The Bucks are playing defense again so here’s an old WWF commercial

The Bucks tag team of Bogut and Mbah a Moute: “Twice the mayhem!”

It’s easy to credit Andrew Bogut with the success of the Bucks defense. In the way that we give quarterbacks or point guards credit for wins, we often attribute the success of an NBA team’s defense to its center. He’s the quarterback of the defense. Maybe he’s like the middle linebacker then. If that’s the case, Bogut has been the Bucks version of Ray Lewis over the past two seasons.

When healthy, he’s blocked shots, rotated and taken charges as well as any center in the league not named Dwight Howard. There are numbers to back that up too. We see the big block numbers and the impressive charge totals and we can see that he’s doing things very few centers in the league do very plainly.

The numbers don’t paint such a clear picture when it comes to Luc Mbah a Moute.

He doesn’t have big block or steal numbers. He’s more like a corner back that doesn’t get thrown at. Those guys don’t pile up interception totals, but the guy they were covering all game ended up with just two catches for 17 yards.  There isn’t a statistical category that makes it plain for us to see how much Mbah a Moute matters, so he doesn’t get quite as much credit for Milwaukee’s defensive success over the past few seasons, even if he is acknowledged across the league as a standout perimeter defender. The perimeter defender is viewed as a one-on-one stopper, not as someone who brings his teammates to a higher level defensively.

But that Bogut and Mbah a Moute tag team absolutely drags everyone on the Bucks up a couple of notches on the defensive side.

The Bucks star defenders hadn’t played a game together this season before Friday. Consequently, Milwaukee’s defense had been more middling than anyone remembered before Friday. Bogut and Mbah a Moute went to work righting those wrongs this weekend.

In the six games previous to Milwaukee’s match-up with the Knicks on Friday, the Bucks had a defensive rating of higher than 100 every game with an average of 109. Scott Skiles must have been on the verge of bare knuckle boxing every player on his team. But Bogut missed two of those games and played less than 20 minutes in one. Mbah a Moute played in none.

In the games against the Knicks and Heat, Milwaukee’s defensive ratings were 86.9 and 88.2. The Knicks have a bad offense, but it’s always nice to hold a bad team down. The Heat, weary as they may have been (and I think that’s being overblown, it’s still early in the season and it was just a back-to-back. Have they never played a back-to-back before? My goodness. The way people are talking, you’d think the Heat ran four marathons as a team right before Sunday’s game.), are the league’s finest offensive team, with an offensive rating of 108.2. Milwaukee held them 20 points per 100 possessions below that mark.

You probably will believe this: Bogut and Mbah a Moute lead the Bucks with defensive ratings of 97 and 98 respectively.

So maybe the Bucks are on the way back. Back to what, we’re not sure. They could be back to mediocre, the kind of team that tosses in enough impressive wins to keep eyes on them, but enough bizarre losses to keep from achieving anything of consequence. Or maybe they are on the way back to 2009.

Either way, don’t hold your breath or onto those hopes for a top draft pick. It looks like these Bucks aren’t going to be that bad so long as they have their defensive tag team on the court.

Watch This Guy Not Other Guys

  • Jeff Teague

Joe Johnson is the obvious choice here, but I find Teague a more entertaining player. He’s explosive, athletic and quick as hell, plus this season he’s hitting threes. With Johnson and Josh Smith taking the majority of the shots, he’s been left out a bit offensively, but he can do some big things when things line up right for him. Against the Wolves five games ago, he had 20 points and 10 assists.

The Rest

The Hawks of the past few years are kind of what the Bucks have been shooting for ever since the Hawks eliminated them from the playoffs two seasons ago. They are consistently relevant, but not very dangerous. We know they’ll be in the playoffs and we know they won’t win a title. But they get that sweet playoff revenue and occasionally they win a series and stay in the minds of NBA fans into late May.

This is essentially what the Bucks want this year’s team to be.

Game tips at 7 PM tonight at the Bradley Center. It appears nature will finally cooperate and deliver us roads that won’t be insufferable to drive on. So there’s that.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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