It seems like conventional wisdom would be that you can learn a lot about a group when there’s some tension introduced to their norm.
If that’s the case, we learned some things about the Milwaukee Bucks.
A. They probably aren’t the most unified group in the world.
B. Their coach knows when someone is being foolish and isn’t really interested in supporting or defending the foolish.
What happened that irked Larry Sanders so much last night or that irked him a few weeks ago and has turned him into a raging technical foul machine we don’t know. But he’s kind of lost his mind lately. He has seven technical fouls this season, five of them coming in the past five games. He’s been ejected twice over that stretch.
Last night, he kind of went a little wild, immediately after his picked up his sixth foul in 18 minutes mind you, and he didn’t seem to have a whole lot of support.
Watch Brandon Jennings stand idly by. Sanders engages George Hill a few feet from him and he lets four Pacers rush in before he makes a move near the back of the pack. This is not his battle.
Watch Scott Skiles take in the whole situation from a couple feet away without moving. Skiles is a tough dude. He’s not the type that talks without action. Ask Shaq. So he wasn’t impressed with the jawing, especially while his club trailed by double digits.
Meanwhile Pacers coach Frank Vogel was in the middle of the mini-fracas pulling guys apart, making sure his guys didn’t do anything foolish. They’ve got playoff games coming up. They have a lot to play for, a lot of season left.
After last night, the Bucks cannot say the same.
Milwaukee was again outclassed by the same superior opponent that had done so twice in the past month. Jim and John in the broadcast booth at one point mentioned that the Pacers were handling the Bucks like surgeons picking away in an operation. I thought that was a great analogy.
They operated slowly, but efficiently all night. Strong start, cruise control, keep a lead and then put the game away. That was probably the Pacers plan and they executed on it to perfection. Indiana’s starters put a hurting on the Bucks. All of them had +/- differentials higher than +14. The start of the first quarter and start of the third were dominated by Indiana. When Milwaukee’s starters paired with Indiana’s to start the first, Indiana was +8. When they were both back out there to start the third, the Pacers were +6. That’s +14 and that’s tough to overcome.
It’s a talent thing. But the Pacers best players are better than the Bucks best players, so that makes sense.
Without much question, Danny Granger is the best player either team has and he played like it all night. David West is the strongest big man scorer either team has and he played like it (21 points on 9-14 shooting) and Hill sparked the Pacers for the second time in three games against the Bucks with 22 points on just 8-12 shooting.
The Jennings/Ellis duo tossed up 37 shots to score 39 points. Mike Dunleavy had another strong night off the bench, with 23 points on 6-12 shooting. But Granger, West and Hill overwhelmed Milwaukee.
And when things got a little testy out there, the Pacers surrounded their leader, West, and stood by his side. Meanwhile, the Bucks wandered around, watched and eventually pulled out their foul prone, testy big man. Surely you remember the leadership issues the Bucks had last season and how Stephen Jackson was part of the solution to that problem. Jackson’s gone and in that moment, it certainly didn’t look like anyone replaced him.
So that’s probably it. Milwaukee could have survived the likely loss to the Pacers had they not lost to the Wizards on Wednesday, but that slip combined with this loss leaves the Bucks three games back with four to play.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. He’d love it if you stopped by every time you wanted to buy something on Amazon and gave him some click-through love on the banner up on the top right. Also –Twitter.