Team Work: Milwaukee Bucks 98 – Minnesota Timberwolves 95
“The reality is, there are a bunch of teams and Minnesota played one of those teams last night, you can pretty much just come down the court and throw the ball to Durant any time you want. Any time. Don’t need to run a play or anything. You can pop Kobe to the top of the floor whenever you want. You can put everybody on the baseline let Derrick Rose from the top of the floor create for everybody. We have good players, but we don’t have anybody quite like that. We depend on each other. Our team work, our chemistry, things like that.”
- Scott Skiles
Teamwork is one of those things that’s tough to boil down into one stat. Convenient as it would be, assists aren’t the true measure of how well a team is working together. It’s much more complicated, more intricate than that. You have to watch a team to really know. It’s like Justice Stewart said, I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it … or something like that. Pornography = teamwork.
Sometimes when you’re watching, you can pull together a few moments that show a little about how that team is working together.
Like when Stephen Jackson passed up a number of transition threes in order to lay it off to his teammates. They didn’t always reward his faith, but yesterday’s Stephen Jackson didn’t do that, and it did little to help the Bucks. Rarely does it backfire when a player shares a bit more though. Jackson didn’t rack up the assists, but you could see him fit in and you can see the team working together in those situations.
Or when Brandon Jennings (7-14 FG, 24 points, seven assists) stopped for a pull-up three just before the buzzer to end the first quarter. Except this wasn’t another long Jennings three at the buzzer. At his peak, Jennings dropped it off to Beno Udrih in the short corner for an easy jumper. Udrih sprinted to get in a position where he’d be ready to take a shot and Jennings rewarded his effort.
The Bucks need this.
Without these plays, the little plays they have to make on a majority of the possessions, they don’t work. They don’t have the talent. The margin for error for the Bucks is pretty thin. The lack of teamwork, the lack of making open shots, that’s how they end up on the wrong end of a close game in Charlotte. But when they move the ball and make open shots, they can do some fun things like they did against the Wolves on Tuesday night.
And yet, the Bucks were holding the Wolves off in a close game late. There’s that margin of error again.
The Bucks have had a bad habit this year of stringing together negatives possessions on offense and defense consecutively. Milwaukee got a bit sloppy with the ball in the fourth quarter and quickly found themselves giving up open shots after turnovers. The Wolves took advantage just enough to make things interesting. A failed attempt to ride Andrew Bogut (7-20 FG, 15 points, nine rebounds) down the stretch left the Bucks up just two with 1:41 to play.
It was Charlotte all over again.
Fortunately the Bucks caught themselves before they let thing slip away again and one of Monday’s goats, Jennings, was a big reason why. Jennings, often the shooter in crunch time, drove seemingly on the way to another floater in the paint, but dished off to Jon Leuer (a hero in his own right with 14 points and 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes) at the last second. Leuer connected on the layup and hit the free throw with 1:16 to give the Bucks a five point lead.
Yes, Jennings probably took an ill advised leaner with Milwaukee nursing a three-point lead with just seven seconds to play, but, hey, he wants to make shots and the Bucks ended up winning. Growing pains, I ‘spose.
But this game was another reminder of the variety show that the Bucks are. Sometimes they are a ball moving, bucket scoring, machine that drops 60 points in a half. Other times they are stagnant and sloppy on offense and a bit unfocused and willing to gamble on defense. If the Bucks want to avoid the pratfalls of last season, they’ll find a way to channel the former and lose the latter.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.