Bad players are bad. Inconsistent players are inconsistent. There’s a big difference.
Nights like Friday night illustrate that difference.
Chris Douglas-Roberts is by no means a bad player, neither is John Salmons. But for differing reasons, neither has been able to put together much consistent basketball this season. Sometimes, they look bad and sometimes, they look good. Sometimes they look good separately, sometimes they both look good, sometimes they both look bad. It’s a crap shoot, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks.
Fortunately, with the best team in the NBA in town Friday night, they both spent large portions of the game looking good. And again showed what Milwaukee’s offense is capable of when it’s firing on all, or most, cylinders.
We’ll start with CD-R, because he was a little earlier to this party. While Salmons stumbled through the first half, CD-R was absolutely feeling it early. CD-R scored 15 points in the second quarter, making all but one shot while tossing in all the others in a variety of ways. His offense was all-inclusive: teardrops, floaters, 3-pointers and free throws all fell for him. And Milwaukee’s crowd did too, especially after a particularly scrappy hustle play in which he tipped a pass at half court and then wrestled it away from LeBron James before drawing a two shot foul on James.
His hot shooting would not be limited to the second quarter though, as CD-R chipped in X more after halftime. This is the scorer Milwaukee dreamt they received from New Jersey this off-season, but had only seen sparingly. And when CD-R has it going, it always helps remove the scoring burden from the shoulders of Salmons.
Salmons has had his ups and downs all season, even when CD-R has played well he’s struggled at times, but he often seems to find his way when he has a little help on the other half of the court. With attention focused on CD-R and momentum in Milwaukee’s favor after cutting a 12-point Miami first quarter lead to a seven-point halftime deficit, Salmons got going. He scored seven points in the third quarter, making three of four shots, including one very, very difficult finish at the rim.
Both were working well in unison and it was reflected in the box score. Milwaukee took the third quarter 24-20 and made 50% of their shots as a team. Meanwhile, they played their usual tough defense and held Miami to 40% shooting. If only for a quarter, things were looking great for Milwaukee. After all these games, one frustrating offensive showing after the next, Milwaukee looked like the team everyone hoped they’d be this season.
It was easy to expect their good fortune or solid play, whatever it was, to run out when the fourth quarter began. Or at least sometime during the fourth quarter. But CD-R never stopped. He came within a point of his career high of 31 and made nearly every big shot Milwaukee needed (well, almost, but we’ll get back to that). And his energy was contagious. Pretty soon Ersan Ilyasova was flying in for rebounds and putbacks. And Luc Mbah a Moute was grabbing tough rebounds in traffic. And Miami’s Big Three got a couple technicals and, oh yeah, Earl Boykins sent the game to overtime with a layup one second before the game ended.
Milwaukee just couldn’t quite pull it out. Miami’s talent made plays big and small down the stretch, from drives from Dwyane Wade to a tip-in offensive rebound on a free throw by Chris Bosh. Then they got five extra minutes to display all that talent. Beating a good team in overtime is difficult, beating this Heat team in overtime would have been a positively monumental accomplishment. One the Bucks just weren’t capable of Friday night.
But before Earl “You know what to put here” Boykins did his thing, CD-R and Salmons helped get Milwaukee where they wanted to go. CD-R was great and Salmons was very good. and they did it together.
I don’t expect this roller coaster of an offense (one filled with an inordinate amount of drops for how few climbs it has) to suddenly get it together every night now. But I expect more of this when the Bucks schedule softens up. At least with a little more frequency.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).