Is Mike Bibby a real problem?

Seemingly long removed from relevance, Bibby was still relevant enough to be featured in this commercial last year.

Seven  years ago, Mike Bibby was certainly someone worth worrying about in a playoff series.  Now, in 2010, I had written him off as a probable non-factor heading into the Bucks first round series with the Hawks.  Bibby did have a meaningful impact on the last Bucks-Hawks game prior to the end of the regular season, but I assumed his short lived barrage of threes was just that: short lived.

But Bibby was back at it again in game one, scoring 19 points on 8-9 shooting (3-3 3FG).  The obvious instinct is to look towards Brandon Jennings as the culprit for Bibby’s big day.  He’s a rookie, his defensive reputation, while improving, remains up in the air and he had a big night scoring.  So perhaps Jennings was taking the night off against Bibby and doing the Bucks a disservice.

But it’s not that simple.

Bibby scored just three baskets that were really the responsibility of Jennings and only one was an egregious error on the part of Jennings.  After a missed layup by Josh Smith, Kurt Thomas grabbed the rebound and looked to outlet to Jennings.  The crafty Bibby laid in wait and picked off the pass by reading Thomas’ eyes. Bibby dribbled into the right corner and set himself up for a three. Jennings, sulking a little after the turnover, was slow to get back to Bibby and did little more than jog over to him as he was releasing his shot.  Bibby hit the three, the Hawks went up nine and the rout, as they say, was on.

But Jennings was only guarding Bibby on two more of his scores and he didn’t do a bad job.  Bibby hit a difficult shot as ball handler on a pick and roll on one.  On the other, Bibby pump faked a hard closing Jennings and saw him fly by as Bibby took a dribble and hit a shot over a helping out Jerry Stackhouse. It’s hard to be too concerned with Jennings defensive efforts there.  And that’s how a lot of Bibby’s evening went.

A 43% shooter from 16-23 feet on the season, Bibby hit 4-5 shots from 17 to 19-feet Saturday evening.  He hit a three over a leaping John Salmons off an inbound play in the corner and scored on a layup on another inbound play after a series of screens. That layup did remind me that Andrew Bogut wasn’t on the court though.

As Bibby turned the corner on Jerry Stackhouse off an Al Horford screen, Thomas was stationary was Stackhouse chased Bibby through the paint to the hoop.  Were Andrew Bogut still prowling the middle of the floor for the Bucks, this shot likely would have been erased.  Thomas simply wasn’t mobile enough to make the quick move to jump off Horford fading out towards the arc and attack Bibby at the rim.  Thomas’ mobility actually came into question a number of times against Bibby, as he isn’t really able to hedge on screens and contest shooters on the pick and roll.  When Thomas is involved in the pick and roll as the defender of the screener, he does a very good job of stopping the screener from getting a clean look on the roll, but often the result is an open jump-shot for the ball handler that Thomas can’t do much about.

It’s a tough spot, but it makes sense for the Bucks to gamble that Bibby, or often times Jamal Crawford, won’t make or take the long two.

Game one just happened to be one of those days in which Bibby got hot.  It seems unlikely he’ll be able to replicate his effort and if he does, at least the Bucks went down making one of the lesser Hawks shoot them out of it.  I think they’ll live with that.

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