The story told so many times before this season: Bulls 90 – Bucks 77
When a team is attempting to figure out how they’ll be able to manage without Earl Boykins, obviously that’s a sign of a rough night ahead.
But Milwaukee battled. That’s more that could have been said about Monday night’s defeat. With no Boykins, or Brandon Jennings or Drew Gooden or Carlos Delfino, the Bucks simply didn’t have the offense to stick with the Bulls Tuesday night in a 90-77 defeat at the United Center. Somehow, despite making under 33% of their first half shots, the Bucks actually led by three at halftime. For most teams, that would be cause of optimism. Most teams would have figured there’s no way they could shoot that poorly for another half. Most team’s luck would turn around and they’d ride a better second half to an easy win.
Most teams aren’t the Bucks. Milwaukee’s poor shooting kept on keeping on and the Bucks finished a remarkable 32.1% from the field, marking the 16th time this season that they’ve shot under 40% (H/T Charles F. Gardner).
The loss leaves the Bucks at the dreaded six games under .500 mark. Six games was the low light of Milwaukee’s season last year, a seventh would officially leave the Bucks in a worse position than they were in at any point during the last season. A seventh game under .500 probably isn’t needed to further pound home the point that the expectations for this season dramatically out shot reality. The reality now is that the Bucks are looking like a team that will have to use another second half surge this season to push them into the playoffs rather than to fight for better seeding.
The reality is that the Bucks are more capable of shooting 33% on any given night than they are of shooting 50%.
When Milwaukee toppled the Knicks and Hawks in back-to-back games earlier this year, it would turn out to be a momentous occasion for two reasons. First, Milwaukee hasn’t looked that good in any two games since then. And second, Corey Maggette has since failed to coincide a productive outing with a Bucks win. Since those two games, Maggette has scored in double figures nine times. In those games, Milwaukee is 1-7 and has lost by double digits six times. He was four of eight from the field (6-10 FT) and scored 15 points in Tuesday’s double digit loss. Oh and Maggette doesn’t understand the minute distribution and has given a grade of F to his time in Milwaukee, whatever that means.
- With Brandon Jennings out, the first place to look when one looks at the Bucks box score is probably going to be at Andrew Bogut. His line against the Bulls wasn’t much to look at though. Bogut was two of 12 from the field and scored just four points. The rebounds were there (16) and the blocks were there (4), but if Milwaukee is going to win games with so many players injured, Bogut needs to shoot better than 50%.
- What else is there to say about the offense of a team that failed to make one third of their shots? Every player on the Bucks essentially took turns being terrible offensively. Multiple players missed the rim entirely on a shot and we’ve now seen Milwaukee airball at least four shots over the past two games. Ersan Ilyasova and Maggette combined to take four 3-point shots, despite both making less than 27% of those shots this season. John Salmons continued to baffle everyone who watches him play by again finishing five of 17 from the field.
While I’m skeptical about Milwaukee’s offensive rebounding, their control on the other end against the Bulls was certainly a step in the right direction. Chicago managed just six offensive rebounds against the Bucks, a vast improvement over some of Milwaukee’s recent efforts against Utah, Portland and Atlanta. Milwaukee had a 51-42 edge on the glass and limiting the Bulls second chances went a long way towards keeping them in the game through three quarters.
- Remember my note about consistency before the game? Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng put it into images. 20 and 10 for Boozer. 18 and 12 for Rose and 24 points for Deng. But we all pretty much knew those numbers were coming before the game. It was Milwaukee’s numbers we had no idea about. Unfortunately, the Bad Bucks offense showed up and left us all disappointed.
Mavericks, Heat, Magic, Heat. That’s Milwaukee’s next four games. Two at home and two on the road, none looking all that winnable. But Milwaukee seems to play their best with their backs up against a wall and hope seemingly gone. How a team without any star power only plays well when pushed into a corner, I’ll never understand. Milwaukee certainly can’t be taking any opponent lightly. Not when they are six games under .500 and haven’t seen that mark since mid-November.
But for whatever reason, games like Monday night’s against the Hawks seem to bring out the worst in the Bucks. They come out unprepared when the games seem very winnable. When they are counted out though, as they were against the Bulls, their effort seems to come without question. They’ll need four of those performances in a row now, and even all that effort likely won’t be enough.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).