Earl Watson, a 20% 3-point shooter on the season, banked in a three at the first half buzzer that had Bucks fans on Twitter wondering why it seemed one team after the next has hit buzzer beating shots against the Bucks this year. Sometimes, it seems like this team is unlucky.
But, really, we all know better.
Luck does play a part in basketball, but it takes a backseat to execution and hard work. Milwaukee’s often had the latter this season, but has constantly battled the former.
Monday’s 109-88 loss to the Utah Jazz was no exception. No, this isn’t the same Bucks team that limped into game 17 just 6-10 overall, but it’s probably a much weaker squad, even if they did upend the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday.. One dealing with injuries to Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and Carlos Delfino. The “Backup Bucks” were over-matched Monday night, but didn’t do themselves any favors.
Milwaukee was brutalized on the glass, allowing 16 offensive rebounds and seeing themselves get out-rebounded 48 to 26. Part of that was the significant size advantage the Jazz were working with, but some of that is effort too. Milwaukee missed a number of box outs, a completely inexcusable offense for a team that knows they are operating undersized. Milwaukee struggles enough shooting the ball and has had their share of problems defending without Bogut, the last thing they can afford to do is give their opponents second chances. On top of those issues, Milwaukee was unable to capitalize on a turnover advantage. Utah scored eight points off just 12 Milwaukee turnovers, while the Bucks only tallied nine points off Utah’s 20 turnovers. That’s a painfully accurate summary of Milwaukee’s inability to execute.
What could have been a five point halftime deficit turned into eight on Watson’s lucky three. But that was the only thing that was lucky Monday night.
I’m ready to accept it: Ersan Ilyasova is coming around. Be it World Championships hangover, adjusting to a new role or whatever else, Ilyasova struggled mightily at the start of this season on the offensive end. Monday night in Utah was another in a series of signs that he may be returning to the form he displayed last season. Ilyasova finished with 18 points on six of 10 shooting (2-4 3FG 4-4 FT) and generally looked like a much more confident player for the third consecutive game. Oddly enough, after dishing out six assists Saturday against the Bobcats, Ilyasova didn’t get many looks at all in the high post, and therefore no chances to create. He went without an assist Monday.
- It wasn’t for lack of effort, it rarely is, but Brandon Jennings had a devil of a time getting anything going in the paint against the Jazz. He had to resort to floaters more often than not and when Jennings has to lob shots in from inside 10-feet, they typically don’t find their way into the hoop. With that plan not working for him, Jennings went to work getting things done in a different way in the third quarter. Jennings went to work form behind the arc, at the rim and at the free throw line to help spark a Bucks team that had fallen behind by as many as 12 points. His 13 third quarter points kept the Bucks within fighting distance. Things began to spin out of control while Jennings sat out the beginning of the fourth quarter and by the time he returned there was little he could do to stem the Utah tide. He finished with a healthy 27 points on eight of 20 shooting (4-8 3FG, 7-9 FT).
- Aside from Jennings and Ilyasova the rest of the Bucks starters combined to go just two of 18 from the field, led astray by another poor night from John Salmons. Salmons managed to make just one of 11 field goal attempts in scoring six points and found himself on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
- Milwaukee shot 34.7% from the field. Milwaukee’s played 17 games and has now shot under 40% in ten of them. That’s not going to get it done.
Milwaukee was missing two big pieces up front Monday night in Bogut and Gooden, and it showed. The Jazz were able to muscle the Bucks around inside the paint and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the obvious suspects, were the biggest beneficiaries of a front court made up largely of the undersized duo of Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, grabbing a combined eight offensive rebounds. Jefferson had his way with Ilyasova most of the night, hitting 11 of 14 shots while scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 total rebounds.
- Milwaukee grabbed just 26 rebounds, partly because of the aforementioned defensive rebounding issues just alluded to, but also because when a team shoots as well as the Jazz did, there just aren’t as many rebounds to be had. Utah hit 54.8% of their shots in the game, with Deron Williams (8-12 FG, 22 points and 10 assists) and Jefferson leading the way.
Post game, Scott Skiles noted that, at halftime, only three Bucks players had a defensive rebound. That helps summarize the evening pretty well. Jennings and Ilyasova played well and Chris Douglas-Roberts continued to look strong offensively returning from his eye injury, but no other Bucks player played well. Unless three guys are having nights that are just incredible, most NBA teams need more than three players to play well to stay in a game for 48 minutes. Milwaukee was in this one for about 36, and that sounds about right when only three players came to play.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com Follow him on Twitter.