Keep calm and tank on: Pacers 104 — Bucks 77

Milwaukee Bucks 77 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Indiana Pacers
Ekpe Udoh, PF 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -5

After starting at center against the Magic, Udoh stayed in the lineup by sliding over to power forward. But he quickly picked up two fouls in the first quarter and managed to play just 15 minutes due to foul trouble. It was a night to forget for Udoh, who accumulated more fouls (five) than points and rebounds combined.

Khris Middleton, PF 31 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -3

Paul George was just too much for the Bucks, as the star forward was able to rise up over any Milwaukee defender and hit clean midrange looks. George scored on eight of his 10 shots from within the arc, many of which came against Middleton. For the first time this season, Middleton’s spot-up jumpers weren’t falling, but he did convert on a couple of nifty drives to the hoop.

Zaza Pachulia, C 25 MIN | 2-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +1

Pachulia, who is still nursing a right foot injury, was in no shape to duel against Roy Hibbert on either end of the court. Indiana’s center altered or blocked nearly every shot Pachulia attempted at the rim, and it showed in the box score. Hibbert finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. As always, Pachulia vacuumed up offensive rebounds — nine in total — but several were on his own missed putback attempts.

Nate Wolters, PG 34 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -1

It was another solid, if unspectacular, game for Wolters. He again struggled with his jump shot — missing both of his open three-point looks. However, Wolters continues to show that he is both in control of the Bucks offense and under control with the ball. His two turnovers tied a season high dating back to opening night, which is rather remarkable. On defense, Wolters effectively shadowed opposing point guard George Hill and even snuck in from the backside to swat away two shots. The defensive drop off from Wolters to Luke Ridnour was quite apparent.

O.J. Mayo, SG 30 MIN | 7-17 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | -11

Caron Butler is out for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury, so Mayo has to carry an even bigger offensive load. He and Neal are now the only healthy “creators” on offense — both for their teammates and themselves, but more often the latter. The results haven’t been too promising, with Mayo and Neal opting for a lot of low-efficiency isolation shots. Ball movement, which was head coach Larry Drew’s M.O. in Atlanta, too often dies in the hands of Milwaukee’s shooting guards. Mayo did, however, continue his hot streak from beyond the arc, where he’s hitting 55.9 percent of his attempts this season.

John Henson, PF 29 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -21

Henson was solid in early relief of Udoh. He blocked three shots and altered a handful of others at the rim. Henson wasn’t an ideal matchup against a stronger David West, but he held his own defensively and on the boards.

It remains incredible to watch the lengths to which Henson will go to get off a shot with his left hand rather than his right hand.

Miroslav Raduljica, C 18 MIN | 0-2 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -18

Raduljica was surprisingly competent. His lack of quickness will always hinder him on defensive rotations, recovery and weakside help, but he largely stood his ground against Hibbert. His most important asset is that he isn’t afraid to throw his body around. He made a really savvy play late in the fourth quarter when he sealed off his man early to allow Ridnour to sneak in for an uncontested layup. He also boxed out regularly and was in excellent position to grab rebounds. There was one ugly sequence in which Raduljica overplayed Hibbert for a steal, missed badly, couldn’t recover and committed a silly foul for an and-one. Nonetheless, it was nice to see some quality spot minutes from the 25-year-old rookie.

Luke Ridnour, PG 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -30

Ridnour made his season debut Friday night after battling back issues. He didn’t really stand out in any way. His matador defense hasn’t improved any since his first go-around in Milwaukee, and neither Scott Skiles’ defensive scheme nor a shot-blocking center is here to camouflage it.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 12 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -18

Antetokounmpo didn’t get much run, but he did experience some trial by fire when he found himself defending George one-on-one. As a whole, he acquitted himself quite well. His three-pointer brought him up to 50 percent from beyond the arc this season (4-8). It still seems like he’s just relegated to hovering around the arc, waiting for others to drive and kick him the ball. Perhaps his coaches and teammates will trust him in a larger playmaking role as the season wears on.

Gary Neal, SG 26 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 11 PTS | -29

There are times when Neal starts driving and I think, “There’s no way he can get off a shot here.” But then he does, because he’s Gary Neal. It didn’t work tonight. Like Mayo, he hit his three-pointers, but struggled from everywhere else on the court. He also committed three offensive fouls — overly extending his forearm on each one — in short order during the fourth quarter. It was a dreaded more-shots-than-points night for Neal.

Larry Drew

Drew didn’t have much to work with yet again, as Brandon Knight, Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders were all out with injuries. It’s hard to critique rotations this early in the season, especially since Drew is missing four projected starters. The Bucks kept it quasi-competitive until the fourth quarter, so there’s that.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Excluding a 9-0 run to begin the third quarter — briefly cutting Indiana’s lead to six — the Bucks never got anything going on either side of the ball. Aside from three-point shooting, the 2-6 Bucks were simply outplayed at every facet of the game, which could become a season-long trend.
  2. Indiana reached triple digits for the first time this season. Their season high entering Friday night was 91 points.
  3. Just one Bucks player — Antetokounmpo — shot over 50 percent from the field. The team shot 34.1 percent as a whole and attempted 10 fewer free throws than the Pacers.
  4. It doesn’t get any easier from here. The Bucks head home to face an Oklahoma City Thunder team coming of rare back-to-back losses.
  5. If it’s your thing, the Bucks are currently tied for second in the tanking standings.

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  1. It seems like this was a good game (and also tonight) to play Giannis more minutes. I’m interested to get takes on this from other fans.
    Also, does it seem as though Khris generally gets graded too low on these recaps? And does it seem like John should generally get more minutes, in the 30-36 range?

    • Agree with you on the Giannis comment. Seeing a Wolters, Giannis, Middleton, Henson (Ersan when healthy), ZaZa (Sanders when healthy) lineup would appease me very much.

  2. Somewhere, someplace Scott Skiles is smiling broadly.

    Also, Ersan is on week 6 of a sprained ankle. I’ve had bad sprained ankles myself – 2-3 weeks solves most of them no matter how bad. Brace yourself for a report of some sort of torn ligaments isssue and a possible season ending IR status.

  3. You seem to not care for Middleton and it shows. First you don’t include him in your grades in the first couple of games despite him starting the first in NYC and playing major minutes in the others. And now u have the nerve to Insinuate that George basically destroyed Middleton. When in fact most of his buckets came when he was guarded by the Greek, Mayo and Wolters. George might hav had 3 buckets on Middleton. George finished the 1st half with 5 pts and 2 offensive fouls that Middleton drew on him. Giannis made Stephenson look like an all-star for 4 min and wasn’t effective in the least on George. He’s young and needs time. Middleton also did not back down from George when things got heated. Props to him. How bout you be more fair and objective or just be honest and say u don’t care for him.

    • This was my first recap of the season. As for Middleton, I thought he played fairly average — hence his “C.” I wouldn’t read too much into the grades; they are arbitrary. He did guard George better than the other players you mentioned, but it wasn’t shutdown defense by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, Middleton has been a pleasant surprise on both ends of the court. It looks like he is a legitimate rotation player, which is pretty big accomplishment for any second-round pick.

      • A couple of things to remember about Khris is that he is about the same age or younger as Nate, and that Khris didn’t get much in the way of game experience with the Pistons last season — in other words, he and Nate seem to be at about the same place in their careers. I think they’ve both been nice surprises, and show promise for developing into solid players in the NBA, or even better.
        The point is not to be too hard on our “graders” including Preston, but to keep a little perspective that if we’re going to be somewhat lenient with Nate given his newness to the NBA, and accentuate the positive over the inexperienced negative, then perhaps we should extend the same courtesy and encouragement to Khris.

        • Those are all very good points. Is it fair to say there’s a steeper learning curve for point guards, though? My other concern is that Middleton hasn’t shown a consistent ability to create his own shot. (And to be fair, neither has Wolters.) That limits a wing’s ceiling.