From tip to finish, there were virtually no surprises in Milwaukee’s 83-75 loss to the Chicago Bulls Saturday night. Both teams represented themselves well on the defensive end, as you’d expect the second and fifth ranked defensive teams in the league to do. Milwaukee shot under 40%, as they often do. Luol Deng played well against the Bucks, as he often does. It was a pretty run of the mill evening.
Until the game was over.
Post game, Brandon Jennings let loose with some of his frustrations after another subpar performance.
“It ain’t like last year,” Jennings noted after making just two of six shots in 28 fourth quarter-less minutes. “I’m not the go-to guy like I was last year. When I get the ball, I guess I’ve got to do something with it, because I know I probably won’t get it back.”
Jennings statements didn’t seem to be made with much malice. Instead they were rather matter of fact admissions regarding things out of his hands that Jennings doesn’t appear to be thrilled with. And while things obviously aren’t like last year across the board, it’s worth looking into how much weight his words hold.
Milwaukee’s young point guard is having virtually the same exact season he had last year, having replaced last season’s flaw of terrible finishing at the rim (up to 50.4% at rim from 42.7% last season) with worse three-point shooting this season (down from 37.4% last season to 33.3% this season). He’s attempting less than a half a shot game less this season than he did last and has a nearly identical rate of possessions used (shots or turnovers per possession on court).
It’s after dramatic statements like the ones he made on Saturday night when it’s worth noting again that Jennings is 21-years-old. He’s being asked to play an important role on a team full of bad basketball players, and the results haven’t been good this year. His game hasn’t progressed as many hoped and the team has taken a big step backwards this season. He’s frustrated, just like everyone else and while he and his teammates have spent most of the season attributing blame internally first before unto their teammates, eventually players are going to start looking around, that’s only human nature.
And after a game in which Jennings failed to so much as attempt a three-point shot for the first time all year, he looked around. Most of Jennings threes come off drive and kicks from his teammates. There weren’t many kicks to be had on Saturday, possibly because of the Bulls defense, possibly because Milwaukee’s wings just didn’t think it was ever the correct play.
Saturday, Jennings certainly didn’t seem to factor into the game, but that hasn’t been the story this season. He’s often controlled the Bucks offense when on the court and it’s misguided to say the Bucks offense hasn’t run through their leading scorer this season. He’s had his chances. Saturday night was a frustrating experience for a 21-year-old searching for answers after another embarrassing loss, nothing more and nothing less.
Pretty standard dreadful Bucks offense on Saturday night. Most telling was this: Earl Boykins played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter after not entering the game during the first three and was the Bucks third leading scorer with 10 points. Boykins scored 10 in the fourth, while his teammates combined to score just six in the entire quarter.
- Early against the Bulls, Milwaukee’s best offense was Luc Mbah a Moute mid-range jumpers, so it should come as no surprise that they weren’t able to sustain the 57.9% shooting they managed in the first quarter. Once Mbah a Moute began to experience some foul trouble, the Bucks would not be able to find much else offensively. But Mbah a Moute combined his ability to get past opposing bigs for layups with a rare ability to hit open shots on Saturday. If ever this was a consistent thing for Mbah a Moute, he could really be an important player. He would finish Saturday’s game making seven of nine shots for 16 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
- After the first quarter, Milwaukee’s shooting percentages by quarter: 31.3%, 34.8% and 27.8%.
Mbah a Moute was strong as ever at the four, but when he was on the bench, things fell apart for the Bucks. If there were a stat for offensive rebounds allowed due to blown box outs, Larry Sanders would have flirted with the league record in the first half. When Sanders was forced into eight minutes of second quarter action, the Bulls responded with seven offensive rebounds, five from Joakim Noah alone. Milwaukee’s rookie power forward sometimes failed to find his man and sometimes was just out-muscled and pushed under the hoop too far. His game was a strong reminder of how far he has to come to be an effective rotation player.
- The second chance points proved too much to overcome for the Bucks. Chicago scored 28 second chance points to Milwaukee’s 15 and won the points in the paint battle 32 to 24. Most of those points in the paint came on layups after offensive rebounds.
Andrew Bogut left the game with just over a minute remaining, not just because the Bucks were out of it, but because he had somehow aggravated his ailing elbow. Milwaukee’s center wasn’t available to the media post game, as he was in the training room. There’s no word yet on whether or not he’s anything other than day-to-day, but Bogut’s situation bears watching. Milwaukee has now lost 10 of their last 13 games and no resurgence appears to be on the horizon. Bogut’s said he’ll need a scope this off-season to clear out his elbow. The team could get a jump on his rehab if he’s dealing with an injury now that would allow them to shut him down the rest of the way.
Whether or not they’ll continue on trying to grab an eighth seed will have a lot to do with how Bogut’s injury is dealt with from here on out.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).