With the game on the line the Bucks isolated Stephen Jackson and other collapse thoughts
- The Bucks made one field goal over the last 6:45.
- The Kings grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and scored 10 second chance points in the third quater. Five and four in the fourth.
- 10 Milwaukee turnovers led to 17 Kings points in the second half.
- The Kings shot 14-44 (31.8%) in the first half and made eight of nine free throws. They were 23-47 (48.9%) from the field and 18-22 from the line in the second half.
- The Bucks were 2-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. The Kings were 9-10.
- Sacramento’s three best players, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins took 14 of the team’s 21 shots and nine of the team’s 11 free throws in the fourth quarter.
This is what happened in the second half Thursday night.
It’s tough to explain how two halves of basketball between the same two teams could look any different, but whatever switch Sacramento flipped at halftime changed the dynamic of the game. Suddenly, Evans, Thornton and Cousins, three of the four most talented players these teams had, played like it. Evans was impossible to keep out of the paint, Thornton made every shot he missed in the first half and Cousins turned from Winnie the Pooh to that bear that ended the movie Grizzly Man.
And the Bucks could do little but hope for Brandon Jennings to bail them out. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t do it.
Jennings scored 10 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and seemed to be the only Buck with much energy on either end late. When Evans rebounded Stephen Jackson’s missed jumper with the Bucks trailing by one, four seconds remained. That was either lost on every Milwaukee player on the court other than Jennings, or just not important to them. Not a single Buck made a move towards Evans before Jennings sprinted across the court to foul him to give Milwaukee one more chance.
Maybe the team was too stunned. They had blown a 21-point lead and they just watched Stephen Jackson clear out for a final shot. Yes, with the team down one, they isolated Jackson and watched him go to work. I’ll refrain from bringing up Jackson’s shooting numbers and isolation numbers from this season. Even if it is a better indication of his current level of performance, the sample size isn’t big enough yet for us to be sure of that.
But last season was probably a good indication. Jackson shot just 38.6% in isolation situations last season.
It’s not just Jackson’s numbers that indicate maybe Milwaukee shouldn’t be clearing out for him or anyone else on their team in big moments. Scott Skiles specifically pointed out earlier this season how important teamwork was to the Bucks, a team that doesn’t have a Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant. So how do the Bucks handle the situation where it’s really nice to have a superstar?
By isolating the very mediocre (in isolation situations) Jackson with a game that they really couldn’t afford to lose on the line. I guess if you don’t have a superstar, just pretend.
It’s even stranger when you look back at Skiles history with the Bucks. Remember this play last season that sent Milwaukee into overtime against the Celtics? Or this tip-in that defeated the Pacers? Skiles is by no means untalented at putting together a play that creates movement and gets the Bucks a good look. Maybe it’s the effect of the lockout. Maybe Milwaukee hasn’t been able to put in the time they typically do practicing a final play drawn up for these situations. Or maybe Milwaukee expected the Kings to use the final foul they had to give and the Bucks were waiting on that.
It’s impossible to know for sure. But it’s certainly strange that the Bucks, a team whose own coach admitted they lack a superstar, gave Jackson the superstar treatment with the game on the line.
I suppose it’s an appropriately sad and strange ending to a sad and strange game.