An Unsatisfying Victory is Still a Victory: Bucks 98 – Pacers 94
Saturday night I ventured to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. Unfortunately, the wait was to be over 30 minutes and my friends and I were too hungry to wait.. With a lack of other options in the area, we settled on Applebees.
I’m not an Applebees guy; they’ve screwed up my mediocre food far too many times, so I was heading there with trepidation to begin with. The mental transition I had to make in going from wings at BW3’s to whatever I’d have at Applebees had me down too. Naturally, after we were seated and ordered, each of my friends received their food, while mine didn’t arrive. A mistake was made, the order wasn’t placed and my food wasn’t ready. I had to wait another 10 minutes to get my food.
My meal ended up being better than I expected and they gave it to me on the house for my troubles, so when it was all said and done I was pretty pleased with the end result. Still, the process I went through was unsatisfying.
And by describing my Saturday evening dining experience, I’ve more or less told you the story of the Bucks-Pacers game Sunday afternoon. The Bucks played down to the Pacers level, which made for some sloppy basketball and an overall unsatisfying experience. Coming off three straight thrillers against Cleveland, Boston and Utah, I didn’t expect this one to be high theater, but I was hoping for a crisp game at least. I shouldn’t be surprised though. If the Bucks last three opponents are the equivalent to my BW3’s, then Indiana is absolutely my Applebees.
Still, the Bucks got the W and no matter what the game looked like Milwaukee is one step closer to a playoff spot and a fifth seed. And that sounds about as good as a free meal to me.
In the first half, the Bucks starters looked like a group that could have used the hour of sleep daylight savings took from them overnight Sunday. Perhaps they were a little worn out from the load they’ve been carrying the past few games or maybe it just wasn’t’ there day. Whatever the case was, the group finished the first half with 24 of the Bucks 49 points (8-28 FG 2-4 3FG 6-10 FT).
Fortunately, the Pacers bench is devoid of talent and the Bucks subs were able to carry the load early. Led by Jerry Stackhouse (11 points in the first half), the Bucks reserves had 25 points in the games opening 24 minutes and kept the Pacers at arms length. Well, at least until the starters had to come back in to wrap it up with four minutes to go, but let’s not nitpick. That’s why it’s a team effort.
- Stack kept the good times rolling in the second half and finished with 20 points (7-13 FG 4-6 3FG 2-2 FT). One thing you’ll notice when Stack is on the court is how quick the Bucks are passing the ball and how little dribbling is going on. Even if he’s occasionally forcing or air mailing a pass, Stack isn’t bogging anything down and he’s making good reads more often than not.
- The bench didn’t start and stop with Stack though. Luke Ridnour snapped out of a mini-slump and rediscovered the pull-up jumper he’d been missing lately. Ridnour finished with 13 points (5-8 FG 1-1 3FG 2-3 FT) and kept the offense running smoothly while Brandon Jennings was out – something he’d been struggling with lately.
The book on the Pacers seems fairly simple: make sure they don’t catch fire from outside and try not to let Danny Granger score 50. Well, the Pacers shot 33% from outside, 37.5% total and Granger finished with 29 points. So how did the Pacers almost win this one? Try a 33-36 effort from the free-throw line. The last time the Bucks allowed over 35 free throws? A 112-110 win over Indiana on February 25th.
Coach Scott Skiles mentioned after the game that the Bucks have yet to play a good game against the Pacers, and the numbers don’t lie. While Milwaukee’s defense wasn’t exactly non-existent (they still held the Pacers under 40% shooting) the rotations weren’t as sharp as they had been the last few games. Against Indiana that can still get a team a win, but that won’t fly against most of the NBA.
- I couldn’t help but chuckle in the fourth quarter when Dahntay Jones found himself with the ball on the perimeter one on one with Kurt Thomas (Thomas pitched in on offense too by the way, with seven points and nine rebounds). I mean, that screams mismatch, right? Jones is in the league because he’s a freak athlete, so getting by old man Thomas shouldn’t be a problem – at least in theory. In practice, things were quite different. Thomas stayed in position, didn’t close out too hard on the shaky shooter Jones and then watched him airmail a pass across the court into the stands. Thomas has made a career off being a tough guy who’s always in the right positions, tonight was no different.
It was an early game, daylight savings made it even earlier and the game reflected the time. If anything, this game was more of a chance to get the feel for playing afternoon games like they’ll have to do in the playoffs than anything. Taking that into consideration, this game isn’t much more than a blip on the radar. It would have been nice to see a Bucks blowout, but everyone was referring to this as a trap game for a reason. Coach Skiles on the team’s recent play:
Seven or eight days ago if you said we were going to win these four games at home, you know, we’ll take it. We certainly will take it.
No team feels great about ugly wins, but every team feels great about four game sweeps on home stands. Sometimes it’s more important to look at the larger picture and this is one of those times.