Trouble reeling in rebounds: Grizzlies 97 – Bucks 94

Monta Ellis looks to pass through a number of Grizzly defenders. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Preseason isn’t so much about the wins and losses as much as it’s about the route to those wins or losses. The Milwaukee Bucks could have won Thursday night in La Crosse against the Memphis Grizzlies. Beno Udrih could have hit a three at the end of regulation to tie the game and the Bucks could have pulled out a victory in overtime. Or the Bucks could have played Ersan Ilyasova (coming off the bench while Scott Skiles toyed with a Samuel Dalembert/Larry Sanders front court duo) another five minutes or so at the expense of Sanders and perhaps overcome their final three point deficit.

But none of that really matters. What matters is how the Bucks played for 48 minutes, not the final outcome or any hypothetical lineup shuffling.

The game wasn’t televised anywhere, so watching was not an option for those outside of the La Crosse city limits, but Scott Skiles colored in some of the details post game for the many of us that didn’t have a visual on this one. Per Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

 “We had a lot of trouble just controlling their penetration,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.

“We started the first two games playing really solid defense,” Skiles said. “It’s only two games and it’s only exhibition but we were No. 1 in the league in field goal percentage defense going into the Bulls game. Now the last two, other teams have shot the ball well against us. We have to decide if we want that to be an identity of our team and commit to it and get it done or not.”

Both Nate Robinson on Tuesday and Mike Conley last night gave the Bucks loads of trouble, much like many point guards last season did. It’s a lot to ask of Brandon Jennings or Udrih to be able to stay in front of every point guard on opposing teams on a nightly basis. I can’t say if Jennings has gotten noticeably worse at stopping penetration, but defense for this Bucks team is going to take a complete team effort. They don’t have enough stoppers to just expect to be good defensively every night.

Point guards are super fast, typically pretty strong and more often than not the quickest players on the court. When the Bucks were at their best defensively two years ago, it wasn’t so much that they never allowed any penetration, it was that they rotated and covered penetration really well. That’s the kind of team the Bucks need to be again to be really good defensively. Just adding shot-blockers doesn’t cover up all the woes they had last season.

Speaking of shot-blockers …

  • Ekpe Udoh returned from injury and blocked three shots in 21 minutes. That’s terrific. But he’s so brutal as a rebounder that it almost undoes all of the goodwill he generates with his other defensive abilities. Just three rebounds in those 21 minutes. That’s a recurring Udoh problem.
  • Likewise, Samuel Dalembert was brutal on the glass. Milwaukee’s starting center nabbed only three rebounds in 20 minutes himself.
  • As you can probably guess by now, the Bucks ended up with a significant deficit on the glass Thursday night. Memphis out-rebounded Milwaukee 49-37 despite playing without Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Yikes.
  • With their starting front court out the Grizzlies relied heavily upon Rudy Gay and Mike Conley. Memphis’ duo combined to make 21-21 free throws and score 40 points on 25 shot attempts. Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis had 38 points between the two of them on 28 attempts from the field. Ellis broke out of a scoring slump, notching 20 points on 9-19 shooting. He made 1-2 free throws.


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