Role players playing well and good guard play. Monday night, in an 88-78 win for the visiting team, the Heat had it and the Bucks didn’t.
Obviously the Heat can count on Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. They certainly got things started with a bang, alternating high flying dunks and tap ins early in the game, but it wasn’t just the two of them dunking all game. While the two of them were typically impressive, the play of lesser known Carlos Arroyo was key in holding off the Bucks. As a good role player should do, Arroyo played to his strengths Monday. He moved the ball, he found open spaces and he didn’t hesitate to shoot when he had an open look. The Heat guard made all six of his shot attempts, two of which came from 3-point territory, and all of his four free throws en route to 18 points.
His play meant Miami saw most of their guards playing well and one of their important role players thriving in his role.
Milwaukee is still waiting on those two things. Once again, the Bucks looked hesitant and unsure of themselves. For a team that doesn’t shoot the 3-point shot very well, Milwaukee needs the players who are capable of hitting it to be aggressive and confident. Their role players whose role is to hit 3-pointers have to be ready and willing to fire away. But that wasn’t the case once again on Monday.
Time after time Ersan Ilyasova swung the ball away instead of shooting wide open threes. John Salmons would catch on the perimeter with a good look and pump fake defenders that weren’t there and drive to the middle where multiple defenders awaited him. Keyon Dooling always kept the ball moving crisply, but whenever Milwaukee needed him to shoot, he came up empty. Sometimes it’s hard to blame Ilyasova and Salmons them for passing up on open threes though … like when they do actually shoot them. Ilyasova short-armed his two attempts miserably and Salmons managed to air-ball one wide open look. Such are the struggles of a team that shoots 34.6% on the evening.
As has often been the case this season, things didn’t go so well for Ilyasova, Salmons and Dooling, two players who meant a great deal to the successes of last year’s team and a third replacing a player who meant as much. For those wondering how things have spun so far out of control, so fast, checking out the play of these three would be a good start.
So much for the aggressive and productive Andrew Bogut of Saturday night. After having the game of his season, Bogut was held in check by Miami’s front court tandem Zyndrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier. Yeah, that front court tandem. Bogut struggled to get good position all night and only made four of his 12 shots in scoring 11 points. When he was getting shots in the post, they were predominantly ones that had him fading away or pushing the ball at the hoop rather than shooting it. All the confidence he had against the Magic on Saturday seemed world’s away. When Milwaukee is unable to establish Bogut as the centerpiece of their offense, they end up looking helpless offensively more often than not, and that was again the case Monday night.
- When Bogut is ineffective on offense, the offense typically falls on the narrow shoulders of Brandon Jennings, and that was again the case against the Heat. Jennings led the team in shot attempts, but made just five of 16 shots (2-6 3FG 1-2 FT) on his way to 13 points. The night was an exercise in frustration for Jennings. He couldn’t get his floater to fall, he couldn’t get the benefit of the doubt on a number of drives to the rim through contact and he even missed a dunk. For the first time in his NBA career, Jennings looked to dunk in traffic after beating Chris Bosh baseline with the Bucks down seven in the fourth quarter. He rose up and had a great look, but saw the ball carom off the rim and into the waiting hands of the Miami Heat. It was that kind of night for Jennings.
- “Every time he caught it he wanted to score, he took a couple crazy shots, but in general he’s getting a lot better and we’ll keep putting him out there.” If you watched the game, there’s really no question who Scott Skiles is referring to in that quote. Early on, Larry Sanders was quite the chucker. He settled down as the game went on, but Milwaukee probably isn’t going to operate at their maximum efficiency offensively when Sanders and Bogut attempt the same number of shots. The rookie actually fared better than Bogut offensively, hitting five of his 12 attempts, including the highlight up above. Sanders scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots, but still needs to refrain from biting on every pump fake and trying to score out of the post every time he gets a touch. There’s a lot to like about him though, which says more about him than it does about a lot of guys at this point in the season.
- When Milwaukee’s offense went stagnant, Corey Maggette did his part to bail them out. In a performance indicative of what he is capable of, Maggette made six of 12 shots, hit seven of nine free throws and scored 20 points in a very efficient manner. That’s the guy the Bucks thought they’d be getting every night, not the one shooting less than 40%.
It’s hard to have many qualms with how the Bucks played defensively. Regardless of how a team covers James/Wade/Bosh, they’re going to get theirs, and they combined for 58 of Miami’s 88 points. Where Milwaukee saw themselves fall especially short against the Heat though, was on the glass. Milwaukee is a traditionally strong rebounding team this year, but saw the Heat out-rebound them, 48-35. Especially frustrating were the 11 offensive rebounds Miami corralled, largely through tap outs. Milwaukee limited the Heat’s second chance points effectively though, allowing just nine on four of eight shooting.
- With Wade being one of the foremost practitioners of the jump pass, the Heat will turn the ball over some. They gave it up 18 times Monday night, but Milwaukee was only able to turn those 18 turnovers into 14 points. As has often been the case for the Bucks this season, the Bucks won the turnover battle, but did very little with their victory. More possessions don’t help the Bucks if they are unable to convert on them.
When this game was still in question, it was interesting how things played out. Miami led only by three roughly halfway through the fourth quarter after an Ilyasova jump shot and failed to get the ball to either Wade or James. Instead, Arroyo and Bosh ran the pick and roll, and didn’t get a very good look. Bosh had to rush a jumper to beat the buzzer and Milwaukee looked to be in good shape as it bounced off the rim. But then Wade snatched the offensive rebound away from Chris Douglas-Roberts and reminded us all that he was the best player on the court on this night and that he would not be denied a win. James followed with a made shot and Wade did likewise on the next possession after a missed three from Jennings. And that would be the difference.
The Heat’s stars made plays and made shots when they needed to/wanted to. The Bucks stars were incapable of doing the same, regardless of how much they needed it or wanted it. That’s simply the difference between a team like the Heat and a team like the Bucks.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).