Who doesn’t like a story?
The thing about stories is that they have logic. They start somewhere, something happens and then it’s resolved one way or the other. It’s a wonderful thing, progression.
Maybe that’s what drives me so crazy about this Bucks team.
In 2009-10, the Bucks started the season beating bad teams at home and sticking with good teams at home. Then they started beating a few bad teams on the road. Then the good teams at home. And then, finally, the good teams on the road. You could see the progression, not just in their wins, but in their play too.
But the Bucks lost that logical progression over the past two seasons. Wins that people would generally like to classify as big have often been followed by let downs. A win at home over Miami earlier this season looked like it would be a jumping off point for some great things. Two nights later, the team lost in Detroit. Then turmoil surrounded the team’s handling of Stephen Jackson, Brandon Jennings numbers plummeted back down to Earth as we all tried to figure out why he stopped shooting and/or caring, and the Bucks couldn’t find ways to win.
Then the schedule lightened up and Milwaukee looked like world beaters again. So we know they’re better than bad, but we still don’t know just where the ceiling is. Obviously this team isn’t a title contender, but are they a legitimate playoff team? When things matter the most, are they going to be able to do things right for 48 minutes?
Consistency is what makes a team worth watching.
Wins and losses are everything at this point, but from Scott Skiles that he really wants to see a team that’s doing more than just out-shooting opponents or stacking up wins against the dregs of the league. He doesn’t just want the ugly win we saw against the Bobcats on Friday or the 57% shooting nights where the other team’s defenders are as active as fans watching golf. He wants execution, passion and a commitment to doing all things on both ends.
Against the Knicks Wednesday night in a game with serious potential playoff implications, Milwaukee will have to have the commitment Skiles wants right out of the gate. The Thunder jumped on the Bucks early Monday night with a 33-12 start spurred by physical play and an edge in attitude. Jennings vowed after Monday’s game that we wouldn’t see that happen again when New York came to town.
“It will be a playoff type game,” he said of the Knicks game. “A lot of physical play and we’re going to try to jump on them first things first.”
It’s difficult right now to have the confidence that Jennings words are more than lip service. We just haven’t seen it enough. But the Knicks aren’t the Thunder. They aren’t the Heat or the Bulls. They shouldn’t be much better than average without Amar’e Stoudemire or Jeremy Lin.
Its been a while since we’ve seen the Bucks tussle with an equal. A month ago they clipped the Knicks in a shootout. Two weeks later, a Knicks team with Tyson Chandler back in the lineup topped them in a defensive struggle. Now the Knicks are without Stoudemire and Lin, but plus Chandler. They’re ever rotating. Even with all the turmoil and injuries, the Knicks shouldn’t be lacking in confidence. They’ve topped the Pacers, the Magic and the Bulls within the past month. They’ve shown they can hang with anyone for a whole game.
The Bucks are stil trying to find that out.
“Our issue is not can we play well for several minutes in a game, of course we can,” Skiles said after the Thunder game Monday. “Our issue is are we ready when the ball goes up? Can we play consistently? Are we always getting after it whether the shots go in or not? I don’t know if we can do that. We haven’t shown yet that if everything isn’t clicking for us that we can really dig down and go out and be physical and steal a game from somebody.”
Wednesday could be the opportunity for the Bucks to prove to themselves they can be that sort of team. New York’s defense is sure to come ready. This is Milwaukee’s chance to establish itself as a playoff team not just on paper, but in the minds of the players as well. A win, and they’re in … for the time being. They’ll be in the drivers seat for the first time in a long time. It would be another step forward.
And just maybe, we’ll start to see some of that progression over the next few weeks we haven’t seen much of this season. The story of the 2011-12 Bucks could start to get a little more compelling.
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 he didn’t do grades tonight because he thrives on variety. Also –Twitter.