Again so close: Spurs 91 – Bucks 84
Sometimes it’s just a quarter, sometimes a half, sometimes three quarters, but rarely this season have the Bucks been able to put together 48 minutes of their best basketball against good teams. Wednesday night would be no different.
After taking a 51-43 lead into halftime, they made just 31% of their shots in the second half. What’s unfortunate is how typical that’s been of this team. A miserable third quarter in which they connected on just four of 17 shots wasn’t as shocking as it sounds. After two strong offensive performances against the Heat and Nets and three days of rest thanks to the winter storm in Atlanta, instead of looking refreshed in the second half, the Bucks looked out of sorts and incapable of hanging with a determined Spurs squad.
When talking to reporters after the game, Earl Boykins aptly described the differences between the Bucks and Spurs.
“San Antonio, they’re one of the few teams that no matter what, they don’t have the peaks and valleys,” Boykins said. “They just play consistent basketball for 48 minutes, and we didn’t do that and it showed.”
Instead of “we didn’t do that” Boykins could have said “we rarely do that” or “against good teams we don’t do that.” A blown lead against the Spurs qualifies as yet another moral victory though for the Bucks. Give them that, they are really cornering the market on those. But the time for moral victories has passed. Milwaukee will not have another chance to beat a real good team at home until January 26th when the Hawks come back to town. This was a shining opportunity for the Bucks to take a step towards re-establishing themselves as a feared home court team, but they were unable to put away the talented Spurs.
Milwaukee’s home record has dropped to 8-9, their overall record to 14-22 and their current position in the East to 10th. This, hopefully, will be the low point of the season. That’s actually the good news, as it means things will only get better from here on out.
The first half often saw Andrew Bogut getting touches inside for the Bucks, be it off offensive rebounds or passes inside to him. He responded with a very strong first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He twice scored on offensive rebounds and scored the rest of his points on passes inside to him on possessions in which getting him the ball was a focus. The second half was a different story though. Bogut made just one of six shots in the second half and didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter until there was just 31 seconds remaining. To reiterate: Milwaukee’s leading scorer in the first half attempted just six shots in the second half and didn’t ATTEMPT a shot in the fourth quarter until just 31 seconds remained. Is it any wonder that the Bucks failed to gain traction in the second half?
Bogut isn’t always a reliable offensive performer, but when he is, he should be featured. Post game, Coach Scott Skiles said that the Spurs were aggressive in doubling him throughout the second half and that he made a number of nice passes. But with the Bucks offense struggling, it should be imperative that Milwaukee finds ways to put Bogut in position to succeed on offense.
- It was probably unlikely to expect Chris Douglas-Roberts to match big efforts against the Heat and Nets. But it was equally unlikely to expect him to have almost no impact on Wednesday’s game whatsoever. CD-R attempted just two shots, failed to make either, didn’t score and was whistled for four fouls in his 23 minutes. Not exactly the game he had in mind after blowing up for 30 and 24 points respectively in the last two.
- Milwaukee turned the ball over just two times in the first half, but made up for that with nine in the second half. They had five turnovers in the first five minutes of the third quarter and saw their lead shrink from eight to three, starting their downward spiral into yet another loss.
- Sometimes it seems as though Corey Maggette is hell bent on making basketball an unwatchable game. Maggette managed to be involved in 10 fouls, drawing seven and committing three. This resulted in a five of six effort at the free throw line for him, much better than his two of nine effort from the field. Maggette finished with nine points in a much more forgettable effort than his strong performance in New Jersey.
After hitting just one three in the first half, the Spurs managed six in the second half, all while the Bucks launched long twos and drove into the paint without a plan. To start the fourth quarter, the Spurs attempted and made four threes and one shot in the lane by Matt Bonner off a pump-fake outside the arc. Meanwhile, the Bucks attempted six shots outside of 10 feet but inside the arc. Mid-range jumpers aren’t Milwaukee’s strength, but they certainly seem to be their preference.
- Reliable Manu Ginobili scored 23 points and made eight of his 15 shots. That’s just another night’s work for Ginobili, but would be a herculean effort for virtually anyone on the Bucks. The only Bucks player that scored in double figures and shot better than 50% on the evening was Bogut. And he was just one of six in the second half. Sigh.
- The Spurs are now 16-0 when they shoot a better percentage than the opposition. Milwaukee is now 6-19 when the opposition shoots a better percentage. More telling, Milwaukee is now 2-16 when they score less than 90 points. In 36 games this season, the Bucks have failed to crack 90 in exactly half of them. That’s a disaster.
On this game: the Spurs are very good, the Bucks aren’t as good as they were advertised. It was difficult to envision a Bucks victory, though their first half effort gave some hope. But really good teams play well for 48 minutes against nearly every opponent. The Bucks have trouble with that against the best teams. Against bad teams? We’re about to find out, but I think we’ll like what we see.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).