Building you up to break you down: Hornets 108 – Bucks 106

The Milwaukee Bucks led the Charlotte Hornets by 24 points on Wednesday night.

Yes, the Bucks ended up losing the game thanks to a series of both heartbreaks and brainaches, but this isn’t a team that’s really supposed to be in a lot of games. I’m not asking you to sit here and focus on only on the positives like some kind of weirdly NBA specific life coach after the Bucks just mucked up what may be a rare opportunity for a win against a team that might actually be good, but at least consider that this game wasn’t awful.

The Bucks were the fun team that many people predicted they would be on Wednesday. Some of their mistakes were probably owed to inexperience or nerves and should be correctable. Some players showed some things we hadn’t seen much from them before and other players showed that old habits can be hard to break.

But basically, this wasn’t such a bad game and if the Bucks continue to have games like this, Jason Kidd’s first season will be a whole lot more enjoyable than Larry Drew’s only season.

Milwaukee Bucks 106 Final
Recap | Box Score
108 Charlotte Hornets
Khris Middleton, PF 36 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-5 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | -6

He missed a free throw at the end of regulation that would have put the Bucks up four points and likely iced the game. He missed a three at the buzzer in overtime that would have won the Bucks the game. But those are just two misses. Two misses that loom large, but two misses nonetheless.

Outside of those two misses he was one of Milwaukee’s better players. He doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of creation, either for himself or for others, but he can do enough with the ball to be dangerous and he’s turned himself into one of Milwaukee’s best options coming off screens. If tonight was any indication, we’re in for a very good year from him.

Jabari Parker, SF 37 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -13

It is still reasonable to assume that Parker will average somewhere around 15 points per game this season. But if that’s going to happen, he’ll need at least 12 to 13 shots per game. It was strange how uninvolved Parker was with Milwaukee’s offense, especially late in the game. He drew a foul on Milwaukee’s first overtime possession and then hardly seemed to touch the ball the rest of the way.

Why? Either he needs to be more vocal about getting the ball in those situations or Jason Kidd needs to make sure Brandon Knight understands how crucial it is to get the ball in Parker’s hands. He is still one of Milwaukee’s best scoring options. Why not run some pick and rolls with him instead of Sanders as a screener? Why not look to get him more involved? This was a huge blunder by the Bucks.

Larry Sanders, C 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -7

He occasionally wrestled away rebounds and kept loose balls alive. He did a good job refraining from biting on pump fakes from Al Jefferson until on an absolutely crucial possession in overtime, Jefferson unleashed one. D’oh.

Generally, his impact seemed fairly muted though, at least until a very negative impact on the last play in regulation. With time ticking away and Kemba Walker coming down the court in need of a three, Sanders seemed to back up while at the free throw line, as if to make sure Walker, WHO NEEDED A THREE TO TIE, wouldn’t beat him to the basket. Guh.

Brandon Knight, PG 39 MIN | 5-17 FG | 10-10 FT | 8 REB | 13 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | -12

I feel like a total jerk as I write this, I want everyone to know this … but had Knight not imploded late in this game, Milwaukee wins it. After a strong start to the game where he was attacking, getting to the basket, drawing fouls and hitting threes, he struggled badly trying to set up teammates or refrain from forcing the action for himself in the fourth quarter and overtime. When he drove into the Hornets defense, defenders awaited him and he threw the ball away or tossed up errant shots.

He had little command over the game and did little to set anyone up for success as the Bucks’ lead dwindled. Defensively he did a nice job staying in front of Kemba Walker for the most part, but his counterpart made tough shots and helped get the ball in the hands of capable scorers in Lance Stephenson and Al Jefferson. Knight did nothing to get anyone the ball where they could make an impact, except for a few passes towards a curling Middleton. It was a bummer and a bad capper on a otherwise productive night.

Jared Dudley, SG 26 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -2

He moved the ball and made a play or two that was positive, but generally Dudley wasn’t very noticeable. He was in the game as it finished, rather than Giannis, which seemed like a curious thing, given that Giannis is almost certainly a more impactful defender. But Dudley does present more a shooting threat and if Milwaukee could have ever got the ball back outside the paint once it drove, I can see how having Dudley out there would be better.

Ersan Ilyasova, PF 12 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +10

It’s not that his minutes were bad, it’s just that splitting minutes between he and Henson and Sanders and Parker and Pachulia is a lot to ask of a head coach.

John Henson, C 12 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +9

He looked good offensively and put up a reasonable fight against Jefferson in the post when he was matched up with him. Again, these battles for minutes are going to be tough and likely make someone angry at some point. Henson probably feels entitled to 20 minutes a night at an absolute minimum, so this 12 minute game can’t be sitting very well with him. Zero rebounds in 12 minutes may owe to him battling with Jefferson and boxing out while others did work on the glass, but it’s also probably unacceptable.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +10

I’d love to see every one of his minutes in the hands of Kendall Marshall. Bayless is a fine enough player, but what’s the point? Can anyone explain the point on Jerryd Bayless on this team? If it’s a locker room thing, just find another good locker room guy who can be a good locker room guy without playing 14 minutes that could be going to a far more interesting player. Bayless wasn’t bad or all that good on Wednesday, he was just there. He should not be there. He is an automatic C every night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 24 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +4

It was tough to watch Giannis sit on the bench when the Bucks potentially could have used some help as the game slipped away in the fourth quarter. He didn’t play the final 5:52 of regulation, where the Bucks blew an 11-point lead. He probably wouldn’t have been very involved with the offense anyway, as Knight was running things and looking to few others for help, but isn’t this season about getting the ball in the hands of Parker and Giannis a bit more? One can only hope going forward it is.

Cool three-point make.

O.J. Mayo, SG 24 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +5

He was a first half star, with 13 points in 12 minutes. He was moving the ball, he was hitting shots, he was pushing it up the court when he grabbed rebounds, he was throwing lobs: It looked like PEAK OJ Mayo. The good times didn’t so much roll into the second half, where his minutes stayed the same but his output dropped, but it was still a very positive effort that seemed to translate seamlessly from preseason.

Kendall Marshall, PG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Would have enjoyed seeing Marshall and Parker on the court at the same time to see how that works out.

Jason Kidd
Plus: The Bucks ran like a track team, especially in the first half. Off every miss the ball was up the court in seconds. It’s obvious the coaching staff emphasized that. Good job.Minus: The Bucks were up three. The Hornets had the ball with five seconds to play. The Hornets did not have a timeout. The Bucks did not foul. The Hornets hit a three.Plus: Sweet play got Middleton an open look at a three-pointer to win the game.

Minus: Henson and Marshall should probably be playing more. Most things seem to indicate they are superior to the players playing in front of them.

Three Things We Saw

  1. It was fun to watch the Bucks build a 24-point lead. The ball was moving, the team was moving, the defense looked good and things were great. This looked like a team with a bright future. But then everything slipped away as the Hornets began grabbing more offensive rebounds and making more shots. Suddenly the Bucks were taking the ball out of the hoop and they didn’t look like much of an offensive juggernaut when they had to walk the ball up the court and create something against a defense that had its druthers.
  2. Charlotte outrebounded the Bucks 50-35 and had 16 second chance points to Milwaukee’s two.
  3. I was hard on Knight before, but when he’s going well, he’s so athletic and appears to be such a talent, it’s not hard to see why the Bucks want the ball to be in his hands. It’s just tough to know if he’ll ever improve in pick and rolls and quit leaping to throw passes that head nowhere.

Categories: Recaps

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  1. Knight had 13 assists and the gripe against him is that he didn’t get guys the ball where they needed it to score? I feel like that’s letting the guys reputation, and a little confirmation bias, get in the way of judging his actual play. I would agree that he, and lets be honest, the rest of the Bucks turned into pudding mid-way through the 3rd quarter. And, I’ll admit, his PG skills revolve primarily around dribbling into the defense and kicking it out, but that’s the nature of this team considering few other players have talent to create for themselves. It was certainly better than the punchless Bayless who had back up duties. If and when Marshall plays, I feel we’ll get to see what exactly the Bucks are missing out on when Knight runs the point.

    • I suppose I should have been more specific: In the fourth quarter and over time, he didn’t do much of the stuff he was doing earlier. He piled those assists up finding in rhythm teammates for jumpers and driving and kicking out to open shooters. A couple even came when defenders slid over on his drives and he found guys by the rim for dunks.

      But late in the game, that stuff mostly vanished.

      • Yeah, you really got to see exactly what people love about Knight and exactly what people hate about him. I also wonder how much of the late game stagnation was on him versus Kidd simply thinking we could sit on the ball and run the last 5 minutes out.

        But for the first 2.5 quarters, I thought Knight played very well. I thought he and Larry were our two best players tonight. Larry played great defense on Jefferson, but Jefferson just had a few great finishes and got bailed out by a couple awful foul calls.

        Back to Knight though, since this is a season where we don’t really care about winning, I’m perfectly fine with continuing to give Knight big minutes at the point to see what Kidd can make of him this year. He ball stuck to his hands far less last night than it did last year, excluding the final 5 minutes of the game, and I think there’s a lot of value in the pressure he can put on defenses, his all-around effort, and his defense.

        Moving forwards, I think Kidd wants to build a team around having multiple playmakers, and sees Giannis and Jabari as two guys that can eventually be that for us. In that type of system, I think Knight is the ideal PG rather than a traditional floor general. If you have multiple guys that can create for one another, Knight’s limitations suddenly don’t look nearly as bad, and his strengths will shine through much brighter. If he doesn’t continue to show improvement, then I’ll be perfectly fine with not resigning him, but I thought tonight was a positive start for him for the most part. It just got overshadowed because of how bad those last 5 minutes were.

  2. I think the rotation will work it self out in the next couple weeks, we have to remember it’s game 1. I expected every player to play in between 15-30 min, and if you take away overtime it’s pretty close to that. I’m more worried about having the entire offense run through Knight and Middleton, leading the team in shots. Both are good players, but Parker and Giannis need to get touches and more shots, once again should all work itself out, but minutes are easier to distribute than telling Knight to get it to Parker and Giannis.

  3. Yes – it was soooo fun to watch the first 2 1/2 quarters … and then soooo hard to watch the rest of the game. I believe the main thing here is that they learn from these experiences … and start winning some of these types of games. Bottom line – 1) exciting team 2) The right coach imo 3) The right owners (OK … this is early, but so far, so good). Friday’s game should be a fun one.

  4. Too much Middleton. More concerning is not enough minutes for Giannis & Henson. Objective #1 this season should be to develop those two & Jabari.

  5. On Middleton, outside of the first couple of shots he made at the beginning and the 2 he made in overtime, he seemed to mostly force up bad shots or turn the ball over. He was a black hole where the ball came to him and never came back to anyone else. Its only the first game, and I think he can be very good, but I felt his play more than anyone elses play directly led to the loss.

  6. TheLastoftheBucksFans

    It’s funny more people aren’t talking about the key difference in this game, which is rebounding. You did mention that Henson had 0 rebounds. This fact probably points to the reason he played few minutes, but then again maybe not. The second chance points killed us down the stretch and the rebounding facet of the game will definitely be something to keep an eye on as the season moves forward.

  7. First, I have to apologize. I had bowling league last night so I missed much of the game. When the bar finally found the channel and put it on, that was also the start of the downfall, so sorry for jinxing the game.
    Secondly, and I’m not the first person to say this, and I almost always say this, but the officiating was once again terrible, and seemed very biased. I didn’t see a whole hell of a lot of the game, but it looked like the Bucks went into the equivalent of “prevent defense”, in that they were ultra conservative and even a bit lazy in passes and movement. Sort of a disappointment to start the season, but it’s one game, yadda yadda yadda…

  8. Seems like a very good recap by Jeremy, very measured and fair.

    It’s precisely at the end of close games, when defenses tighten, that the need for a true point guard is greatest. That was the problem with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis; they could operate and create during the bulk of the game, but not nearly so much when the defenses clamped down in crunch time.

    I’m not guaranteeing that Kendall is the answer at point — although I’m optimistic that he can be a major contributor at that position, either as a starter or a backup — but why not give him some minutes, and at least once in a while try him out at the end of games?

    With Kendall in down the stretch, it doesn’t mean that Brandon and Giannis and others can’t also create, but that none of them is the main guy for running the offense — Kendall is. With Kendall at the point, I think Brandon will come into his own as a shooting guard who can do everything increasingly well, including pass. I see Brandon excelling off the point, not at the point.

    With Kendall and Brandon and John and all of our young guys, I don’t expect to see continual smooth performance with no bumps in the road, but in the spirit of what Jeremy wrote above, let’s give these guys a chance, and get them some experience.

  9. Really disappointed to see both Wolters and Marshall glued to the pine for the whole game. It doesn’t matter who you are when you try to win the game all by yourself it usually turns out badly. I think Knight is a shooting guard and needs a point guard to bring out his best.