Exit polls favored Milwaukee: Bucks 87 – Pacers 81

Milwaukee Bucks 87 Final
Recap | Box Score
81 Indiana Pacers
Ersan Ilyasova, PF 26 MIN | 2-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -1

He looks hesitant to shoot. Milwaukee got a shot clock violation on one possession and an ugly, short Zaza Pachulia jumper on another possession, both times because Ersan passed up modestly covered looks at threes from the top of the arc. Those are the shots he’s supposed to be the expert at. Fire with impunity, Ersan. That’s why you are playing.

Jabari Parker, SF 27 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -2

After displaying an impressive post game in the preseason, I’d been left wondering when it would be put on display in games that matter. The answer was Tuesday night in Indiana. Parker had four or five looks in the post that came courtesy of sets designed for him to catch with his back to the basket. He made a few jumpers out of those sets and drew a foul on another one. He looked good, he looked comfortable. He made a mistake defensively that allowed an open Chris Copeland three when Copeland was practically Indy’s whole offense late in the game, but we’ll chalk that up as a learning opportunity … for now.

Larry Sanders, C 23 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +9

Without scoring, Sanders made a huge impact. That’s tough to pull off. His rebounding was huge for a team that could hardly keep the Pacers off the glass and his defense on Roy Hibbert was impressive. Hibbert couldn’t back down Sanders without having the ball poked away by Milwaukee’s equally quick and long-armed big man.

Brandon Knight, PG 29 MIN | 10-16 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 23 PTS | +2

It’s like there were two versions of the Bucks offense in this game.

One version featured Knight slicing into the Pacers paint while operating out of pick and rolls. On occasion, this led to a successful attempted basket. On many other occasions, this led to a forced shot or a turnover. It didn’t seem to lead to a very cohesive and sustainable offense.

Another version featured the Bucks moving the ball around and running sets rather than relying on the pick and roll to create offense. Sometimes, Knight was in the game while this was happening and he benefitted as much as any of his teammates from the ball and player movement. He can be a very functional point guard when he isn’t asked to create an offense out of pick and rolls. We knew that before Tuesday night. We were reminded of it over and over again on Tuesday night.

Jared Dudley, SG 26 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1

The cries for a move to the bench for Jared Dudley will not grow softer or less numerous Wednesday morning. He missed a lot of shots and didn’t seem to contribute a whole lot, other than being as solid as the rest of his teammates at rotating defensively.

Khris Middleton, PF 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +8

He was fairly quiet offensively after being way more prominently involved in the first few games of the season. His impact was as obvious as anyone else’s defensively, as he used his length to tip away a few passes. He had a real nice move after a catch when a defender closed out hard, opening up a driving lane for him. He drove into the paint and calmly hit a short jumper. That sort of counter move is looking more and more natural for him.

Zaza Pachulia, C 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -5

While he struggled at times with both rebounding and defending Roy Hibbert, he was a positive contributor to a Bucks offense that relied on player and ball movement. His work out of the high post, tonight as a scorer and a passer actually, remains stellar.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +5

He looks like a tremendous backup point guard that a team both capable of contending and willing to contend for the playoffs could use. There is no questioning that Bayless and his jump shot contributed a great deal to this Bucks win. If the goal of this team is to win each game, then he makes sense. If the goal of this team is to develop or find rotation players for a future Bucks team, I’m not sure he makes much sense. I can’t in good conscience keep giving him a C though.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 17 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +5

The Greek put his post game on display with a few moves in the second half. He proceeded to step out of bounds and travel on nearly consecutive (if not consecutive) as the fourth quarter went on, but for a moment, he looked very good and his nine straight points to close the third quarter and open the fourth quarter helped the Bucks stabilize after a five minute scoring draught.

O.J. Mayo, SG 22 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +7

The nine points look quiet, but his passing was sensational and each of his five assists were well earned setups that gave his teammates good looks for baskets. His play has been so lively and joyful. He looks like such a natural so far this season, like basketball is so fun and easy for him. It’s been a pleasure to watch. He even was hustling around the court, intercepting passes and playing aggressive defense.

Jason Kidd
Kidd will receive criticism for playing John Henson only nine minutes and Giannis only 17, but I thought the team’s offensive game plan against the Pacers was strong. They didn’t focus so heavily on pick and rolls that go them in the paint, rather the team kept moving the ball and finding guys on the move. Defensively the Bucks seem to be responding to the staff and playing with great effort. The Bucks rotated very hard all game and made the Pacers make extra and contested passes that rarely led to open, simple looks. Kudos to Kidd for getting his guys to buy in and play with energy.

Two Things We Saw

  1. After turning the ball over constantly in Washington, Milwaukee had only 13 turnovers against the Pacers. Just as important, the Bucks scored 28 points off 19 Pacer turnovers. Milwaukee continues to get up the court and look for every opportunity to get offense on the break or out of a secondary break. It paid huge dividends against the Pacers.
  2. Check out the Bucksketball Podcast from late last night for more thoughts.

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  1. Eh. Meh. Bleh.

    If I was John Henson or Kendall Marshall, I’d be using my considerable time on the bench to dig an escape tunnel out of the Bradley Center and never look back. Maybe Khris Middleton and Nate Wolters would join them.

    On a night when former Bucks castoff Tobias Harris scored 21 points on 60% shooting against a tough Bulls defense plus hauled in 9 rebounds, my confidence in the Bucks to recognize a young talent, to appreciate him, respect him, and to develop him, is near zero.

    Also, my hopes for an exciting season of enthusiastic young players growing into a team are fading by the day, and the prospect of watching middling veterans take away their minutes has me feeling more and more depressed about what appears to be another unremarkable and unproductive season ahead.

    Maybe I’m way off about all of this, but this is how I feel. I’m interested to know what others have to say. In the meantime, maybe I’ll buy an 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

    • I think Parker rarely gets the ball in half-court offense. That seems to be stupid since Jabari seems to have the most skilled moves to get to the rim and finish strong of anybody on the team. Knight rarely even looks at Parker in offensive sets.

    • Except Parker, Knight (still young) and Middleton are getting solid minutes every night.

      It’s a relatively deep team and Kidd has been playing ten deep pretty much every game this season. The chances of that lasting all season, whether because of injury or simply casting out the guys not playing well, are slim.

      No, Henson and Wolters aren’t getting the minutes we’d like to see. To be fair, the guard play has been incredibly solid so far this year with Knight, Bayless, Mayo and Middleton, with Dudley being the only person playing poorly. I’d still bank on Wolters getting meaningful minutes later in the season.

      As for Henson… that’s tough, with Parker initially starting at PF and Ilyasova seeing an uptick in minutes. He’s still not strong enough to play center night in and night out, and really Sanders and Pachulia are the only two who can. I’m not happy with his minutes being where they’re at, and again I find it highly unlikely it’ll stay this way. We’re only four games into the season.

      Way I see it, the Bucks are still a very young team with a much, much brighter future than it had merely months ago.

    • There are two options that can easily solve Hensons playing time woes. Bench Ersan, trade Ersan. It makes me sick every time i see him on the floor shooting long jumpers and playing no defense. Marshall and Wolters don’t deserve minutes, yet, and Giannis, despite being very exciting, is not ready to play starters minutes. We’re 2 and 2, and no matter what the bucks future plans are Kidd owes it to himself and the team to play to win games, and were not so bad at it, so far.

      • That would seem like the easiest scenario, but regardless of whether or not he makes every shot, his ability to spread the floor and at least make defenses aware of him is something that Henson doesn’t yet possess. If it was as easy as trading him then we probably would have been rid of him last season.

        I like Henson, don’t get me wrong, and I want to see him get minutes right now. But I have to put faith in Kidd’s decision making right now and assume that he has a plan going forward.