Bucks Beat Wizards, No One’s Thrilled: Bucks 100 – Wizards 87

Box Score/Recap

“Generally if anybody’s guarding someone I stick with them.”

–         Scott Skiles (Late 2009)

I don’t think Scott Skiles benched Brandon Jennings for the fourth quarter and overtime of the Hawks game to teach him a lesson, or because his defense was bad or for any other reason than Luke Ridnour was playing better.  It’s too late in the season for Skiles to be sending messages or do anything other than try to get wins.

But Wednesday night, Brandon Jennings looked like he took something out of it.

Jennings spent much of the first two quarters playing an aggressive pressure defense that he has rarely shown off this year.  Jennings is remarkably quick, his change of direction reminds me of a number of nimble insects, but that hasn’t resulted in much when he’s decided to pick up full court.  Wednesday Jennings was jabbing at the ball handler the way a boxer would when feeling out an opponent.  The Wizards point guards were taking them like body blows, staggering but never falling down as they committed just one turnover in the first half, despite losing their respective grips on a few occasions.

But in the third quarter, the Wizards point guards and the rest of the team for that matter, they went down.  Hard.  Looking tired from the hounding Jennings had been placing on them, Randy Foye, Shaun Livingston and Earl Boykins combined for six third quarter turnovers, including the ever so rare eight second call.  The Wizards themselves turned the ball over 11 times in the third and saw an eight point halftime deficit turn into a 17 point mountain that they would be unable to climb.

This was not one of Jennings finer offensive performances, in fact it ranks right up there with any as his worst when you factor his six turnovers into his 2-12 shooting performance.  Jennings ability to limit turnovers has been his saving grace as his shots have continued to fly towards everything but the bottom of the hoop.  Jennings seemed down trodden in the locker room, even when I mentioned the rarity of a forced eight second call in the league.

“Yeah, I mean, my offense wasn’t going so I had to fall back on something else and just went to the defensive end,” said Jennings.  “I didn’t have a good offensive evening and I was just trying to put pressure on the defensive end tonight.”

Skiles, who was visibly upset with his team’s performance (he referred to the game as “a step back”) stuck with Jennings in this one.

“We’re trying to win a game; that’s what we’re trying to do,” Skiles said after the game.  “Obviously he hasn’t had much luck finding the basket, but he was trying to apply pressure, he had good active hands.  He has his moments like that, he’s trying to find other ways to help and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

Offense

The turnovers were up for the Bucks in this one, but they were able to manage 29 assists to their 16 turnovers and saw five different players score in double figures.  In the eight games since John Salmons arrival, the Bucks have had at least five players score in double figures in each game but two – and in each of those four guys reached double figures with at least one player scoring nine.  This is the way teams without superstars win in the NBA; unselfish basketball, predicated on getting stops and balancing the scoring effort.

  • “Turk-ish Thun-der” was the chant that came roaring from Squad Six with five and a half minutes to go in the game, this time with more purpose than usual.  Ersan Ilyasova, who the rowdy group has taken to calling “Turkish Thunder” really brought some thunder on a transition dunk that fell just out of the reach of shot-blocking machine JaVale McGee. This was just one of many fine moments for Ilyasova in this one though, he finished with 19 points (7-13 FG 1-3 3 FG), 10 rebounds and a career high six assists.
  • When Salmons first joined the Bucks, he was scoring points, but without great efficiency or shooting percentage.  That’s changed in the last few games.  Salmons shot over 50% once again, bringing him to 58.6% (27-46) over his past three games.  He also found himself on the receiving end of a number of Washington turnovers and finished with three steals.
  • Jerry Stackhouse had another good game.  Should I still be surprised?  I openly wondered how much the vet could have left when the Bucks signed him off the scrap heap and now I’ll gleefully admit how misguided my pleas to stay away were.  Were Wednesday’s game being played on Sega Genisis in 1993 and not in the Bradley Center in 2010, Stackhouse would have been “On Fire” as he came in and hit his first three successive shots.  The good feelings would not end there though, as he finished with 13 points (6-12 FG 1-3 3FG), his fifth consecutive game over double digits.

Defense

When making my case for Andrew Bogut as the Bucks defensive player of the year, this game might not get mention.  After all, what kind of dominating defensive center can go nearly an entire game without grabbing a rebound?  But Bogut was still there and still made his presence be known, swatting away five shots and taking a charge on a clumsy drive by McGee.

  • McGee, by the way, reminds me a lot of Dan Gadzuric circa 2003.  You know, before he got his big contract, when he was young, spry and full of excitement.  Gadz used to catch lobs and block shots on a regular basis; much like McGee did all night Wednesday.  McGee had both hands on the rim all night, like it were his steering wheel or something.  He had four dunks and blocked three shots.   Where his career goes will be interesting.  Will he end up like Gadzuric or will he evolve into a Sam Dalembert type shot-blocking, rebounder?
  • 21 turnovers for Washington and just 18 assists.  That’s never a recipe for success and the Bucks seemed especially aggressive and suffocating on the perimeter in this one.  The Wizards high shooting percentage, 45.5, may have had something to do with some of the easy buckets they got off a few Bucks gambles.  Coach Skiles doesn’t approve of gambling on the defensive end, but when the Bucks are putting this much pressure on a team, it can really pay off.  24-16 advantage for Milwaukee on points off turnovers.

Final Thoughts

Wait, the Bucks won by 13 points, forced 21 turnovers, shot and made more free throws than their opponent, his 47.5% of their shots and aren’t happy with their effort?

Is this for real?  What were the odds of such a scenario at the start of the season?  That’s the reality the Bucks are currently living in though, and it’s delightful.  Now 7-1 since the arrival of John Salmons, the Bucks are looking more and more like the fifth best team in the East.  Best of all, they are instilling confidence in their fans, a trait that hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of Bucks teams of recent past.  Walking into the Bradley Center not only thinking that the Bucks are going to win, but that they are more talented than the team they’re about to play is a true pleasure and one that may not seem as sweet in a year or two.

So for now, cherish the feeling.

Categories: Uncategorized

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

15 Comments

  1. Great write up again, Jeremy, love your work.

    Just a slight correction to your otherwise perfect article: NBA.com has Bogut down for 5 blocks, not 3.

    • Ahh, thanks Scott. Fixed it. I write during the game and at the time he had three, I typically make notes on what to change and I didn’t make one there.

  2. How about all the dunks lately! Bucks are getting a confident swagger which I’m sure excites them and the fans.

  3. I always hate it when Brewer fans make this kind of complaint, but . . . where is the national coverage of the Bucks? I follow the NBA fairly closely, and I can’t think of another playoff-caliber team that gets LESS ink. In fact, a lot of horrible teams (see: Wizards, Washington and 76ers, Philadelphia) get more coverage. Had it not been for Jennings’ 50+ explosion, I wonder if there would have been any national coverage at all about the Bucks. (They don’t even make it into the “True Hoop” bullets!) And this for the hottest team in the league…

    • Milwaukee doesn’t get national coverage because they have no all-stars, no recent playoff appearances, and a small city with respect to the others in the NBA. Milwaukee’s air time will come, but they’ll have to work harder than some other teams to get the air time.

      • Oh, I agree that it will take time to get national respect, etc., given the market and the make-up of the team. Still, the lack of coverage surprises me a bit — you’d think that guys would get tired of recycling the same five storylines, over and over and over . . .

        • Yeah, definitely. Remember when Memphis had a couple 50-win seasons, just enough to get 8th in a stacked West? Did you ever read about them? No. Without star power (OC already gets much ink because of Durant) or playoff success, they will get no press.

          • I think it’s interesting that people think of Milwaukee as a “smaller” city in the U.S. Here’s a list of cities that have NBA franchises that are smaller in population than Milwaukee: Denver, Seattle, D.C., Portland, Atlanta, Sacramento, Cleveland, Miami, and New Orleans. Just saying.

    • I will make a hopelessly broad and purely anecdotal claim: the three least-covered teams in the NBA are the Pacers, the Timberwolves, and the Bucks. (I might throw the Kings in there, too, but they seem to have gotten a lot of ink this year because of Evans and Casspi.)

      • When I said city size, I didn’t mean city limits. Thats an unfair measuring stick. Rarely do you meet a Milwaukee Bucks fan who’s not from WI or lives in WI. Unfortunately, the Bucks can’t fill up their LL seats in the Bradley Center unless Lebron or Kobe come to town, so WI really doesn’t show that they support the Bucks either. I’m sure that FSN WI doesn’t get enough viewers of their games for TNT to consider making the Bucks their headline game. Even as a Bucks fan, I would hate to see the Bucks be the headline game playing on TNT and show the world all of those LL empty seats. Dedication to the team has to start in our own home state before the NBA starts to consider giving it national representation. Even a team like Atlanta, who has had consecutive playoff appearances, still struggle to fill the Philips Center and are less frequently aired nationally.

        The only teams with smaller metropolitan areas than the Bucks are Memphis, OKC, Utah, and New Orleans.

        The only teams in states with a smaller population than the Bucks are Utah, OKC, Denver, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, and DC (which DC sports represent for VA and ususally MD which are both bigger pop that WI).

        Memphis (no coverage), OKC (Durant), Utah (Williams, Boozer), New Orleans (Paul), Portland (Roy), Denver (Carmelo), Minnesota (no coverage), DC (no coverage), Miami (D Wade), Cleveland (Lebron), Sacremento (no coverage), Atlanta (Johnson, Horford), Milwaukee (no coverage)

        The people on this blog are probably loyal followers of the Bucks, but we are rare, even in WI.

        • I guess I would disagree that Memphis and DC don’t get coverage. This year, at least, Memphis has done pretty well in terms of national media attention (stories on Randolph’s newfound seriousness abound). In the past? Not so much.

          DC has been covered extensively — albeit 90% negatively. The Arenas debacle and the fire sale have been covered pretty much everywhere.

          • Again, tho, Memphis is getting coverage mostly because the strangeness of the badboy-come-good Randolph as Allstar story. And DC is bigger than the city, though they’ve always struggled to get attention. Positive attention, that is. Mainly, tho, there’s a lot to be said for sustained success or lack thereof. Utah is a case in point, as are the Spurs. Neither are big markets, but the have such solid programs they get respect.

  4. Huh, too bad “heavy-handed, overbearing” monster Skiles is destroying Jennings’ spirit by benching him….

    Really liked what Jennings said about his game (more here: http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/86285802.html) and what he’s doing to overcome his offensive struggles. My respect for his attitude just continues to grow.

    Yeah, we downtrodden Bucks fans should really be savoring this: being disappointed in a 13-pt win. I’m really enjoying how they’re playing now. Both the Stackhouse and Salmons pick-ups are looking like genius at the moment.

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