After all these months of basketball inactivity, it’s certainly nice to have an actual real live NBA regular season game to look through. That it’s a Bucks loss is a bummer though. Fortunately, from failure, lessons can be learned.
Lesson One: Ersan Ilyasova’s consistency may still be an issue.
It’s one game (I should just preface every one of these lessons with that, huh?), but it was a game that illustrated why the Bucks opted for an Ilyasova replacement at power forward. The Bucks Turkish backup can be an effective player off the bench, but when a player relies on his jump-shot as much as Ilyasova does, he’s bound to have some nights off. And when a player is a little smaller and less athletic than others that play his position, he’s bound to rely on that jump-shot. It’s a dangerous cycle. I’m not saying Drew Gooden is the answer to all things at the power forward spot, but he’ll probably hover around 50% shooting every night and grab anywhere between seven and 10 rebounds. Even if he does a few bonehead things along the way.
Milwaukee was down three points with :55 to go when Gooden made the bizarre decision to attempt a difficult shot from inside the paint. It didn’t go down and it left more than a few people scratching their heads. Defensively, Gooden had some struggles too. On the very first play of the game, he lost track of a trailing David West on an Emeka Okafor/Chris Paul pick and pop and allowed a very open shot. He’s going to do that from time to time. As he continues to work with his teammates and the Bucks coaching staff though, hopefully he’ll cut down on those types of plays. It’s far too early to tell whether he will or won’t at this point. Statistically though, it’s nice to have Gooden’s numbers. Now he just needs to smooth the other parts of the game out.
Lesson Two: Brandon Jennings looks hellbent on getting his pass on.
A common criticism of Jennings last year was that all he was looking to do was shoot, specifically jump-shoot, the Bucks into or out of games. Now, this wasn’t entirely true, he had to shoot a lot when the team lacked talent on the wings around him and his low field goal percentage at the rim was what really brought down his shooting percentage. Wednesday though, he looked like he was penetrating with passing as his purpose. It took Jennings until December 12 last season to notch his first game with 10 assists and even then he needed 44 minutes to accomplish it. The second-year-guard indicated that he’d love for his assist numbers to be in the double figures every night this year and he played like that was his goal. He did so without being tentative in looking for his own shot though, which is a plus. Oh, and he was 2-3 at the rim. Success.
Lesson Three: Defensively, the Bucks may be a work in progress
David West lit the Bucks up, partly because of poor defense, partly because of Chris Paul and partly because he was hot. West was 7-9 from 16-23 feet Wednesday night. For a guy who typically shoots under 50% from that distance, that’s pretty incredible. Part of the reason West was hitting so many shots was because he was so open and that has to do with Paul. Bucks forwards, Gooden and Ilyasova mainly, had to lay off West to help out on Paul. Because Paul can get into the paint so easily, the Bucks have to cut off an easier shot for him and make West take the more difficult shot. Sometimes, West will get hot, but that’s still probably a better scenario than giving Paul shots in the paint. Still, the Bucks were too often slow to recover or unable to contain the Paul/West pick and pop. I noted in my recap that communication seemed to be an issue, that’s the kind of thing that will hopefully smooth itself out in time.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).