|Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 21 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +2
He did a lot of Ersan things: drawing charges, missing shots from point-blank range, hustling on defense, getting blocked by Randy Foye, grabbing a lot of rebounds. If he shoots better, it’s a valuable performance, but he didn’t.
|Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 44 MIN | 10-21 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 25 PTS | +5
Middleton is a profession shot maker. Give him space and he’ll do his thing. He was busy on defense, too, making the right rotations and getting his long arms on a few balls. He gets bonus points for playing 44 minutes at high altitude and never showing signs of slowing down. Other than getting bowled over when he stepped in front of a fast-breaking Kenneth Faried, I don’t recall him getting shortchanged on any calls. Seems hard to take 21 shots without getting to the free throw line at least once.
|Larry Sanders, C Shot Chart 34 MIN | 12-19 FG | 1-5 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 25 PTS | +3
Best player on the floor for either team, although Wilson Chandler finished in a strong way for Denver. After a season-long bout with yips and ball-stopping on offense, Sanders decisively took well-chosen shots, crashed the offensive glass and moved the ball when it wasn’t time to shoot. His touch inside was uncanny.
It didn’t happen in any appreciable way in this game, but if he maintains this knack for scoring, he’ll gain even more confidence to defend well at the other end. After two no-calls on first quarter misses, he did something unnoticeable to earn a technical foul, but regrouped (while staying out of foul trouble) to notch a career-high in points. He just needs to make his free throws.
|Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 4-17 FG | 6-8 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -17
Lots of hustle, didn’t make many mistakes, didn’t make enough shots. Guarding Ty Lawson is no small task and he did a reasonable job of it. He’s the only one of the Bucks starters who can routinely get to the free throw line. He looked a little winded in the second half.
|Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -6
Wolters got a lot of good looks near the rim and missed all of them, though one looked like a sure Anthony Randolph goaltend. Larry Sanders looks like a better player when Wolters is putting him in the right spots with passes. On defense, he contested jump shots well and got a piece of one Randy Foye’s.
|John Henson, C Shot Chart 17 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -18
The rare air of Denver probably isn’t the best spot to try to get back into optimal playing rhythm after a few games missed to injury. His low-post shots and putbacks weren’t falling and he took the most indecisive 18-footer you’ll ever see. He was a step slow rotating all game long, and his defensive miscues were ending in J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried dunks (see below).
|Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 22 MIN | 2-6 FG | 11-12 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -10
He was on the court for a lot of the Bucks’ defensive implosions this game. In one condensed stretch he had: a bad pass, a forced post move miss, some sloppy help defense, and a dumb offensive foul that took a Knight layup off the board. On the other hand, he makes the Bucks a better rebounding team when he’s out there, he passes the ball to the right spot 9 times out of ten, and he creates AND makes free throws.
|Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -8
The Nuggets’ barrage of three-pointers began when he was in the game. He tried to drive between three Nuggets and turned the ball over. On the other end, he went under a screen and Foye hit a wide-open three. He left in the first half with a back issue and did not return.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 1-4 FG | 3-6 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | -1
He turned the ball over four times and only scoring five points. But the good news is that when he attacks the rim and doesn’t turn the ball over, he gets fouled. Almost always. He also hit a confident 18-footer in the final minutes when the game was close.
On the other end, he got lost on a couple of possessions per half, but he often forces opponents to move the ball away from his man. As soon as he stops falling for pump fakes — which he did plenty in this game — he’ll be a beast of a defender.
Five Things We Saw
- Tabulating the numbers above, Knight, Ilyasova, and Wolters hit a combined 10-of-40 shots. To make matters worse, the trio of starters made just 1-of-15 shots inside of 6 feet. That’s soft finishing at its finest.
- Wilson Chandler played phenomenally at the end. When the Bucks pulled within three points with 2:13 left, Chandler followed with three clutch baskets: two strong moves to the rim and one lucky bounce jump shot that hit the top of the glass before falling through.
- John Henson wore purple shoes.
- John Henson didn’t have a good game and this is a reasonable one-play summary.
- When the notion of tanking the 2013-14 season was first breached, this is what I had in mind: a well-contested, perfectly respectable loss. The Bucks played much better here than anything they threw up in late January.