Q. What makes for a very good NBA offense?
A. A versatile offense capable of driving to the basket, hitting outside shots or tossing it down low to their big-time center – also known as Saturday night’s version of the Milwaukee Bucks (save for the 40 percent shooting).
Earlier this season I resigned myself to the fact that I’d spend the majority of the year watching the Bucks launch difficult jump-shots, occasionally open threes and rarely driving to the hoop if Andrew Bogut didn’t have it going or couldn’t get a good look. I never felt great about it, but hoped the Bucks tenacious defense would at least keep them in games long enough for them to get hot at some point and win. After all, 48 minutes of defense in the NBA will get a team a lot of wins. At this point, it’s starting to look like a few variables have been added to the mix that could drastically alter the course of the Bucks offense going forward.
Variable one is easy enough to figure out: John Salmons. In two games Salmons has shown more attack moves and signs of being the perfect “drive” player in a “drive and kick” game that gets other Bucks open shots (seven assists and five rebounds on Saturday to go with his 19 points!). In addition, he’s a capable three-point shooter, has the size to finish on the break and has shot more free-throws in two games than other Bucks two guards did in the four games previous.
Variable two: The Brandon Jennings Roller Coaster. Jennings has had his ups and downs well documented. He’s learning the pro game and isn’t just playing for this season. With that being said, Jennings is going to have some pretty good games the rest of the way, perhaps not as frequently as he did in the first couple weeks, but he will have some and when they happen they’ll be a significant boost to the Bucks offense. It’s impossible to tell when Jennings’ shooting touch will show up, but that’s just part of the excitement in following the rook. Here’s to the ups.
The free-throw problem has looked like significantly less of a problem in the last two games. Part of the reason has been Jennings finally getting some calls. It’s possible he had to earn them the way most rookies have to earn minutes and it’s been a difficult and tedious process. But in his last two games has taken 17 freebies and connected on 88 percent (15-17) of them.
- Bogut had it going offensively and showed a little more variety than usual, stepping out a number of times for jumpers that typically aren’t his thing. He also used the Bobcats shot-blocking aggressiveness against them with a slick pump-fake/drop pass to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for an easy layup in the fourth. Oh, and he stuck with it in the post even if he struggled a little (8-18 from the field). 18 and 13 for Bogut … but we’re not done with him just yet (see DEFENSE).
- The Bucks shot 20-26 from the line and 9-24 from three, out doing the Bobs in both categories. The Bucks no longer absolutely need to shut down their opponents and shoot a better percentage. The influx of free-throws from Jennings and Salmons (7-8) go a long way towards helping the Bucks win games in which they shoot 40 percent like they did Saturday.
- Jerry Stackhouse on shooting threes and taking it to the hoop.
If we can get that contagious throughout the team we can be dangerous. We got to be able to move the ball and make the easy plays, man. Gotta get out of the “hero syndrome”, not against good teams, can’t have that, not against good teams. That’s not a great team we played tonight, but whenever you make the extra pass it seem like that ball finds a way to go in. Nothing wrong with three-point shooting as long as it’s a shot where a guy can catch the ball and got time to look at it. When you got contested running shots at the basket and (stuff) like that, that’s a hard way to consistently win. That’s a recipe for disaster in my mind.
Is there anyone who seems wiser than Stack?
Bogut: Australian for Blocks. Seriously, the Bobs were making a little bit of a charge in the fourth quarter and could have cut the Bucks lead to four points at one point on a Stephen Jackson drive. But Bogut got busy on the defensive end. He caught Jackson at the rim, having none of it. Then Boris Diaw tried a floater in the lane that probably works more often than not. This attempt fell in the “not” category as Bogut blocked this one into a fast break that resulted in two freebies for Salmons. Bogut finished with five blocks and played terrific defense all night.
- Jackson got loose for 35 points, but Coach Scott Skiles doesn’t necessarily think it was all the fault of the defenders guarding him:
A guy like Stephen Jackson isn’t going to quit out there. We were playing with fire a bit letting “Jack” get going. He’s a heck of a competitor and when he gets it going he’s difficult to stop. And we did not do a poor job on him, for the most part we were up on him, he hit some tough ones and brought them back.
It wasn’t the blowout that it was shaping up to be in the third quarter, but maybe that’s good for the Bucks. This game was as close to a playoff game as they’ve had all year, and for a team with a lot of guys who don’t have much playoff experience, that’s important. More from Stackhouse:
These guys never been in a playoff atmosphere, but this is as close as it get. If you get a whole game on a team that’s up two games. You know what I’m sayin’? It comes down to the end of the season, you don’t want to look around at a half game, one game when you miss the playoffs. Take advantage and control your own destiny then you’re not, at the end of the season, standing and watching hoping another team lose.
So, yeah, this was a big one. Not only do the Bucks regain their home mojo a little after dropping two in a row at their own building, but they now own the tie breaker with the team directly in front on them in the chase for the eighth seed in the East. It’s hard for the Bucks to have asked for more Saturday night.