Only a day ago I was wondering if Brandon Jennings was even an okay shooter. I was concerned we would never again see the flashes of dominance or awe inspiring games that we came to expect last November. Less than 100 games into Jennings career, and here I was worrying that he was washed up.
That’s why I write about basketball on the internet and don’t work for a team.
In what he deemed his most impressive performance to date, Jennings carved up the Bobcats for his first triple double, finishing with 20/10/10 (6-8 FG 3-3 3FG). And while the numbers looked very nice at the end of the night, the most impressive part of Jennings game was the way he controlled EVERYTHING. All summer long we heard Jennings fawn over his new teammates and predict that he’d average 10 assists a night this season and with two separate 10 assist games this season he looks on track. His assists weren’t what most caught my eye in last night’s game though.
A year ago, we would often see Jennings make a shot or two and then take a couple more, because maybe he was feeling it. If he was? Things would get very awesome, very quickly. But if it turned out that he wasn’t? Things usually got ugly. That’s not an ideal scenario. Ideally, you’d like a point guard to get his own shot when it’s there, but work to get his teammates good looks too. And that’s what Jennings did so well Saturday.
There were no instances in which he took shots simply because he was hot. He waited for his opportunities and made the most of them. 20 points on just eight shot attempts is pretty phenomenal. It was refreshing to see Jennings finish 3-3 on his 3-point attempts after a rough first two games. Scott Skiles said he spoke with Jennings about staying on balance on his shots before the game and the advice seems to have paid off wonderfully.
There was more to this game than just a great effort from Brandon Jennings though. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has always filled the garbage man role well and looked very good contributing nine points (4-5 FG 1-4 FT) and nine rebounds. Mbah a Moute understands his limitations very well; you won’t find him taking 23-foot jumpers or slashing through a crowd very often. You will find Mbah a Moute following his defender to the offensive glass and playing the bounce very well. While he’s not the most talented player, his comfort in the Bucks system and knowledge of where to be is evident when he’s on the court.
Saturday night, it was night and day between the Bucks with Mbah a Moute at the four and the Bucks with Drew Gooden at the four. Gooden finished with just 13 minutes Saturday and was unable to grab one defensive rebound. He scored four points, had two offensive fouls and was 1-4 from the field. At one point, I thought this whole idea of “gelling” was kind of silly, but it was right there in front of me Saturday. Gooden hasn’t grasped what he’s supposed to be doing on the court yet and Mbah a Moute has two years of experience doing the right things. In time, Gooden will probably figure out what his job is on the court, and if/when he does, Milwaukee will be an even better team. But for now, Mbah a Moute could very well see more minutes, and be more successful, than any other power forward on Milwaukee.
- Milwaukee made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Andrew Bogut early and often Saturday night. He attempted eight shots in the first quarter after taking one fewer than that in the entire Timberwolves game. In other, not-so-coincidental news, Milwaukee led 27-18 after one quarter. It’s been clear for a long time that the Bucks are a different team when Bogut isn’t on the court and, despite the additions the Bucks made over the off season,, Bogut needs to be driving the Bucks offense for them to succeed.
- Carlos Delfino should probably take 10 3-pointers a game this season. At least if he keeps shooting it the way he has been he should. He finished with 23 points (8-17 FG 5-11 3FG) and looked like he thought every single shot that left his hand was money. Skiles indicated that Delfino’s shot-making early was infectious and “took the lid off the hoop” for Milwaukee, something they could never do in Friday’s loss to Minnesota.
Before the game, I asked Coach Skiles about the Bucks defense. It looked like they didn’t do too bad a job against the T-Wolves, so I wondered how satisfied he was. Here’s what he had to say:
If they shoot once and miss and get the rebound and shoot again and miss and get the rebound and score, they may have shot 33%, but they scored that trip down. Ultimately, they stayed on offense that whole time. That defensive possession is a failure. We did a better job getting after them early and contesting shots, making them miss the initial shot, but we weren’t able to finish them off. They out-hustled us.
Needless to say, the Bucks would not be out-hustled in their home opener. Milwaukee allowed only five offensive rebounds to the Bobcats and grabbed 14 of their own. The Bucks won the rebounding battle 40-28. That seems more indicative of the kind of rebounding team the Bucks will be.
- Jon Brockman still isn’t grabbing rebounds the way I expected (two in 12 minutes), but he’s taking charges like he’s studied under Bogut and Ersan Ilyasova for years. In the second quarter alone, Brockman took three charges. His athleticism isn’t eye popping, but it’s not bad either. If he can combine that with the ability to get good position, he could be a very effective defender.
Milwaukee came out with loads more energy and looked like a much more confident, cohesive group. A lot of that could be explained by 30+ minutes of Milwaukee’s starting five for a lot of the second half of last season: Bogut, Mbah a Moute, Delfino, John Salmons and Jennings. Those guys know each other and know where they are supposed to be. The question now becomes, how can Milwaukee implement Gooden and Corey Maggette into the lineup without suffering through long droughts? Like it or not, Gooden needs to be apart of the rotation and Milwaukee has to find a way to get his contributions on the court to be more positive than negative. He’s still going to see minutes and for now, it looks like it still could be a struggle for the team, but better it be that way in November than in March.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).