Suffocating defense rescues slumping offense again: Bucks 79 – Warriors 72
Ah, so this is what Milwaukee’s second game of the season was supposed to look like. You remember that game, right? The Bucks held the Timberwolves for 37.6% shooting, managed only 35.6% accuracy themselves and saw Minnesota ride 26 second chance points to victory.
Well the narratives were similar in Milwaukee’s 79-72 victory over Golden State Saturday night. Only this time, it was Milwaukee who grabbed their own often errant shots repeatedly and did the Warriors in with extra effort. Of Milwaukee’s season high 58 rebounds on the evening, 19 of them came on the offensive end. The Bucks used their aggressiveness on the offensive glass wisely, scoring 21 second chance points.
Standing at the top of the Bucks hill of second chances at game’s end, was Drew Gooden. Milwaukee’s already much maligned power forward scored six second chance points himself and grabbed a team high six offensive rebound. In addition, he flashed passing skills that we saw on occasion in the pre-season, but have rarely been put to use since the real games began. He had two fine assists to Andrew Bogut, perhaps a sign of things to come. Since he’s struggled so much to start the season, it’s easy to forget why Milwaukee signed him this off-season, but over the past few games, Gooden has shown at the very, very least, he can be a tenacious rebounding presence for Milwaukee. At his best, he’ll compliment Bogut well and keep the offense humming. Without question, this was Gooden’s finest game as a Buck.
Today was more of a case of him helping just to keep Milwaukee’s offense afloat though. Make no mistake, the Bucks’ offense had very little to do with them preserving in a game they should have run away with. The Warriors scored just 30 points in the first half, thanks to a stingy Bucks defense that refused to let anyone other than Monta Ellis get going. Ellis finished the first quarter with 11 of the Warriors 16 points and that would be a theme throughout. Subtracting Ellis’ 24 points on 9-16 FG, the Warriors scored just 48 points on 19-66 shooting (28.8%). Before the game, Coach Scott Skiles spoke about limiting the Warriors guards Ellis and Stephen Curry to a combined 40 points or less as a key.
“They (Ellis and Curry) are at 48 a game roughly and if we can get them down around 40, that goes a long way towards us hopefully winning the game,” he said. “No slight against their other guys, but those two guys are very explosive.”
Mission accomplished and the Bucks are now .500.
Milwaukee looked a lot more like the team that struggled out of the gate (at least offensively) than the team that just blew out back to back teams and hung 100 points on them both. Coach Skiles saw some different problems tonight. A big one, was his bench.
“The problem was, we turned it over as well and that was a theme throughout the night,” Skiles said after the game. “We weren’t sharp with the ball. We had some good moments very early in the game. Our bench was so good for us in Atlanta and tonight they were 1-18. When we went to the bench the first time, we kind of got out of sync right there. And we never got that back the rest of the game.”
No one on the bench was spared from a rough night. Ersan Ilyasova (0-6 FG), Keyon Dooling (0-5 FG) and Earl Boykins (0-1 FG) all failed to make a shot and Corey Maggette (1-6 FG) made just one while failing to attempt a free throw. This comes on the heels of a thrashing in Atlanta, largely courtesy of the Bucks second unit (57 bench points in Atlanta, just four Saturday). But that’s the thing about second units, each of them is there for a reason. Some are very talented, but inconsistent. Some aren’t all that talented. Some are just better fits for the bench. Whatever the reason may be, there is always a reason why a second unit guy is a second unit guy.
Milwaukee finished the game with 20 total turnovers, another season high.
“We had some silly ones (turnovers),” Skiles said. “We stepped out of bounds, kind of some silly turnovers that we haven’t been making.”
In today’s preview, I hoped Bogut would have an impact night protecting the Bucks rim. Oh my, did he ever. Bogut blocked seven shots while grabbing 12 of his 17 rebounds on the defensive end. He played a big role in the Warriors struggles at the rim and inside of 10-feet. A Golden State team that entered Saturday’s game averaging nearly 17 makes at the rim each night (16.9-25.9), shot just 10-24 at the rim and 2-6 inside 10-feet against the Bucks. Bogut’s season high block total had a lot to do with that. It also helped that the Warriors often forget they even have warm bodies on the court at the four and the five. Not that a starting combo of Andris Biedrins and Dan Gadzuric scares anyone. They finished the game a combined 1-7. Yikes.
- Four Bucks reached double figures in rebounding, led by Bogut (17). Gooden had 10, Luc Mbah a Moute grabbed 12 and Brandon Jennings had 11. In each of their five wins this season, Milwaukee has won the rebounding battle. I’m just sayin’.
- John Salmons got the duty on Ellis for the majority of the game (and also played well offensively, 26 points 9-17 FG 4-6 3FG, just wanted to mention his good night), but Mbah a Moute had one memorable sequence against him. Ellis had the ball on the wing, jabbed and began to drive middle on the Bucks long armed forward. Mbah a Moute knocked the ball loose and Ellis quickly gathered it back up as he stepped back. As he often is, Ellis appeared determined to get past his defender though and again tried his move on Mbah a Moute. Naturally, The Prince swiped the ball free again and this time gathered it up to start a fast break. This is why everyone loves talking about his defense so much.
For the game, Milwaukee’s defensive rating was 78.3. That’s 78.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s what legendary defensive teams are made of. What’s amazing is that last game Coach Skiles was saying he thought it would have taken longer for his team’s defense to come around. So perhaps this is the Bucks still in an adjustment period defensively. Of course, it’s possible that everyone figured out where they’d need to be sooner than he expected and this is as good as they’ll get, but even so, it’s pretty good. If Milwaukee can win games on night’s they are shooting 33.7%, that’s pretty impressive. Obviously that won’t fly against better teams, but it says a lot about where Milwaukee is defensively right now and a little about how far Milwaukee still has to go offensively. That should come down the road … or maybe not, I can’t say. But I can say that Milwuakee will bring it on defense every night, and that will keep them in a lot of games they probably shouldn’t be in.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).