The Milwaukee Bucks looked very good in the first half. They moved the ball, players cut and found openings, shots were falling, the new acquisitions came as they were sold and last year’s holdovers appeared to be improved. The Bucks were deep, they were talented, they were playing the Charlotte Bobcats and taking care of business.
Then everything fell apart.
Milwaukee was outscored 30-14 in the third, largely due to Charlotte’s 11 offensive rebounds, leading to 10 second chance points. The Bucks trailed by five after three, after taking an 11 points lead into the half. The fourth quarter became The Brandon Jennings Show, as Jennings keyed a late Bucks run with back-to-back threes, before dishing off a pick and roll to Mike Dunleavy Jr. in the corner for a third straight.
Ultimately, the Bucks weren’t able to string together the necessary combination of stops and scores to hold off a decidedly mediocre Bobcats team. Instead of reliving the debacle, let’s take a look at the grades.
Andrew Bogut – B - The Bucks big man floated in hooks with both right and left hands, an encouraging sight for anyone who watched the team regularly last year. Bogut was a left-handed player exclusively last year, but the time off looks to have done wonders for his primary arm. Of course, he still was unable to get many easy looks. Touch on hook shots is a great thing, but it would be great if Bogut could get some easy baskets around the rim. The lack of those explains his 7-14 effort from the field for 17 points to go with his nine boards.
Stephen Jackson – D- – Ouch. Jackson was in foul trouble early, topped that off with a couple of quick ones in the third and found himself limited to just 17 minutes before fouling out. He did find time to get a technical foul and chuck up four threes, most of them off the dribble and inaccurate. He did bank one deep one in, but followed that up with an air balled three on the next possession. It’s possible he felt some real pressure to produce against his ex-mates. We’ll all just tell ourselves that’s what happened.
Brandon Jennings – B- – Jennings was distributing and getting to the hoop early. That was good. His teammates were moving and he was cognizant of them. That’s a hopeful thing for a guard who has largely been surrounded by teammates that weren’t very good off the ball for the past two seasons. But when things broke down, Jennings did his best to take it upon himself (8-21 for the game) and that didn’t work out so well in the end. Jennings shooting and dishing brought back the Bucks late, but his wild, long two off a screen with the Bucks down one with 27 seconds left helped seal the Bucks fate.
Shaun Livingston – B – Livingston was dominant early. He had 11 points, three assists and three rebounds in the first half. He finished with 14 points, six assists and four rebounds. He posted up guards with ease in the first half, turning and sinking jumpers over them repeatedly. But the Bobcats switched larger defenders on him in the second half, largely neutralizing him as a scorer. Fortunately, Livingston has the court awareness to make himself useful off the ball.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. – C – Dunleavy did a lot of things right, but he did one big thing wrong, something Bucks fans are used to: He missed shots. His off the ball movement was very good, he moved the ball well and he took shots the Bucks are expecting him to take and make this season. But Dunleavy made just three of 12 shots and with 10 seconds to play, missed a wide open three with the Bucks down two.
Drew Gooden – C – Technical foul early. Flagrant foul late. Five rebounds, a few missed shots. He was there, but he didn’t really factor in.
Ersan Ilyasova – C+ - Ilyasova was strong on the glass (nine rebounds) on a night when many Bucks weren’t. But he still didn’t seem confident in himself offensively, especially after missing his first two long jumpers early. A surprise starter, it’s hard to think he’ll stay in that role for an extended period of time this season if he isn’t playing with some force on offense.
Larry Sanders – D – Sanders played, grabbed some boards, but didn’t make much of an impact. In his 11 minutes, he certainly demonstrated a bit more rebounding prowess than he did in his short stints last season, which was a plus. But he didn’t really have any impact.
Beno Udrih – C +- Again, he was there, but he didn’t make much of an impact either way. When the Bucks needed shot-making late, Udrih wasn’t able to convert. Milwaukee still needs guys to make shots, and Udrih was brought in to do that. He finished in the lane and used his body very well in doing so early, but Milwaukee’s problems have been late.
And, for the hell of it, here’s a haiku for you.
Milwaukee Bucks hoops.
Again, not coming often.
This year, are we sad?
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.