Officially not good: Kings 116 – Bucks 102

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Sacramento Kings 116 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 Milwaukee Bucks
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -15

NOMENTUM. Looks like Ersan’s 31 point game on Monday was just a 31 point game on Monday and not a tipping point in his season that led to bigger and better things. Who EVER could have seen that coming!?

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 4-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -22

He had a fair share of struggles attempting to guard the larger, quicker, stronger and faster Rudy Gay, who posted him up a few times and was able to make some long jumpers other times. Gay has become a more difficult cover since arriving in Sacramento and starting to play good basketball, so it’s tough to heap too much blame on Middleton for having issues. Unfortunately he couldn’t do much on the other end to make up for any deficiencies on defense.

Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -15

Zaza doesn’t do ALL of the little things in the world. He does his share, but he doesn’t do all of them. Unfortunately, his share doesn’t really make up for the general suckfest he’s been putting up regularly since the All-Star break let out. He picked up two defensive three second violations on one possession that spurred a round of “JOEY CRAWFORD IS REFFING” tweets. That’s fair, but ultimately players are responsible for where they are on the court. Refs are not out to get everyone.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 7-13 FG | 9-10 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | -11

His combination of body strength, control and a willingness to put himself in harms way for the sake of getting to the basket is worthy of envy. On a few different occasions he took pretty hard fouls after drives to the hoop into guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Reggie Evans. He paid for them physically, then they paid off, at the free throw line. Seems like he’s been more willing to take these lumps and finish as the year has gone on. Good for him. Fun to watch.

Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -4

I’m unclear on exactly what “Nateing” is, but I’m pretty sure he did it at some point. He DEFINITELY did it if “it” is making a floater. He did it a couple times then.

Jeff Adrien, PF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +2

This was not a classic Jeff Adrien game. He and Reggie Evans seemed to cancel each other out, both finishing with only five rebounds. Milwaukee called on Adrien to attempt to slow Cousins at one point, but he wasn’t much more effective than John Henson, who was very ineffective. But Adrien hit a couple of jump shots and was able to toss in a few garbage baskets late to set a new career high with 15 points. Huzzah!

Tony Mitchell, F Shot Chart 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +6

Never again will anyone be able to say to Tony Mitchell that he hasn’t scored a basket in the NBA. He posted up, rose over Ray McCallum and finished a bank shot late in the fourth quarter. That’s a cool thing to happen in a guy’s life.

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

Moves slow.

John Henson, C Shot Chart 24 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -6

It’s been a while since Henson played well. He told reporters after the game about his sophomore slump, but he hasn’t really needed to say that for a while – it’s been evident. The bigger problem to me is just that he doesn’t seem to have much of a feel for the game. Are we sure he’s improved at all since his first day in Milwaukee? I know his numbers are fine, but he doesn’t seem to be any more aware of cutters or any better at screening in March of 2014 than he was in November 2012.

Ramon Sessions, PG Shot Chart 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -11

Free throws and such.

Four Things We Saw

  1. The Kings seemed to isolate and post-up a lot, which doesn’t exactly sound like the recipe for an effective offense, but it worked wonders against a much less physically talented Milwaukee team. Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas (who wasn’t posting up so much) combined for 68 points while all shooting 50% or better and making at least four free throws.
  2. Reporters were almost at a loss for words after the game. There were only two questions for Larry Drew. I had none. What can even be said? The team played poorly. We can dance around and talk about energy, effort or matchups, but ultimately, the Bucks are a team full of mediocre players. You know how I know that? Mediocre players are the kinds of players who can’t be relied on every night. Consistency is what separates out really good players. Milwaukee has a roster full of players who lack consistency.
  3. We dared dream too big here at Bucksketball. The elusive two game Bucks winning streak remains elusive as ever.
  4. There was a lot of debate about what the exact score was throughout the fourth quarter and after the game. I was handed an “unofficial” box score after the game with the word unofficial circled for emphasis. Some people cared a great deal about this, which is what their job is to do. I did not care so much about it, because we could all agree that the Bucks were terrible, regardless of what the exact numbers were.

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  1. Sorry guys, I just didn’t think Giannis did much. But in hindsight, I should always just mention him anyway because he is fun to talk about. Won’t happen again.

    Appreciate the feedback.

  2. The question in my mind is whether John Henson is really not very good or whether he’s not getting good coaching. My hunch is that it’s the latter, that he hasn’t been given much help with technique or with his psyche — and that he hasn’t been given consistent minutes since he joined the Bucks (three coaches in two years).
    Does anyone really get better during their time with the Bucks? Perhaps I’m way off, but I’m much more concerned with the possibility of mediocre ownership, mediocre general managership and mediocre coaching. There seems to be a malaise with this team that starts from the top down. Is there any enthusiasm coming from the guys in the suits to the guys in the uniforms, any encouragement or support, any order or direction… any hope, any life?
    When energetic and likeable young guys like John and Larry seem to go stagnant and even backwards, what’s the deal? What do others see?

    P.S. I’d start John for the rest of the season, give him about 30 minutes, and really get behind him. I wouldn’t run the offense through him, but just tell him to hustle, crash the boards, block some shots, and take that hook shot from time to time. Then in the offseason, I’d work with him on his jumper from 15-20 feet, and probably a lot of other things — but this guy is going to be good! So is Larry! (Don’t bulk them up too much, either.)

    • Agree; however, I will say that I’ve seen major improvement from Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, and Kris Middleton this year, from last year and from the beginning of this year to now. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with opportunity, experience, comfort, and confidence but perhaps some of it has to do with the coaching too?

      It also angers me that the Bucks’ brass haven’t decided to give Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton, and John Henson each the majority of the minutes of a game, every game (unless they foul out). Brandon and Nate should get a mix of time at both G positions, Kris and Giannis should get a mix of the time between SG and SF to get their 30+ minutes (though Kris could probably get some time at PF too if the team were to play some small ball) and give John time between both the PF and C positions.

      I don’t even understand why Zaza is getting any court time outside of emergency time given that he doesn’t need any developmental work — he is who he is and it’s already a known thing — and the only reason Ersan and OJ should be getting significant minutes is if the team is trying to showcase them for potential off-season moves. Given that Ramon and Jeff are unlikely to be key features of this team going forward they should not be getting major minutes either, but they could get some fill-in time to see if they appear as potential role players for the Bucks to sign to cheap short-term contracts for next season. If there’s any other player who might warrant being showcased some its Tony Mitchell to see if he has a game that can transition to the NBA though I wouldn’t let him take any time away from Giannis or Kris that might drop either of those players below 30 minutes a game.

      Lastly, WTF are the coaches doing with J.Henson? I agree with Jeremy Schmidt – Has he’s improved much since his first day in Milwaukee? He doesn’t seem to be any more aware of cutters or any better at screening in March of 2014 than he was in November 2012. Maybe the team needs to hire or bring in a better big man coach.

      As a fan of the team I would have been pissed off about paying to attend the game last night had I of attended it (instead I just watched it on TV at a bar) because I would have gone with the sole purpose of seeing Giannis play which he barely did.

      • I was curious about the playing time question, so I did a bit of looking around and the Bucks’ leaders in minutes played this season are:

        1. Middleton
        2. Knight
        3. Antetokounmpo
        4. Henson
        5. Ilyasova
        6. Mayo
        7. Wolters

        All of the “young guys” are in the top 7 on the team in minutes played, so I don’t think they’re being shorted any playing time. In fact, Knight, Middleton, and Henson lead the team in per-game minutes. I’d say it’s kind of unrealistic to expect these guys to go out and play all of the minutes (and I’d argue that they are receiving the majority), simply because there aren’t that many players not on the Bulls that play 40+ minutes anymore. 25 minutes is becoming a pretty standard game for starters (outside of “star” players, or, as I said, the Bulls). It may seem like they’re not getting the exposure that a lot of people want, and I certainly understand the desire to see more of the young players, but I also don’t know that there’s a significant difference between a player getting 25-30 minutes and 30+.

        • I get what you’re saying and I understand that within the scope of the whole season that the time breakdown appears as it is given injuries and all, but since the ALL-STAR break the Bucks have needed to be in full-out developmental mode and outside of B.Knight and K.Middleton (now that C.Butler is gone) who are indeed getting major minutes every game I have to question what the team is doing with the minutes of J.Henson and G.Antetokounmpo, plus to a lesser degree N.Wolters. IMO, those three players should be on the court as much as possible (30+ minutes) outside of fouling out with the goal being to work on improving their basketball IQ, awareness and fundamental skills within game settings. The win/loss record doesn’t matter anymore except remaining a top 5 lottery pick and instead the development of these future pieces is priority number 1. Outside of that there’s some reasoning to showcase trade bait and get a good look at a few potential role players for next year; nevertheless, full-on development of the young core pieces must remain priority number 1 and it requires that these young core pieces be allowed to remain on the court for the majority of the game (30+ minutes) and to play together.

          • Out of curiosity, why is 30+ such a key number? Most of those guys are averaging more than 24, which by definition would be the “majority”. At some point, I’m not sure a couple more minutes per game means THAT much in terms of development.

            As for the specific cases: Henson has been pretty bad lately and it’s debatable whether or not he’s earning the minutes. Wolters has been starting (as a rookie!) and has also been bothered by ankle injuries that are pretty clearly limiting his minutes. And Giannis is playing 20+ nearly every night, which I feel is pretty good for a 19-year-old kid who is literally still growing.

            At some point, players still have to earn playing time, and the coach still has to put the most competitive team that he can on the floor. It’s not as simple as throwing all the young players out there as much as they can physically handle while disregarding the other players on the team. Fans can want teams to disregard winning, but I don’t believe that coaches and teams can go about it that way. There’s a balance to be struck and relative to the situation I’m comfortable with the minutes distribution on this team.

          • Again, I understand where you’re coming from and of course I understand that 24 minutes is half a game and thus any time over that could be considered in a way a “majority”, but also there’s 5 positions on a team and a game is 48 minutes long so there’s actually a total of 240 available minutes per game and I’m a firm believer that the 30 minute mark is a better testament of which players are actually receiving so-called “starter” minutes or as I would also refer to it — the “majority” of minutes to a game as you can break down the 240 minutes with a 8-man rotation to 30 minutes each.

            I do think that any and all time afforded to the young players at this point in time could be considered crucial as there’s only a limited amount of time left to this season (where development is priority #1 above all else) and they might as well make the most of them/it which means giving these young core pieces as much court time and experience as they can physically handle. Not-to-mention, I mean if I’m going to pay to attend a game now, I’m not going because I want to see a win or loss or some of the players who probably will have nothing to do with the future of the team; nope, I want to see the cornerstones play, grow, learn, and get the ever valuable game experience that they need.

          • I think a key is what Justin says below about John Henson having to play “out of position” and in “intermittent intervals” — which rings true, and would make the stats regarding minutes played much less relevant.
            Also, I think there’s a much more important issue: Less than six months ago, John and Larry were the talk of the town. However, they seem to have gone from being the darlings of Bucks fans to neglected afterthoughts who would not be missed much if traded. So what happened?
            If anyone has ever been overlooked and unappreciated at work, at school, at sports, at home…? If anyone has ever had a great mentor, or wished for a great mentor…?
            So the question is how much good coaching and good encouragement are our young guys getting? Are the Bucks a team where basketball careers are nurtured and nudged forward, or more a place where they sputter and die? As Jeremy might say, it’s a matter of “process” — without good process, we won’t develop good players, and we won’t have good teams.
            You can say basketball is just a business, that the players have to make it on their own, and so on… or you can put your arm around a guy (generally in his early 20s), tell him you believe in him, that you’re going to help him to be great, tell him that he means a lot to the Bucks as a person who is wanted for a long time. If you really can’t say something like the latter to a guy after a year or two, maybe it’s time to trade him.
            I know I bring this up from time to time — and this actually all started before I was born and ended before I can remember — but the legendary Packers team of the 1960s had pretty much the same players as the horrible Packers team of the 1950s. The difference was a coach named Lombardi who brought discipline and direction, who combined high demands for professionalism with high devotion to his players as persons. I would go so far as to call it a genuine love for his men, his guys.
            So, again, the question: Do the Bucks bring out the best in their players?

    • I think Henson gets good support from the organization, but he’s in kind of a tough spot, because he’s often playing out of position at the five without Larry.

      I’m just not crazy about the way he looks on the court. When I see Henson, I never think “energetic”, the way I do with Larry. Henson doesn’t seem to be a “hustle” guy, so to speak.

      All that said, I’d generally be happier if he was playing more minutes than Ilyasova, but I think Drew has trouble putting in someone who he sees being lethargic. If that’s part of the reason Henson sits, that seems like Drew giving him tough love and developing him.

      I’d also say Knight has gotten way better since joining the Bucks.

      • If memory serves, John was one of the stars of the summer league, not just for the Bucks, but among all the teams at Las Vegas. I don’t remember any talk of him being non-energetic, or that he was anything other than a great prospect. What changed?
        Also, I’m thinking about a couple of games at the end of last season when he put up big numbers — against, perhaps, the Magic, the Heat, the Thunder. I’m guessing he was pretty spry in those games, even if he doesn’t have the same kind of energy as Larry.
        I think sometimes we all need a little help energizing ourselves, some motivation to get moving, some encouragement to keep improving. I wonder if John is getting that. I hope he doesn’t get so much tough love that he gets discouraged and disappears from Bucks history.
        I think tough love by itself is overrated; it’s only good if it’s offset by a lot more positive love. I think that’s where a lot of coaches have failed where Lombardi succeeded. They’e good at being hard-asses, but don’t realize that demanding discipline goes only so far.
        I don’t know much about Scott Skiles, but perhaps that’s why he has had some initial success with teams, but then hits a fairly low ceiling and wears out his welcome. It’s good to be a tough coach, but there’s a lot more to it.
        Anyway, thanks for the good response, Jeremy.

    • that was weird.. anyways feel bad for Henson, playing out of position and in intermittent intervals.. guy should be starting, but still needs plenty is seasoning

  3. Random question: what is the record for wins in a season without a 2 game winning streak. Maybe we could make history this year?!

  4. If all of your per game stats are an improvement over your rookie year, can you really be in a sophomore slump? I thought the sophomore slump was slumping from where you were as a rookie?

    • Per 36 minutes his numbers have declined (blocks a notable exception here), but he’s getting so many more minutes this season than he did last season that it would be almost impossible for his per game stats to not increase.