Playing shot-handed on the road is always a daunting task. For a Bucks team shuffling in some players returning from injuries while watching others go down, it was far too tall. Without Andrew Bogut, Keyon Dooling, Drew Gooden or Larry Sanders, with a minute limit on Brandon Jennings and with a hobbled John Salmons, there wasn’t much hope Wednesday night.
Facing all those injuries, no one expected the Bucks to come out and set the world on fire. At the same time, no one thought Milwaukee would set themselves on fire either.
Milwaukee established a new bench mark for futility in a season full of them against the Suns on Wednesday, scoring just 77 points on 31.1% shooting. Sure, the Suns were on the court playing defense, but Milwaukee more than did its part in its offensive woes. Hurried shots, ill-conceived three-point attempts, misses inside, misses outside, blown wide-open looks: the Bucks did it all in Phoenix.
Only Corey Maggette made half his shots for the Bucks, connecting on six of 12. Maggette made one of two three-point attempts and two of two at the line to finish with 15 points on 12 shots. Compared to his teammates, he was the model of an efficient, effective offensive basketball player.
- After making 52.1% of his shots in the month of January and playing the best basketball of his career, it seemed the opportunity was there for Ersan Ilyasova to make a big impact against the Suns. The last time Bogut was out and Ilyasova had to slide in at center, the Bucks rode his 22 points and 13 rebounds to victory in New Jersey. There would be no encore though. Ilyasova finished seven of 20 from the field and seemed to have no concept of what was a good shot. With four minutes left in the first quarter, Milwaukee corralled a Jennings missed three and swung it to Ilyasova. He found himself open and missed a good look at a three. Jennings grabbed to board and found Ilyasova again. Without any hesitation, or setting of himself, just three seconds into the new shot-clock, Ilyasova launched another three that barely scrapped the rim. Apparently as puzzled as everyone else, Coach Scott Skiles yanked his power forward at the next opportunity.
- Milwaukee seemed content to launch long jumpers for most of the night, but when the Bucks ventured into the lane the team wasn’t met with any more success. Milwaukee was just eight of 25 inside of the paint. Even worse than the Bucks struggles inside was its five for 23 effort from three-point range.
- A final shooting percentage so abysmal required four quarters of misfires. Milwaukee’s shots by quarter
Without Bogut, Marcin Gortat was able to feast off Steve Nash passes early and clean up on the offensive glass later on the Bucks. He finished eight of 13 from the field and three of five from the line to score 19 points. Gortat trailed only Channing Frye (13) with 11 rebounds. Suns blog Valley of the Suns had more on Gortat:
Gortat still had no problem going for 19 points for the third straight game, noteworthy because his career high entering this stretch was 16. He’s scored in double figures in four straight for the first time in his career.
- As bad as Milwaukee’s offense was, their defense wasn’t much better. Without Bogut protecting the paint, not only did Gortat have his way wiht Milwaukee, but so did the rest of the Suns. Phoenix out-scored the Bucks in the paint 46-18 and the Bucks managed just three blocked shots.
- For the first time all season, the Bucks have allowed consecutive opponents to shoot 50% or better.
Milwaukee will have one more shot at a win on this three game Western swing tonight in Golden State. The nice thing about the NBA is that typically another game is right around the corner. Each game is a new opportunity, a fresh start, all that good stuff. Milwaukee has shot 35% or worse a shocking five times this season. In the games after the Bucks performances have varied:
True to form, it’s been impossible to predict how the Bucks would react after a poor game. So strap on your seatbelt and get ready for anything in Golden State. The last time Milwaukee played them, they made just 33.7% of their shots.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).