The boring demands of being a good defensive team

It takes a team to commit every possession for a team to defend well. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Bucks have largely been a pretty good defensive team this season. And good defense is a practice in patience and boredom, more or less. That’s probably what makes it so elusive. Being in the right places, rotating crisply and pushing ball handlers to places where they have fewer options – not many people get all that excited about any of those things.

Before yesterday’s game, I talked with someone about how to get more people to basketball games. Bucks games specifically. Obviously, I’m a curious choice for that conversation, but I participated and gave my very best ideas. I asked about the loud music, the constant distractions and the never ending parade of entertainers that rush the court during every stoppage of play.

“Were those things people like to see?” I wondered.

I was told yes, those are things people want to see. It livens up the game, makes it fun. The overwhelming majority of people at basketball games really like all of the things that help distract them from watching players work hard to get themselves in the right place as often as they can on defense.

The only conclusion I can reach: Defense is what people want to be distracted from. No one is paying attention to your rotation or your footwork on the ball. So of course it’s hard to find the discipline and motivation play it well over and over. That’s not a Bucks specific problem, that’s a basketball team problem known worldwide.

But the Bucks know if they’re going to make any noise this season, they have to find consistency, not just from game to game, but from possession to possession on the defensive end.

“During the part of the game where they cut it to five, on one possession, we took five shortcuts,” Scott Skiles said after Milwaukee’s 108-93 victory over the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night. “So as long as we don’t, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Avoiding Shortcuts and Maintaining Consistency Throughout Your Workday. It sounds like a self help book for middle managers across the country. That’s essentially what the Bucks are looking to do, what every team is looking to do.  The way you or I might struggle to resist watching Dwyane Wade kick Ramon Sessions in the groin on Youtube, players from the Bucks and NBA players all over struggle to suppress the urge to gamble in a passing lane or over help to block a shot.

“You start itchin’, you start itchin’,” Ekpe Udoh said after the game about maintaining consistency. “You just gotta stay solid. It’s gonna come. We still have room for improvement. We still have those moments where we have little lapses. We gotta keep getting better. It’s an ongoing process through the whole season.”

Fortunately for the Bucks, guys like Udoh and Larry Sanders have been able to cover a lot of errors this season with their shot-blocking. Don’t get me wrong, in general, this has been a pretty solid defensive team. But the fewer errors those guys have to cover, the better this team will get on defense.

“We  have pretty good rim protection of course on just  normal breakdowns or where we get beat,” Skiles said. “We just have to make sure that whether we get a lead or we’re behind, we’re playing the same way.”

Once they get there, Milwaukee will be quite a pain defensively.

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  1. I’ve also wondered how to get more fans to the homes games and being a 23 year old season ticket holder the choice i came up with is – $1, $2, or just any kinda cheap beer night for certain week day games. Any sort of collaboration between Miller and BMO would be huge – in my opinion.

    • Beer and rides to games seem to be the two things that would help. Finding parking without paying is a hassle and then requires quite a walk through the cold.

  2. Yeah, it would be great to have a shuttle to Bucks games from the east side, say North Ave (Replay) or Brady St (Nomad). Drink specials for weekday games or ticket specials that include beers are two good ways to get more fans to come down.

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  4. I agree that good Defense isn’t always super exciting to watch, but I think allowing easy buckets can keep people from watching almost as match as bad Offense.