The fourth quarter seems like a logical place to start. After all, the Milwaukee Bucks were right there. They didn’t have to spend the period playing catchup. They didn’t dig themselves a hole, they weren’t in trouble. Coming into the fourth quarter, the Bucks actually held a lead. It wasn’t large, just a point, but Milwaukee needed one more quarter of solid basketball to salvage the last game of their three game trip out West.
12 minutes later, the Bucks would walk out of the Oracle Center with a three game losing streak. The good work Milwaukee had done a week ago had been undone. Once again, Milwaukee was 10 games under .500.
So how did it happen?
It wasn’t missed shots. Typically the Bucks get looks and blow open jumpers, that’s just been the season. Down the stretch against the Warriors though, Milwaukee didn’t even get that far. The Bucks blew four consecutive possessions from the 3:28 mark of the fourth quarter to the 1:47 mark. Over this stretch, the Bucks attempted two shots: a Keyon Dooling desperation three as the shot-clock expired and a Carlos Delfino three that was little more than an attempt to draw a foul.
In the past Scott Skiles has praised his team for generally executing well, but this was the worst execution the Bucks have had all season. And the timing was abysmal. The whole turnover spectacle started after back-to-back Corey Maggette baskets in isolation left the Bucks down just two. Suddenly the Warriors lead had expanded to six after they capitalized on the Buck poor play.
Maggette battled back to keep the Bucks within two, but he would have had to have been perfect to bring the Bucks all the way back after their charitable offense handed the Warriors so many opportunities earlier. He wasn’t perfect. Maggette missed a free throw on an and-1 that would have left Milwaukee down one. The Bucks could never close the gap all the way and the Warriors walked away with a win.
Milwaukee’s reliance on isolations and individual drives to the hoop over the last four minutes had little hope. The Warriors could have effectively done that, but they have two premier scorers in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Curry can stop and shoot as well as anyone in the league and Ellis can beat everyone in the NBA off the dribble. They are dynamic scorers, very difficult to defend. For the Bucks, Delfino was attempting to create off the dribble and that left him either attempting crazy shots or losing the ball. He’s not a great fourth quarter, crunch time creator. His best offense is shooting threes, not putting an offense on his back. And while Maggette’s a very good isolation player, if Milwaukee’s going to rely on him creating while four guys watch, they’ll continue to lose a lot more games than they win.
- Good Ersan Ilyasova returned for the Bucks. The power forward made 10 of 20 shots and showed much better shot selection after a very shaky game in Phoenix. Ilyasova’s jumper was falling, especially early. He finished the first quarter with 15 points. He could have had an even better scoring night, but was unable to convert on a couple of offensive rebound attempts at the rim. But when Ilyasova is hitting his long jumper, he always changes Milwaukee’s offense.
- After 24 minutes in Phoenix, Brandon Jennings was limited to just 21 minutes against the Warriors. No word yet on why his minute restriction was tightened up after three games in which his leash was progressively loosened. He and John Salmons, Milwaukee’s two injured players, were limited to just 41 combined minutes and made two of 11 shots for four points. As the game wound down and Milwaukee didn’t know where to turn, Jennings sure could have been useful.
For the third consecutive game, Milwaukee watched their opponent shoot at least 50%. With an offense as bad as Milwaukee’s the Bucks have very little chance at success allowing such a high conversion rate to their opponents. The Bucks are now 0-11 this season when their opponent shoots at least 50%.
- Without Andrew Bogut (bruised right knee), Luc Mbah a Moute stepped up on the glass. The Bucks forward established a new career best with 19 rebounds, 11 of them on the offensive end. Against an undersized team like the Warriors, Mbah a Moute can thrive inside. They don’t have the same type of shot-blocking or muscle at the rim. Mbah a Moute is as tough as anyone and he showed that to the Warriors.
- Golden State is the league’s best three-point shooting team and that was on display against Milwaukee. The Warriors connected on 12 of 24 threes and their bench players, Reggie Williams and Vlad Radmonovic primarily, made five of eight.
Injuries are never supposed to be an excuse, but it was clear the Bucks weren’t at full strength down the stretch. Were they sporting a unit with Bogut and Jennings, their execution may have been much sharper and their options more varied. Instead they had players forced to play out of position, away from their strengths. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that that blew up in the Bucks face.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).