It sounds simple enough. If the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t going to hit the three the way they did last season when they set a club record for 3-pointers made, they have to compensate in other areas. On average, the Bucks are making nearly two and a half less 3-pointers per game this season than they did last, partly because they are making just 34.3% of their threes and partly because they attempt six fewer per game. Changes on the roster have left the team with fewer shooters, so the players remaining are more inclined to play to their strengths and avoid the long ball.
When the Bucks were remaking their roster this off-season, for every 3-point shooter that departed, a player adept at getting to the free throw line was added. And the Bucks are attempting six more free throws per game this season than they did last. Unfortunately, for all the extra free throw attempts and shots closer to the hoop in general, Milwaukee’s failed to balance out the loss in 3-point attempts with more shots made inside the arc or at the free throw line. Milwaukee’s shooting percentage is an abysmal 41.1% from the field and 74.3% from the stripe. Coach Scott Skiles talked about the 3-point problem before Saturday’s game against the Mavs and said the team’s lack of success outside hasn’t helped them open up much inside.
“Last year the three took a lot of pressure off of [finishing around the hoop] and our inability to get to the line,” Skiles said. “We still, in order to make up for one of our weaknesses, which has been finishing, we either got to start finishing better or we’ve got to knock down some threes.”
Saturday night would go on to be one of those preciously rare evenings this season that Milwaukee was able to convert on a high enough percentage of their 2-point shots to offset another rough outing from deep.
Milwaukee made just four of 16 3-point attempts, but countered with 34 of 61 shooting from inside the arc, leaving them with a 49.4% shooting percentage on the evening. Unpredictable is a safe way to describe an offense like the Bucks’. There was no sign of hope Tuesday night in Chicago when the Bucks hit on less than a third of their attempts, but Saturday they came out crisp and effective.
Earl Boykins was a primary force in the Bucks offensive resurgence. The diminutive point guard was not only effective at creating open looks for himself inside the arc, but managed to be a cure for some of those free throw woes the Bucks have had as well. In eight attempts at the line, Boykins connected on seven free throws, a season high in both categories.
So maybe there’s no hope in sight for the Bucks as far as their shooting from behind the arc goes, but they still aren’t a lost cause offensively. Against a very respectable, though admittedly depleted, defensive squad in Dallas (seventh in the league in defensive rating), Milwaukee got going again. If they can make that a habit, they may even be able to string a few wins together one of these days.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).