And we have a new word for the glossary.
The Trap Game.
The trap game is simple. Let’s say you have a team that’s been hot, really hot, like let’s say 15-2 over their last 17 games hot. And there were some pretty good wins in that 15, like recent ones over Denver, in Denver nonetheless, and at home against a possible playoff opponent in Atlanta. There are some tough games coming up too, like the one against another team fighting for playoff positioning in the conference. But there’s a game before the schedule toughens up. A game against a team languishing near the bottom of the conference, a team that hasn’t performed up to expectations and is caught in some sort of purgatory, not super bad, but without much of a future. They come out sluggish and look like they weren’t completely ready for this team and … they blow it.
That’s your trap game and that’s what happened to the Bucks Wednesday night against the Sixers.
Milwaukee had been coming out flat for the last few games, but typically clawed their way back into them and found a way to win. In Sacramento it took overtime and a little bit of luck, but the Bucks kept it close enough to be lucky. Against Atlanta, John Salmons got hot and carried the Bucks past the Hawks. But there was no getting hot against Philadelphia, there was no keeping it close and there was no happy ending, just a disappointing loss that detracts from the impressive win in Denver last Saturday. Beating the better teams means a lot more when a team takes care of business against the dregs of the league and the Bucks were unable to do that against Philly.
So, losing a trap game is an issue, but I took something else out of this one too, something that means much more.
Coming into the year, the Sixers were supposed to be a good team and it’s possible that’s the team that showed up tonight. They’re athletic, they have good one on one players, they force turnovers and they’re a tough matchup for a lot of teams. In short, they remind of me of the Hawks. The switching on screens, the length all over and athletic front court were all problems for the Bucks offensively. Sure, Milwaukee was passive going inside or driving to the hoop (see 5-28 3FG), but when they did get in it seemed like Philadelphia had defenders waiting, with length.
Jrue Holiday gave the Milwaukee point guards lots of problems on offense and defense and with his size and wingspan, he’s reminiscent of Joe Johnson, who took the challenge of guarding the Milwaukee point guards in the last two matchups. Coach Scott Skiles was asked why his Bucks have had problems with the Sixers this year and he was quick to answer:
“They’re very athletic, they’re quicker than we are at some key spots and, you know, they get in some passing lanes, they’re disruptive and it’s bothered us.”
Sound like anyone you know? Hint: they won Wednesday night.
It wasn’t pretty. The Bucks were sluggish from the get-go and seemed content to shoot threes instead of working the ball inside or drive to the basket. As I said before, Milwaukee was 5-28 on 3FGs, the worst offenders were Carlos Delfino (2-7 3FG) and Jerry Stackhouse (1-6 3FG) who seemed to miss shot after shot, but ended up leading the Bucks with 15 points (3-9 FG 8-8 FT). Even John Salmons had an off night (2-12 FG 0-4 3FG), proving that he is indeed a human and not a robot built to bring passion back to Milwaukee basketball fans.
- Andrew Bogut’s struggles, against Samuel Dalembert and in the last week, continued. Bogut had just eight points and scored six quick ones while Dalembert was out of the game. If the Bucks want to start looking like the team that’s been the talk of the league again any time soon, their big man is going to have to figure out what’s been going wrong and get it going right.
- The end of the bench, Primoz Brezec, Charlie Bell and Royal Ivey all logged significant minutes and ended up shooting a combined 7-10 while scoring 15 points. Don’t let statistics fool you, the less they are on the court, the better the chance of success for the Bucks.
The Bucks starters didn’t last five minutes before being unceremoniously yanked by Coach Skiles. Skiles will put up with lots of foolishness on offense, but if he’s not seeing a good defensive effort, he’s not going to put up with it. The Sixers got dunk after dunk on backdoors and alley-oops, surely this had to do with fatigue, but that couldn’t be the only explanation. The Bucks looked like they had no idea the Sixers were going to want to toss up lobs all night. An athletic team like the Sixers thrives off transition and alley-oops in the half court, but Milwaukee did little to bother them. Rarely do Milwaukee opponents shoot above 50%, but the Sixers finished at 52.6, not a recipe for success.
Alas, the season goes on and things get serious again on Friday when the Miami Heat come to town. Unlike the Sixers, the Bucks have performed very well against the Heat all year, whether or not Dwyane Wade has been in the lineup. I’d have a hard time finding a better opponent for the Bucks to get after a humbling loss like this one. But games are obviously not played on paper and the Bucks are going to have to get out there and beat the Heat to get some redemption for Wednesday’s disappointment. Fortunately, there will be nothing trap about it.