Refreshingly competitive: Pacers 101– Bucks 96

Despite another valiant effort, the worst came up short to the best. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Despite another valiant effort, the worst came up short to the best. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Milwaukee Bucks 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Indiana Pacers
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 28 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -5

When these two teams met last week, David West tossed Ilyasova around in the post en route to a 30-point effort on just 16 shots. Ilyasova was much more scrappy and active on defense Thursday, which led to some patented jawing from West. In all, West finished with a quiet nine points and four rebounds. However, two of West’s offensive rebounds led to crucial resets late in the fourth quarter. Ilyasova was out of position on both.

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 9-15 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | 0

Paul George got the best of Middleton early, rising up and hitting three jump shots in the opening few minutes. However, George converted only four of his last 12 attempts and finished with 18 points. While Indiana looked to run away with the game in the second quarter, Middleton went on a 7-0 run to bring Milwaukee within five. Knight followed with five straight points of his own right before halftime, which vanished an early 17-point deficit. Knight and Middleton then combined to score Milwaukee’s first seven points in the second half, giving the Bucks a brief six-point lead. It was quite an impressive stretch for the former Detroit duo. While Middleton’s jump shot remains on point, he still struggles to finish at the rim in the halfcourt offense and transition.

Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 26 MIN | 1-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2

It was a rough offensive night for Pachulia, who simply had no answer to Indiana’s length. Defensively, he was able to body Hibbert out of post position with some regularity — but Hibbert, who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, still managed to hit a handful of tough shots over him.

Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +1

Aside from an impressive block on Lance Stephenson and an ugly air ball, it was a quiet night for Wolters. His ankle issues appear to be hampering him a bit.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 10-20 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 23 PTS | -3

Knight essentially took over the offense to end the first half and open the second. Unsurprisingly, Knight’s recent scoring surge coincides with his move to the two guard. His quick, explosive first step allows him to get to the rim at will against opposing shooting guards. The Pistons recognized this last season and traded for Jose Calderon so they could experiment with Knight at the two. Milwaukee didn’t bring in Sessions for that reason alone, but it’s paying off so far.

Jeff Adrien, PF Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | 0

He hustled. That wasn’t enough against West, who posted up against Adrien three consecutive times when the undersized power forward entered the game. West went around Adrien for an easy score on the first attempt. Adrien tried fronting West on the second post up, but West effortlessly scored again when no one rotated over to help on the backside. (West passed out of the third post-up attempt.)

Adrien’s two baskets were pleasant surprises. He scored over Mr. Verticality (Hibbert) with the shot clock expiring and finished a contested dunk on a nice dish from Antetokounmpo.

John Henson, C Shot Chart 22 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | -7

It was a night to forget — and the first scoreless game of the season — for Henson. He was helpless against Hibbert defensively. He missed both of his free throw attempts in spectacular fashion; one *barely* grazed the rim. And he committed three turnovers. Down four with six minutes left, Henson threw a careless inbounds pass that Lance Stephenson picked off. Henson then fouled Stephenson in the act of shooting, and Larry Drew promptly benched him for the rest of the game.

Ramon Sessions, PG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -2

Efficient scoring night for Sessions, despite missing his final four attempts. Aside from Knight, Sessions is really the only Bucks player who can create decent looks for himself off the dribble. Even when he dribbles into trouble in the lane, he shows an impressive knack for firing precise passes to the perimeter or post. It’s easy to see why so many teams have been enamored with his skill set throughout his career — even if he has his limitations (i.e., shooting).

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -4

Not much highlight material from Giannis. He held his own shadowing George on defense, which was an improvement from last week.

O.J. Mayo, SG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 5-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -7

Fourteen points on as many shots for Mayo. He was chucking at will from beyond the arc, regardless of whether there was a hand in his face. It worked in the second quarter, when Mayo hit three consecutive threes in a two-minute span. Other than that, he hit a lot of iron. Daryl Morey would probably appreciate Mayo’s recent shot selection — but not for $8 million per season.

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

He’s the 11th man in a 10-man rotation. Free Miroslav.

Thing We Saw

  1. Competitiveness! Facing a 17-point deficit in the opening minutes of second quarter, the Bucks rode the scoring of Knight and Middleton to tie the game going into halftime. Milwaukee hung around in the second half, and it took some late-game execution and free throws for the league’s best to put away the league’s worst. I’m guessing most Bucks fans will be satisfied with a competitive loss to the Pacers on the road. After all, the tank is safely intact.

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  2. It seemed like both Brandon and Khris were on the bench too long in the first part of the 4th-quarter; I’m all for giving them a rest at that point, but for about 3 minutes instead of 6, and not at the same time.
    I’m not sure why our veterans — both departed and remaining — have seemed to feel the need to shoot so often and even so recklessly, with O.J. being the latest offender. It’s good to have a couple of vets to mix in with the young guys, but not if they’re going to hog the ball.

  3. Maybe Wolters ankles are bad but do we need Sessions and Mayo for the bulk of the 3rd and 4rth quarters? Sessions can’t shoot and Mayo was cold by then.

    Man, did John henson look out of it. By far worst game of the season.

  4. For those keeping track, Brandon Knight shot 50% from the field, with a 5:1 A:TO ratio, 23 points, two rebounds, and a steal. Knight received a B.

    Ramon Sessions went 50% from the floor, with a 5:1 A:TO ratio, 13 points from the field, a steal, and zero rebounds in two fewer minutes. Sessions received a B+.


    As an aside, Knight has played the exact same position all year, despite the OP’s comments. He’s a ball-dominant (high-usage) combo guard who initiates the offense on almost all Buck possessions. He did the same thing with Sessions as he has all season with Ridnour and Wolters. The only difference is that Sessions drives (like Knight) to the hole rather than settle for jumper after contested jumper.

    Knight is playing the same spot as James Harden does in Houston, Kobe Bryant did for a decade in Laker-land, and Durant did sans Westbrook in OKC. (Obviously, at a lower level, though I’d also argue that his supporting cast is far worse.)

    It’s the same offensive position as Monta Ellis tried in Milwaukee last season and is doing successfully in Dallas this year. Right now, it’s the same position as Eric Gordon in New Orleans (because of Holiday’s injury), Gordon Hayward, Victor Oladipo, and Lance Stephenson play. It’s also the same spot as Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic play in Phoenix (when both are healthy).

    The entire league is moving more toward (backward to?) the notion that a guard is a guard is a guard. The only differences are usage and non-usage (or ball-dominant or non ball-dominant). In the last 35 years or so, the small forward and shooting guards have been basically interchangeable. However, since this is the golden age of point guards in the NBA and smaller players have developed far greater skill (speed, ball-handling, long-distance shooting) than have their 6’6″+ brethren have in that time, guards have become much more effective despite shorter statures.

    According to Hollinger, then, Knight ranks 28th among all guards in the league. That includes low-minute guys like Patty Mills and CJ Miles; if you get rid of the subs, he jumps to 24th overall. That’s not only top-quartile, that’s borderline All-Star territory. (Those around or below him in PER include four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo and 2013 All-Star Joe Johnson, not to mention All-Star “snub” Lance Stephenson.)

    Knight is also, fwiw, less than 100 days older than Victor Oladipo and is clearly outplaying the former Hoosier offensively.

    In short, Brandon Knight is a guard that’s doing a very, very good job amongst a team that isn’t. Keep up, Milwaukee. You’re missing out.

  5. I’m very excited about Brandon Knight; I think he might even be an all-star at some time in the future.
    It’ll be interesting to see how the NBA goes with the point position. I’m wondering if teams will start going with more traditional-type point guards to go along with the Kyrie Irvings, John Walls, and Stephan Currys.
    Anyway, I hope the Bucks go that route, with someone like Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Ricky Rubio, or Rajon Rondo at point guard — and Brandon at shooting guard.
    I’d rather have a point guard who is also a good shooter, than have a shooter who can also play some point.

    • The NBA’s had years and years of “true” point guards who pass well but can’t shoot. Modern metrics have shown those type of guys are relatively worthless. The point of the game, sabermetrics insist, is to score more points. Guys who can’t shoot but may set up teammates are worth less than guys who can pass relatively well while also shooting at acceptable rates.

      True, HOF PGs like Kidd or Bob Cousy weren’t great shooters, but how many of them are around? And they cost a bunch as well. And you have to keep them when free agency hits. And they have to dominate the ball and have shooters surround them. How many shooters does Milwaukee have now? Two?

      Too, Steve Nash is among the greatest shooters in the history of the game. Rondo has evolved into a great perimeter shooter as well. Who wouldn’t want one of those to run the Bucks?

      (On Rubio, we will definitely have to disagree. He’s horrid. No defense, quits on games, and the worst shooter in the history of the game? Not on my team.)

      Lastly, guys like Irving, Wall (who, btw, has developed a quality jumper), and Curry (who’s among the greatest shooters ever) are far more valuable as “combo” PGs than even great passers like Mark Jackson, Muggsy Bouges, and Andre Miller.

      The Bucks are going the correct analytic route, IMO, by pairing a combo guard like Knight with another combo guard like Wolters. I like Wolters’ D and handle. I hope he becomes a better shooter as he adds more experience. That’s the key to his future game.

      • Stockton and Nash are the greatest shooting point guards of all time(with Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving eventually put into that category.) Stockton and Nash had moderate athleticism, with high iq. Stockton was a work horse like no other. His most important abilities were his ability to set up an offense… and disrupt the other point guard on defense. Defending guards that can’t shoot very well. Avery Bradley(he isn’t a terrible shooter). Rajon Rondo. If I had the first pick in a fantasy-team draft. I’d go for Durant first, then take Rondo in the second round if he’s still out there. I would take him second to Durant over anyone. You won’t get LeBron and Durant of course. But defensively he’s a monster one of the best defensive GUARDS in the league. Offensively, he is acceptable at getting to the basket, pretty good with the tear drop. But his hustle game is second to none. There is not a harder worker in this league outside of Kobe. Pure point guards who cant shoot are useless mathematically, because of course points are given more emphasis. They under estimate steals and assists. They underestimate position. They underestimate BIG GAME ability. Rajon most definitely has that. Rajon Rondo is the BEST point guard in the league health. Yes Curry is dangerous, Irving is getting there, Chris Paul is an offensive monster. But Rajon Rondo, see he can allow a wing to stay out on the wing, because he will crash the boards 9 times out of 10 and 15 times out of 10 during a big game. What this does is it leaves the MOST important player on the court open, your stretch 3 or 4 or BOTH. This is why Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo are extremely extremely deadly. They grab the board, pass it out, have usually a wide open player. Richard Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion(not a great 3 point shooter, but not a bad mid range shooter) I can keep going on and on about players they have played with. But Stephen Curry is dangerous, Chris Paul is spotless(on ball d he’s been slacking due to injuries) but Rajon Rondo is a fuckin diamond my friend. he is the most basic solution. With the league full of deadly shooters, Rajon Rondo would reign king on a proper team like the Timberwolves, he’d make that team championship caliber, no pun to Rubio, but Rajon is the best defensive point guard… when Bradley is playing shooting guard.