all Ridnour, all in the fourth quarter. The Bucks scored 23 fourth quarter points, 18 of which were Ridnour’s. So, when looking back on why the Bucks were unable to translate some of their best ball of the season into a W, we can safely agree that we needn’t look in Ridnour’s direction.
I’ve covered Ridnour: he was awesome. In the second half, he was all there was as the Bucks had little other offense to speak of, but like I said before, half one was a different story. Half one was the story of Andrew Bogut.
- With Andrea Bargnani out, the Bucks pounded it inside to Bogut from the get-go. Actually, I don’t think it would have mattered whether or not Bargnani was in or out, he didn’t really have anything for Bogut on Wednesday night either. It was clear the game plan centered on getting the ball to the center for Milwaukee early Friday evening. Bogut finished the first half with 17 points on 6-8 shooting. Unfortunately, Bogut scored just five points on 2-5 shooting in the second stanza. I can’t even explain in words how bad the Raptor zone made Milwaukee’s offense look, so I encourage you to take what you will from knowing that after Bogut completely dominated half one the Bucks would go on to get him just five shots in the second half.
- In the first half, Bradon Jennings took six shots, on two of them he was successful and on two others the Bucks were able to grab the offensive rebound and get a basket. He was attacking the rim just as I had hoped he would and even found Bogut off a pick and roll with a sweet alley-oop. In the second half, he was getting good looking midrange shots, but he’s just not very good at those. He wasn’t getting to the basket as much, thanks in large part to the uber-effective Raptor zone. If I’m not mistaken, I remember him getting to the basket just one time and he was fouled getting two free-throws.
With 5:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Bucks were up 82-77 and still had a great shot at winning this one if they could figure out the Raptors zone or at least hold them off defensively. Well they didn’t figure out the zone and they sure didn’t hold on defense as the Raptors went on to score all of the rest of their points on dunks, layups and free-throws. The Raptors would score 10 of their next 24 on layups and dunks while the other 14 came from the free-throw line. Simply put, that won’t get it done.
- Bogut once again was able to block three shots, he’s done that at minimum in his last five games and is now averaging 2.14 blocks per game on the season.
- Jarrett Jack finished 7-9 from the field and 11-12 from the line for 27 points, nearly all of them coming by pounding it by Jennings and getting to the rim. One way or another, Jennings has got to find a way to cut off penetration, especially if he’s not getting any himself.
Considering how the Bucks have played on the road this year, I didn’t expect a win coming in, but when it’s so close you can feel it, it hurts. It was like someone flipped the road switch or reminded the Bucks they aren’t at home at halftime. Actually it was just that zone that did the Bucks in. I’m still a little in shock about just how poorly they played when faced with a zone defense, considering these are NBA players. They’ve all seen zone one time or another in their lives, but they weren’t able to get anything into the high post or even look inside more than once or twice. They attempted to shoot the Raptors out of it and that blew up in their face. Whether or not they’ll learn from their mistakes may be important, because the more Andrew Bogut plays well, the more likely it is other teams will resort to this tactic to slow the Bucks.
Hopefully next time the result will differ.