Strike another blow against momentum.
This season’s Milwaukee Bucks squad is doing their very best to shoot down any theories that a big win or two will carry over into the next game. After taking two on the road on the traditionally difficult west coast, the Bucks were back home Monday night well rested and facing an Atlanta Hawks team that had been struggling mightily on the road. There was every reason to believe Milwaukee would win again and have something positive going heading into a game with the Bulls in Chicago.
Instead, Milwaukee’s effort was as lethargic as it has been all year in a 95-80 loss to the Hawks. Just how flat-footed and slow moving were the Bucks? Jason Collins grabbed 12 rebounds. The slow-footed, defensive minded, limited minute big man last grabbed more than 10 rebounds on February 19, 2008. My goodness.
“This is how our season’s gone,” Coach Scott Skiles said after the game. “We’ve been really read and really competitive a couple games in a row, then have a couple where we’re not and one where we are, one where we’re not, we’ve been riding that wave too much. It was easy to see who had the mos energy and who wanted the game more, and that team won. We can’t afford to play that way. We want to win and until we get that figured out, we’ll be in this position.”
Skiles exasperation was evident in his lineups. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Monday night marked only the second time this season a team played both their starting center and point guard more than 40 minutes. Andrew Bogut ptallied 43 minutes, while Keyon Dooling logged 41. Skiles admitted he did not like playing Bogut so extensively.
“I overplayed him,” Skiles said. “I had no intention of playing that much, I didn’t want to. It’s just that we finally crept back into it and I wanted to leave him out there.”
Much more than last year, this Bucks team is tough to figure. The loss drops Milwaukee to 7-7 at the Bradley Center, a place where the team played very well last season, going 28-13. Yet with all the positive momentum and rest in the world, at home, Milwaukee could barely muster enough effort to keep it close with the Hawks. A puzzling team these Bucks are.
Shot attempts were not the problem for Bogut Monday night. Often he’ll be on the receiving end of a few hard double teams early and the team will look away from him for far too long. But his shots were steady all night against the Hawks. His makes were another story though. Bogut connected on just seven of his 19 attempts from the field, as his night seemed to set the tone for the rest of the Bucks. Milwaukee made just 37.3% of their shots on the evening, with Bogut’s poor night looming large. The defensive duo of Collins and Al Horford did their best to push Bogut out away from the hoop, but even when he was getting the shots he typically gets and makes, they all were just a little off on the evening.
- Dooling certainly has a way about getting guys the ball where they want it. He and Bogut have shown rapport over the past few games. A couple of Dooling’s nine assists were on drives that left Bogut open underneath and only required a simple pass from Dooling to his big man for an easy hoop. While he certainly is getting the job done in that area, Dooling again struggled with the long ball, hitting just one of six 3-pointers. Total, Dooling made five of 13 shots, scored 15 points and generally looked like one of the most plugged in Bucks.
- The Bucks certainly could have used second half John Salmons in the first half. In the final 24 minutes, Salmons scored 13 points on four of seven shooting (2-2 3FG). In the first half, Salmons scored five points on two of five shooting (1-1 3FG). If Salmons isn’t clearly the Bucks best perimeter player on the evening, Milwaukee often will have trouble mustering much offense from the perimeter. In the second half Salmons delivered, in the first, he didn’t. With he and Bogut both having uneven nights, it’s no wonder why the Bucks shot sub-40%.
Chris Douglas-Roberts played just four first quarter minutes and it certainly seemed like that had an awful lot to do with four early baskets that came pretty easy for Josh Smith. Coach Skiles elaborated when asked about Smith’s easy offense early and essentially summed up Milwaukee’s entire night defensively.
“You’ve got to compete,” he said. “He just took the ball drove it right to the basket and laid it in. If a guy competes against that and it happens because it is the NBA then there’s no problem. You’ve got to be ready to compete.”
- The Hawks hit the magic number for shooting percentage against the Bucks: 50%. Atlanta actually connected on 50.7% of their shots Monday, which was more than enough to top the Bucks. When opponents shoot above 50% against the Bucks this season, the team is now 0-6.
While it wasn’t a must win for the Bucks Monday night, it sure was a “please win.” The schedule gets no easier for Milwaukee as they head to Chicago on Tuesday night for their first meeting this season with the Bulls. The Bucks have had a way about them so far and that way seems to have gotten them up for big games and kept them from getting up for home games. Wins at Dallas and Los Angeles give hope that something good could happen in Chicago. But so long as Milwaukee fails to establish any kind of presence at home, the wins on the road are being wasted. The Bucks need that home court advantage they had last year and they need it soon.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).