Alone in a quiet basement: Magic 113 — Bucks 102

Phenoms, old and new. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phenoms, old and new. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Milwaukee Bucks 102 Recap | Box Score 113 Orlando Magic
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 20 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -7

Ersan’s primary skill is scoring, and his secondary skill is ____? Is it rebounding? Drawing charges? Setting picks? All those other skills have diminished from last year. When he’s not making his shots, the returns are minimal.

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -7

It’s hard to beat any team by shooting a bunch of 22-footers just inside the three-point line and sprinkling in a few turnovers for good measure. He was in the starting lineup instead of Giannis to guard Arron Afflalo, and Afflalo lit him up for 14 first-quarter points.

Larry Sanders, C Shot Chart 33 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -3

To his credit, he’s not forcing up a bunch of shots at the end of poorly-formed basketball forays, but he’s also not making enough of the easy plays that are there for the taking. He needs to catch the ball in traffic better. He protected the rim well, but last season he took a much more aggressive approach to getting back on defense in transition.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 26 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -11

Meh. He wasn’t spectacular, but he deserved to go to the free throw line more than twice. It’s hard to earn the respect of referees when your team goes 1-14 for the month of January.

Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 41 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-3 FT | 7 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -13

One of the bleak positives was Wolters getting the nod over Ridnour and getting within a Giannis arm’s reach of a triple double. He put some passes in nice spots that probably no other Buck guard would, but at times looked like a rookie in awe of the speed of the game. His field goals came on layups and floaters; Nate went 0-for-4 on jump shots and the Magic defended him accordingly.

Caron Butler, SF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 7-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -4

He attempted six “above the break” three-pointers in the fourth quarter and made four — including a four-point play when he got fouled on one of them. His shot was falling, but it started falling when the game was essentially over, and Butler was yielding nearly as many points to Tobias Harris at the same time.

Miroslav Raduljica, C Shot Chart 12 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -6

All night long it seemed like whenever Sanders or Raduljica would block a shot, the Magic would look around, find the ball, and put it back in. The only time it didn’t was when Miroslav did one of those no-jump block/steal-ball rip maneuvers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 4-7 FG | 5-9 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -5

He made consecutive three-pointers late in the third quarter, so that was a nice touch. Just when I was going to note that he didn’t seem to be using his athleticism above either rim, he ripped off a ferocious baseline reverse windmill dunk.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 5-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | +1

Neal got off the bench for the first time in a while and played like a competent offensive weapon — moving the ball and getting his points in the flow of the offense. The rust showed on the other end. He doesn’t move well and watching Orlando attack a pick-and-roll defended by Butler and Neal is not fun.

Ekpe Udoh, PF Shot Chart DNP SPRAINED ANKLE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Did not travel with the team – sprained left ankle.

John Henson, C Shot Chart DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Did not play because of a sprained wrist that may keep him out of tomorrow’s Memphis game.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Did not play — coach’s decision of foresight

O.J. Mayo, SG Shot Chart DNP ILLNESS MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Did not travel with the team — illness.

Tobias Harris, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 7-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +3

How did he sneak in here. Go away, Tobias Harris. GO AWAY.

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  2. One good reason for remembering Tobias is that the staff at Bucksketball has never seemed to really recognize him in the first place, and now is repeating the mistake by dismissing Khris Middleton.
    Tonight on NBA TV, Michael Redd, as a guest analyst, spontaneously mentioned Khris first as one of the bright spots on the Bucks. I see it that way, too. I’m not so sure that any of the writers at Bucksketball have much of anything to say in support of Khris, and doubt that there is nearly the same benefit of the doubt and room for error as is given to our other young guys.
    It’s easy to overlook, or disregard, the unselfish guys like Tobias and Khris, the team players, the ones who quietly persevere amidst a free-for-all of ineptitude and apathy, of common commotion and self-promotion. If the staff at Bucksketball wants to go with two apprentices at point guard, then don’t blame guys like Khris for the ugliness of our offense. If you’re going to give much higher grades to hoggish hyper-shooters and indifferent defenders like Caron and Gary (or do I exaggerate?), then don’t act surprised by the disastrous breakdown of order on our team.
    If we’re not going to appreciate, and even praise, the good guys like Tobias and Khris — whose talents tend to get lost in the shuffle — then the Bucks will continue to flail away in dysfunction and futility no matter how high our draft picks.

    • We blew it! Ran him right out of town! And we’re at it again with Khris Middleton! Fate of the franchise is at stake! During Middleton’s Hall of Fame speech in 2034, he’ll look back on the staff at Bucksketball chasing him out of Milwaukee with torches and pitchforks as the turning point that set his career on the path that landed him bronzed.

      I missed the mark on Tobias. He’s performed very well since he’s left Milwaukee and maybe they should have moved him to the four quicker and disposed of some of the other front court options. But I did lament the overall direction of the franchise all season last year, while accepting that I don’t work in the front office so I couldn’t actually change anything.

      I really should go through every recap and average our grades for Khris vs. Gary and Caron. My feeling is that Middleton is at least a letter grade higher. Can’t remember the last time we weren’t being positive about what he is: A good shooter.

      Maybe he could become more, but the last thing the franchise should be worried about is role players. Middleton is not going to be a central player on a very good team. He’s shown very little aside from the ability to make jumpers. I know you blame everything on the point guards being bad and Nate Wolters not being as good as 25-year-old, career 36.5% shooter Ish Smith, so maybe on a different team he would get better looks or more touches, but I’m not sure how that would turn him into a better creator or slasher. If he were something more, shouldn’t he be taking it upon himself to do more creating or take on a bigger role within this offense to alleviate the responsibilities of point guards who aren’t very good? He was never regarded as a very creative player, more so a player who was good at creating some mid-range looks and making open shots.

      What are you seeing Middleton do that we’re not appreciating? I want to know where we’re missing the mark here. How could we be praising him more? I don’t think anyone here has said the Bucks should be getting rid or him or treating his presence lightly. We all seem to be operating under the belief that he’s a fine player. Personally, I don’t worry as much about what’s happening with role players on a 12 win team.

      There are so many bigger problems that need to be addressed, like your point guard one, which I totally agree has become a huge problem. But other than acquiring D-Leaguers, which I understand could help because solid players like Marshall can be unearthed on occasion, what’s the current solution? We’re not suggesting they lock Wolters and Knight into 15-year deals, solidifying them as the only options the team will have forever. Most of us just are operating in the reality of the situation right now, which has them as the point guard options on the roster until a space is freed up, potentially by a 2-for-1 trade within the next month.

      And I know that’s uncreative and that without us looking outside of the box, the franchise will never learn that they too can try different things, thereby damning the organization to another 20 years of failure, but maybe that’s what they deserve if all of the cues they take on operating a professional sports team come from a collection of local bloggers.

      Overall, my feeling is that focus should be on acquiring a potential star in this year’s draft, then spending the offseason solidifying the very, very shaky point guard position that’s contributed to so many problems this season, whether through the draft, trade or free agency, and then worry about how role players fit in around those guys.

      • I have to disagree with your assessment of Middleton. He is definitely more than just a jump shooter. He does play tough D, he may not have played that greatly defensively yesterday, however overall he has done well. You have made the statement in the past that he has slow feet and I just don’t see it. He also a team player, is coachable, and I’ve seen some excellent passes from him. He is not arrogant, isn’t into himself, and when is the last time you heard him complain about anything? I would have to assume he isn’t a cancer in the locker room like some players may be. I agree with you that he is not a Lebron, Carmello, or Durant where he could absolutely take over in a game. However, I believe he is one of the pieces to build this franchise around. I’d like to see him as the starting two guard, with Giannis at the three.

        • Way too slow to be a starting two in the NBA. I’ve watched almost every one of his defensive possessions. He would be a problem defensively as a starting two. I don’t think Giannis is a very good option as a starting two either. Just too difficult to defend that position for those guys, especially when teams go with two quick guards.

  3. Fair enough: satire for satire, sarcasm for sarcasm. I hope we can maintain an underlying spirt of respect and kindness along the way.
    The whole point of remembering the Tobias fiasco is that you never got behind him with anywhere near the giddy enthusiasm that you showered on J.J. Redick, who actually is still truly average, or perhaps slightly above, after all these years. You were part of the problem that damned Tobias with faint praise, and now it is Khris who is being lost in your subtle dismissiveness.
    What you’re doing in downplaying and downgrading Khris is prematurely relegating him to a minor role in the NBA while he is still in the same developing stage of his career as a Brandon or John or Larry or Nate. You made basically the same mistake by taking lightly Tobias, who was only 20 years old last year when he went for 30 points and 19 boards against the Bucks, not much older than Giannis. Just a week or so ago Tobias went for 28 and 20, one of about a half-dozen double-doubles for him this season, coming off a severe ankle injury.
    Tobias may not qualify in your evaluation as the superstar we may or may not get in the draft next year (ask Cavs fans how that lottery thing is going), but I’d take him back in a heartbeat. After disregarding Tobias, I’d hope you’d be more careful about diminishing Khris. As you said earlier this season when Khris scored 29, you have a tendency to dig in with your opinions. Quite possibly so do I, but let’s try not to be too stubborn.
    I do think this kind of rough-and-tumble debate, if kept within a certain civility and presented with a sincere good will, can take a very good blog like Bucksketball and make it even better. And yes, I also think that a front office is wise to listen to the fans, not as the basis for running a franchise, but as a valuable resource of insights from those who pay attention with an amazing loyalty and devotion. Please pardon me if I am not in awe of the experts, especially when their broken record of abysmal failure is taking a turn from the endlessly annoying to the utterly ridiculous.

  4. Tobias and Khris aren’t players that are going to move the needle, any the continued focus on the trade/starting role is tiresome. Getting rid of Tobias is like Chipotle getting rid of pinto beans, and adding Kris is like Chipotle adding fried rice. Okay cool, but none of those moves move the needle like adding Queso would. The Bucks need a star to build their team around, and right now, they’re lacking a consistent player that they can depend on each night. They’re lacking their Queso.

    And I feel that Bucks fans treat the Tobias trade like it was selecting Tony Mandarich over Barry Sanders or something.

  5. How does Luke Ridnour play 40 minutes a night then play zero? How does Nate Wolters get several DNP coaches decisions then play 41 minutes? Is Larry Drew THAT clueless about his rotations?

    There is no doubt in my mind Drew is under orders to lose basketball games. His rotations are designed to beat down players confidence.

    Obviously, team looking to trade Ersan if he would ever cooperate and play competently. Neal and Butler too.

    Me? I would package Ersan and Knight and a #2 pick for a mid upper level first round pick .

    Down 23 to a 12 win Orlando team? Can this season get any more futile?

  6. Lots of of open positions in NBA at end of regular season Jeremy.With such a perpetually deep insight into “current state”of professional basketball, I think you can pick any position you want. Hey….why not just stick here and join Bucks franchise as head of scouting,or a #s guy,maybe just give Hammond all that knowledge you are HOARDING. YIKES!!

    Love to talk BUCKS, love different perspectives,opinions and rants. Too often though, this particular sight is soooooooo negative , and I personally get enough negativity just WATCHING THE BUCKS GAME(S). My plea for more positive comments, less crapola’

    Sfisch, I also recognize Tue value Middleton has-and hope to see more development of his all around game. Essentially Middleton is in his rookie season,he spent very little time on court in Detroit. GO Middleton!! GO BUCKS GO

    • The team is 8-39. They just got destroyed by the 2nd worst team in the league. They made horrible offseason acquisitions and none of them have panned out (aside kind of/barely from Knight/Middleton). We have had injuries. The so called “star” of the team can’t even take care of his dogs and is a terrible dancer on slippery surfaces. Larry Drew is out of his mind (and all the previous notes are partially responsible). The Bucks floor didn’t work in pre-season. The BC is old and gross. There are looming questions whether there will be NBA basketball in Milwaukee in the future. It is really, really cold out. How is this site not suppose to be negative? They can’t publish stories of a Greek named Giannis everyday. If you are looking for positivity, you probably shouldn’t be following THE Milwaukee Bucks.

  7. The BS sob story about Tobias needs to end. While I don’t condone the ‘win-now’ strategy, JJ Redick is more than a fair return on Tobias, the bucks just botched the resigning Redick part because well they are the Bucks.

    I love Giannis, I like Middleton knight sanders Henson Wolters rad and even Ilyasova. But this organization is going to have to go through some serious purge and upheaval to be worthwhile. A number 1 pick alone will not be enough to change our fortune.

    Larry Drew cannot be the head coach next year. Start it over, and get the right coach. Pay lots of money to get the right coach, do whatever is necessary, but get the right guy.

    • Hey, Sillybilly, I’m trying not to get carried away with Tobias, but maybe I do. I was set off by the cries of, Go Away Tobias; combined with the grade of “D” for Khris compared to much higher marks for our resident gunners in Caron and Gary (please, sincerely, correct me if I’m being unfair to them).

      It would be great to get a superstar or two in the draft or by other means, but to wait around for a guy who may or may not come, who may or may not live up to his promise, or may shoot the ball 30 times a game, or get hurt, or into personal trouble, or demand to be traded…. I just want to make sure we don’t overlook the guys we already have who might be real winners, if not starting all-stars.

      Look at Memphis coming in tonight — small market, no headliners — and yet, to put it perhaps mildly, a worthwhile team with recent success. The Grizzlies at least seem to make the most of their possiblities, providing a measure of hope, a positive vibe, an upbeat presence.

  8. I agree rowe499, to me it looks like they are trying to lose by constantly changing rotations and time. This will make sure guys are always out of sorts when they are on the floor. Constantly putting a product out on the floor that has no kind of flow or cohesion. If that is the goal, it’s working. I think that Larry Drew is just not a good coach, sure he won some in Atlanta where I believe the talent he had overcame his ability to coach. Either way they aren’t even competing anymore at least earlier in the season they were playing with teams now they are getting stomped. JV in a varsity league.

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  10. I agree with the rotation issue to a point. I saw some of the same from Skiles and his underdog the last couple years. You just cannot form a cohesive unit without playing time together…then again what exactly do the bucks have this year? I have watched every game and still cannot figure out who or what they are as a team. I don’t think Mayo’s criticism is unfounded about identity.
    I was also sad to see Harris go, he had good talent that could have helped us in the future–I emphasize could. I hate to watch Larry struggle although his play of late has been decent. Sanders is such a fun player to watch when he is full of energy and can really be a defensive force to help pick up the slack from everyone elses defensive gaffes. While I wait to see what kind of mess they will make of the off season(AKA Hammond really has no clue what he is doing), I wait quietly and patiently as I watch the bucks lose again and again and again.