The NBA revolves around, going in the post, pick and rolls, bringing people off of down screens and spot up shooting. That basically is everybody’s offense, somewhere in there. And we’re posting up, picking and rolling, we’re spot up shooting and we’re bringing shooters off screens. We’ve got to make pro plays. – Scott Skiles before Saturday’s game.
Pro plays? Not happening, not right now, not for this Bucks team. Despite being without both Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled into the Bradley Center Saturday night and upended the Bucks 82-81.
Once again, Milwaukee’s game played out like an episode of Pinky and the Brain. In this scenario, Milwaukee’s defense is The Brain. In the same way that Brain is smart enough to come up with new and possibly successful plans to take over the world on a nightly basis, Milwaukee’s defense is good enough to limit opposing teams to totals well below their season averages. The Thunder scored just 82 points and at no point looked like a winning NBA offense. For most teams, a defense like that wins them a lot of games.
Only the Bucks offense once again went all Pinky and screwed things up, blowing the plan to take over the world or, in this case, win a basketball game.
As far as numbers go, the usual suspects were at it again for the Bucks. Milwaukee shot 37.2% from the field and 16.7% (3-18) from three. Brandon Jennings was the only Bucks player to hit a three on the evening and appeared at times to be the only one capable of making anything positive happen on offense. And even with Jennings, he’s generally creating for himself more than he is for others.
It’s tough to determine where things are going wrong, but generally it doesn’t seem like a good idea that Jennings often spends 10 seconds dribbling around trying to make something happen on offense for Milwaukee. I don’t fault him though, he seems to be the only one capable of creating confusion for defenses or get to the rim. Other players on Milwaukee are getting into the paint, but getting to the rim has been an issue. Milwaukee made just 21 of 39 shots in the paint. When John Salmons or Luc Mbah a Moute or any other of the Bucks wings get into the paint, more often than not their falling away, twisting or doing something else to try and get their shot off in the paint. Milwaukee’s wings seriously lack athleticism. That difference between the Thunder and the Bucks was on full display in the fourth quarter when both Russell Westbrook and James Harden attempted rim-rocking dunks over Andrew Bogut. It doesn’t matter that neither of them made it and only one got a foul out of it, those are plays that no wing on the Bucks can even attempt. That’s an issue right now.
- But Salmons has all sorts of issues right now. On offense, the ball starts in his hands a whole lot and so far, it’s been very rare that that’s been a good thing. I don’t even feel like I can say he struggled to nine points on three of nine shooting; he just went about business as usual for him this season.
- Even though he’s out of control sometimes, Gooden rebounded very well Saturday night. He hits the offensive glass better than any Buck I’ve had the pleasure of watching and that resulted in seven offensive rebounds Saturday. All told, Gooden grabbed 16 boards to match his 16 points on five of 13 shooting. His jumper may not have been there Saturday night, but his effort was.
If the Bucks could have just gotten out to Harden a couple more times, this may have been a win. Oklahoma City’s second-year shooting-guard was six of eight on 3-pointers, but failed to make a shot inside the arc. Milwaukee does such a good job of helping off their men to cut off penetration, and occasionally that will leave shooters open. Harden was open a lot Saturday night and he made the Bucks pay.
- What’s amazing is that, despite their offensive struggles, Milwaukee’s defense continues to play at such a high level. Many teams would see their defense fall off a cliff if their offense struggled so much. It isn’t unusual for a team to lose focus on this end when shots aren’t falling on the other. Not these Bucks though. They held the Thunder to 37% shooting for the game and just 31.4% shooting in the second half. That’s what winning teams do. Of course, winning teams also shoot above 40% often, which Milwaukee doesn’t do.
- This isn’t necessarily defense, but it was something. As previously mentioned, Durant did not play, but he did sit on the bench in a dapper looking suit coat. He wasn’t always sitting though, sometimes he was standing and cheering on his teammates. Unsatisfied with his home team’s efforts on the evening, a fan sitting nearby me yelled to Durant that if he wasn’t in uniform he needed to sit down. This is a very common insult hurled towards players every night, typically without response. Durant took the bait though. He appeared to mouth “shut up” to the fan and proceeded to get up and cheer on his teammates with vigor every time something positive happened for them, often looking over at his antagonist in the crowd before returning to his seat. I hadn’t seen such personality out of Durant before Saturday night, but I must say, I rather enjoyed it.
(Bucksketball contributor Brian Matzat is a proud season ticket holder. He’ll be chiming in on home recaps with some words he heard in the crowd throughout the evening.)
I usually am really quiet following Bucks losses. Dejected tonight on my way out of the Bradley Center, I turned my attention to the rest of the fans leaving the game. I heard some guy rambling about how great Brewer games were so I had to hear what he’d say about the Bucks. His depressing verbatim response:
“It’s too expensive, too cold, too inconvenient. Waste of my time.”
The season goes on. As bad as the last couple games have been, we’re still only 13 games deep into an 82 game season. The Bucks defense is good enough that as soon as they find any sort of rhythm offensively, the switch will flip and the Bucks will be a much better team than they are right now. While it feels like they are miles away, they really aren’t. Coach Skiles has been adamant that the team isn’t panicking and that the ship will be righted when everyone plays up to their talent level.
Every night, they’ll keep trying to take over the world. Or at least play some good offensive basketball.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (to the right).