Before Saturday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Bucks coach Scott Skiles discussed how Memphis big man Zach Randolph could alter a game.
“He’s one of those rare guys who can do it in different ways,” Skiles said. “He can get the ball in the low post with his back to the basket, he’s got multiple moves and put fouls on you and he can score. You take that away and he’ll pop out, shoot spot-up shots from even college three type distance. He can put it on the floor and shoot off the dribble.”
With all that in mind, Skiles said Randolph wasn’t an ideal matchup for the Bucks best defender Andrew Bogut.
“That’s not Bogues’ (Bogut’s) strength. People tend to just drive right by him when he’s out there.”
So, while Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders spent the majority of the night guarding Radolph with mixed results, Bogut stuck with Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. And Gasol, as if he had heard what Skiles said earlier in the evening, went to work on Bogut.
With Milwaukee trailing by just three points heading into halftime, Gasol came out in the third quarter with a purpose. He caught the ball at the free throw line on a number of occasions, faced up and attacked Bogut off the dribble. When he wasn’t attacking, he was crashing the offensive glass to putback misses by teammates when Bogut would attempt to block their shots at the rim. He led the Grizzlies in scoring in Memphis’s crucial third quarter run, scoring 11 of their 29 points and was key to their points in the paint advantage in the quarter (22-12) and the entire game (56-42).
On a night when Milwaukee’s offense struggled again (37.8% shooting), it was the defensive breakdowns throughout that third quarter that allowed Memphis to pad their lead. The Bucks would spend the fourth quarter battling back, but failed to both get stops and make shots when they most needed to.
Earl Boykins makes a lot of timely shots for the Bucks. He saves a lot of ugly possessions that don’t appear to be going anywhere, either by drawing a foul or making a difficult shot. But at the same time, Boykins isn’t exactly adept at creating much for his teammates. He dribbles around, comes off handoffs and lightly penetrates, but his size makes it a challenge for him to see the court very well or find teammates. In the end, he’s more of a one-man offensive spark than he is a point guard who can direct a team. Boykins was one of the only Bucks hitting shots at certain periods for the Bucks, but was part of the problem at others. He finished the night eight for 22 from the field (3-6 3FG 4-4 FT) and scored 23 points. Not an overly efficient night from the prominent bench scorer.
- On a night in which Milwaukee was struggling to make shots, it was odd to see Corey Maggette playing fairly passive. Maggette attempted just 11 shots, often deferring to Boykins it seemed. He converted on five of his 11 attempts and hit two of his four free throws while grabbing eight rebounds and handing out a season high five assists. It was a truly strange night for Maggette. He certainly didn’t appear to be the player who had been scoring 20 points with regularity since joining the starting lineup. Milwaukee could have used that guy Saturday night.
- It’s fun to see Larry Sanders making jump shots. Once they go in at least. Before they head in, it’s a sight that leaves most nervous. But Sanders was one of the Bucks best offensive options throughout the fourth quarter, which goes a long ways towards explaining why Milwaukee struggled to score points down the stretch. Stepping up in place of the injured Drew Gooden, Sanders scored 12 points on six of 11 shooting and blocked three shots.
For only one quarter could the Bucks hold the Grizzlies under 50% shooting. Milwaukee’s defense was simply overmatched by the powerful frontcourt of Gasol and Randolph. They teamed up for 40 points and 27 rebounds. Bogut and Ilyasova, Milwaukee’s starting frontcourt, combined for 20 points and 11 rebounds. And if that shellacking weren’t enough, Memphis power forward Darrell Arthur came off the bench to score 14 points on seven of 11 shooting. Big man advantage: Memphis.
- Milwaukee’s one of the better rebounding teams in the league, but the Grizzlies dominated the glass all night. Memphis grabbed 49 rebounds to Milwaukee’s 36, though the Bucks were as active on the offensive glass as they were on the defensive. Milwaukee finished with 16 offensive rebounds. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they only turned those boards into 16 points, another sign of their offensive ineptitude on the evening. Memphis grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 19 points off them.
After feel good performances against the Wizards and Cavaliers, Milwaukee returned to reality against Memphis. Without Brandon Jennings, the Bucks point guards couldn’t create much and without John Salmons, Milwaukee’s wings couldn’t produce enough scoring. Chris Douglas-Roberts played 15 impact-less minutes and Carlos Delfino proved to everyone it’s difficult to make shots in the NBA when you’ve been out for a long time (2-12 FG 1-7 3FG). Milwaukee lacked the firepower to out shoot the Grizzlies and the defenders up front to slow them down. They were outplayed by a more talented team from start to finish.
With a chance to finish the week 3-1, the Bucks finished it 2-2 and are back to nine games below .500, with time running out to get everyone healthy and on the same page.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).