The End of the Beginning Is Still an End


Jennings brought back memories from the home opener when he busted this one out.

When it was all said and done too many factors were working against the Bucks. Atlanta’s superiority was evident: length, size, athleticism, shooting, you name it Atlanta has it over Milwaukee. The Bucks pulled off a few victories that not many saw coming, but when focused, Atlanta was just too much for the Bucks to handle.

To have gotten as far as they have, for the Milwaukee Bucks right now it would be easy to be satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. Without their best player, Milwaukee pushed the third best team in the Eastern Conference to a Game 7. But there seemed very little satisfaction in just getting there throughout Milwaukee’s last stance in their first round series with the Atlanta Hawks. Not from Brandon Jennings at least, who forced ABC to make use of their five second delay as he cursed at himself in disgust heading off the court at halftime after missing the second of two free throws.

Maybe they still shot too many jumpers, but when it came down to it, Milwaukee just didn’t have the players to exploit the Hawks constant switching off screens. Not enough Bucks are good enough off the dribble to take advantage of mismatches on the perimeter. That’s how the Bucks came to rely on a 20-year-old rookie in Game 7 of an NBA Playoffs series. And make no mistake, the Bucks rode Jennings in this one.

After being one of the aforementioned Bucks that settled too often for jump shots in Game Six, Jennings was in attack mode against the Hawks Sunday afternoon. Of his 18 shots, Jennings took 10 of them inside the paint and at the rim. Someone had to expose the Hawks on their pick and roll defense and Jennings wanted to step up to be the guy that did that Sunday. That’s what leaders do.

But Jennings can’t guard Al Horford. And apparently neither can Primoz Brezec. Or Dan Gadzuric. Or Ersan Ilyasova. Or even Kurt Thomas, at least not when Horford really has it going and is attacking the glass. Horford was too much inside all game and all series, save for a game or two. Horford led the charge with 15 rebounds as the Hawks dominated on the glass 55-34.

It won’t always be like this though. The Bucks will have Andrew Bogut back next season. It’s possible he could be joined by a brand new burly power forward with some tools. A slasher could show up ready to get to the bucket with John Salmons if he hangs around and the Bucks could be better than ever.

And look at that, I’m talking about next season for the first time. On May 2nd. That sure feels a lot better than doing it in March or April as I’ve done the majority of this last decade. So I’m as disappointed as the next person today, but it feels good to have something to build on.

Offense

I don’t know if John Salmons will be a Bucks player next season, but if he isn’t, this wasn’t a pretty end to a very solid run. After shooting 39% on threes for the Bucks during the regular season, Salmons finished the playoffs 4-23 from long distance. I don’t know if he ran out of gas, something that seems feasible, but whatever the case, Salmons collapsed over the last three games for Milwaukee. No longer was he attacking the hoop and getting free throws, he was just settling for jumpers. It was as if everything that had happened during the regular season never happened. If this was the John Salmons that the Chicago Bulls shipped out this season, I can see why. But I don’t to believe that’s who he is. I want to remember Salmons as the guy who helped get the Bucks to the level they finally could not advance past.

  • Ersan Ilyasova may not have a post game and he may miss a few shots around the rim, but you never feel like you’re getting cheated when you watch him. As usual, Ilyasova was the Bucks best rebounder against the Hawks, grabbing more than half of their offensive rebounds. I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for Ersan Ilyasova; Scott Skiles likes to project him as a near 40% three point shooter going forward. At the very least, we know one thing we’re getting from him, be it in a one point win or Sunday’s frustrating loss, is maximum effort.
  • The production from role players that had gotten Milwaukee so far this season was no where to be found when it was needed most. Jerry Stackhouse: 0-a-miserable-3 FG. Luke Ridnour: 1-4 FG. Carlos Delfino: 1-8 FG. Folks, there is a reason Michael Redd will have made over $100 million dollars by the time his career is done. Some guys can be relied upon to score, others can’t. Those scorers are worth a lot of money on this level. Milwaukee simply didn’t have enough reliable options in the playoffs. There are times I’ve tried to spin that as a Bucks advantage, “they’re hard to game plan for, anyone can creep up and strike!” But who was I kidding? The Bucks need at least one more reliable scorer to put those role players in a better position to take advantage of their strengths.

Defense

Milwaukee got eaten up inside. Al Horford is grabbing an offensive rebound and dunking right now probably. I mean, it’s been said 1,000 times, but there was just too much Atlanta inside. They were too big and to strong. Ilyasova did his best when matched up with Zaza Pachulia and Horford, but what was he supposed to do? Kurt Thomas held up as well as he could, but that only gave Milwaukee so much.

  • And if it wasn’t bad enough to see the Hawks banging around Milwaukee inside, it seemed every time Milwaukee was possibly on the verge of something good, either Mike Bibby or Jamal Crawford hit a three. Bibby and Crawford were the bullies that kept pushing the Bucks heads back underwater whenever they’d squirm away and come up for air.

Final Thoughts

Scott Skiles talked a lot about the Bucks earning everything they’ve gotten this season before game six.

“Let’s make sure wherever we go this year, we deserve to be wherever we are,” said Skiles. “If we don’t work very hard, we’re gonna get what we deserve. If we work hard, the opposite is going to happen. And we’ve done that. We deserve to be where we are right now, we deserve this opportunity.”

The Bucks deserved everything they got this season. A lot of people (yours truly included) scoffed at the “Work Hard Play Hard” mantra they took on before the season. I figured, we’d all heard sayings like this before, why should this season be any different? But this season was different and it was no fluke. The Bucks outworked opponents all year before they finally ran into a team that would not fold four times in seven games.

That’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it certainly is something to get excited about.

Categories: Playoff talk,Recaps

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

20 Comments

  1. Extremely embarrassing final two games for Milwaukee, especially after the fans gave them such great support after the horrible game 6 they played. This team showed no heart at all after playing 5 very good games. Season couldn’t have ended any worse.

    • I wouldn’t say the whole team showed no heart. They all certainly showed an inability to put the ball in the basket, but the effort wasn’t at a low or anything. Jennings and Ilyasova in particular I thought played like they wanted this team to keep going.

  2. Nothing to be ashamed of this season. I’m proud of the team and the coach. Would I like to see more out of game 6 & 7 . . . yes, but they were playing over their heads for a while – reality was catching up with them (my opinion).

    If they keep this going next year, we’ll have an exciting year.

    Is there any hope getting a nice free agent signing?? Topic for a future article maybe??

  3. Thanks for the insight all season. Thoughts on who could join Bogut down low? I’d love to see them make a run at Carlos Boozer.

    • Oh please say your kidding, Boozer is a headache the Bucks don´t need. I´d like them to trade Al Jefferson from Minnesota away however.

    • Milwaukee_Buck

      Boozer will probably stay in Utah, plus the Bucks don’t need to cough up that much salary.
      Al Jefferson’s contract is way to big and way to long for the Bucks to even consider that option, not to mention the trouble he’s having playing along side of another post player.

      -David Lee in FA could be a really good option cuz he’s 26 y.o. can score, hit the J, and board.
      -Kevin Love might be a good option too. Great rookie salary. Jennings AAU teammate.
      -Michael Beasley? Think Skiles could get to him? He’s got at rookie contract that has team options so he could be released or kept.

      If they have to part ways with Ridnour
      -Eddie House
      -Shaun Livingston

  4. It´s sad this great run had to end this way with two games that masked the competetivness of this 7-game series. However I cannot be more stoked about Jennings. To say it in the words of the immortal Bill Simmons “All Jennings did in this Atlanta series was announce to everyone, “I get better when it matters.” “. This should be a fun next year.

    Also Jeremy what´s up with the draft pick competition, weren´t you supposed to announce winners by now?

    • I actually emailed them already and am in the process of getting the last two books to the winners, one received his already.

      • Would have been nice if you would do a post about so that we might see the winning entries.

  5. Im very excited about next season and I really hope we get alot more TV time, bc itd be really nice to have this team get some recognition. I think ppl might start using the Bucks as their NBA 2k10 team outside of Wisconsin bc the team is fun to play with and is pretty decent as well (and not cheating like playing as Lakers or Cavs)

    • Jeremy Schmidt

      Perhaps if the Bucks weren’t so disrespected in the game, they’d be a more popular choice. Online play certainly ends up largely with Lakers and Cavs games though, not so fun.

  6. Milwaukee_Buck

    Great season, no need to sulk in the loss. The team made a great run and left room for improvement with tons of motivation for the offseason.

  7. I got more then I ever expected out of this Bucks team. I expected a 30 win season and back to the lottery. Bogut and Jennings are amazing players, just hope that Bogut can avoid any more back troubles or freak accidents and finally play a full season while he is still at (or almost at) his prime.

    15 seed in the draft courtesy of the bulls, hopefully a nice player falls to us.

    Also, is it too much to hope that Joe Johnson obtained sudden respect for Milwaukee in this series and may consider signing with us this summer? He’s a reliable option in the playoffs.

    • wait, only 15th? I thought because of the trade we were higher than that, like 11th or something?

      • No, its 15. 11 would be in the lottery, bulls made playoffs. rooting for the raptors is a strange thing

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  10. 2 obeservations from this series from the hater himself. Game 5 was won with Skiles going with his gut & leaving Brandon in eventhough he was struggling. Game 6 the in & out subbing of BJ that was questioned by the commentators I felt ruined the momentum. When Ridnour isn’t scoring he doesn’t get people involved. That gruesome 3rd qtr was lead by Luke. The subbing of BJ which lost us that game in the regular season I felt cost us the pivotal game 6. Further evidence of what some can say are Skiles flaws. We all have some due to being human. I’m a hater & Skiles can be wrong sometimes. How many games did Skiles lose for them this year along with Jennings,Bogut or Salmons.

    What lesson was seriously taught by dressing an injured Bogut. Why wouldn’t Charlie Bell the competitor that he is not want to play. He could have helped & spelled some minutes. When your undermanned you don’t suit up an injured player. When is the last time Charlie Bell & Ben Wallace of all people. Have you heard getting into with coaches. That could mean Skiles is a just a tad high strung. A little childish & ego driven to me. This I feel will hold Skiles back from being a great coach. You have to know which battles to fight & let go. Charlie Bell. Who else found it odd that Bogut was dressed.

    For 2010-2011 the bucks need a legit starting 5. Luc Richard is not a Starter. Neither is Ilyasova of Delfino. We need a scoring 2 guard who can defend. Salmons or better. Rudy Gay or Iggy would be ideal but expensive. Could use Terrance Williams or Wison Chandler for cheap. Even Gordon Haywood from Butler. The tough part is a lot of players wouldn’t want to play for Skiles. Josh Smith would be ideal for this team. We need a rebounder & shot blocker. We need some grit like a Milsap or Landry. Shaun LIvingston no wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Eddie House why not Patty Mills or JJ Redick. We need a sharp shooter. Adam Morrison or try for Chase Budinger & Kyle Lowry for toughness.

    Ronnie Brewer would also be a good option for the 3. Would even use Ariza instead of Luc Richard. Kevin Love no pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee. We need talent. I could see David Lee that would work. Also taking a flyer on Nick Young might work. Tayshawn Prince for a year if he has anything left in the tank. I’d also bring a Boobie Gibson in for experience & shooting prowness. That kid doesn’t miss open jumpshots. Go after Anthony Randolph or Biedrins even Brandon Wright. They spell that 4 spot. Tyrus Thomas would work as well. Michael Dunleavy & in the draft Luke Harongody if available or Ed Davis from NC. Mcgee or D’Andre Jordan from the Clippers would help for Athleticism.

    Jarvis Varnado from Missisippi St & Domenique Jones from USF & Damion James from Texas should be on our radar. Bill Walker from the Knicks. Jordan Crawford is super talent that I think Jennings would make into a immediate weapon. Devin Ebanks would fit nicely or we could go after Earl Clark. Sean Singletary,Daryll HIll,Quinton Holsey,Andre Barrett,Omar Cook are on waivers & await an N.B.A. callup. All those names are better than anybody currently in the DLeague. They are abroad making more money. That is why the names may not ring a bell. Anthony Mason Jr should at least get a work out. He won’t cost you anything & you’re getting a 6’8″ wing that is a streaky as the best scorers in the league. Think Jr Smith & Ricky Davis w/o the baggage or attitude. N.B.A. pedigree in the jeans & the toughness from his father. Even Patrick Ewing Jr. Who is Luc Richard but more athletic & probably a very similar defender. All cheap hired help that would have this team ready for war next year. DJ Augustin we could also field for cheap.

    Constructive Critiscm is only bad when a person’s ego is bigger than themselves. You could learn so much from listeining to people other than yourself. I do that’s why I love blogging. Reading the comments & opinions of others. Is more knowledgable than you think. Especially when someone knows what they’re talking about. We all have some strong & weak points at time. End of the day it is all opinion most of the times. Had a great year following the Bucks & you’re write ups Mr J. Have a great summer & good luck in the draft.

    FEAR THE DEER IS DEF. THE MOVEMENT FOR NEXT YEAR. THIS YEAR WAS JUST A TEASER & THE PRE-QUEL FOR MUCH MORE.

  11. Milwaukee_Buck

    All I hope is that the Bucks don’t draft a SG under 6’5″ Look at every team left in the playoffs all SG’s over 6’5″ with Ray Allen being the shortest and Joe Johnson/VC being the tallest. Look at the elite SG’s in the league. Leave the 6’4″ or 6’3″ guys to somebody else. We’ve tried that with Charlie Bell and Jodie Meeks. Didn’t work.

    Guys like Iggy, Gay, etc etc. Price tag too high for the Bucks. They only have slightly over $20mil to work with and need to fill at least 6 rosters spots with that. Even though I mentioned David Lee, he’s only attainable if the Bucks don’t keep Salmons or Ridnour.