Ripped Away: Blazers 104 – Bucks 97

Milwaukee Bucks 97 Recap | Box Score 104 Portland Trail Blazers
Larry Sanders, C 21 MIN | 4-4 FG | 1-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -5Sanders was effective in the first half and utterly disappeared in the second, partially due to continued foul trouble. He was called on to play next to Zaza in a big lineup early in the fourth quarter, but was a disaster matched up against LaMarcus Aldridge defensively and was an offensive non-entity.

Brandon Knight, PG 33 MIN | 10-19 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 24 PTS | -2After Giannis went out with a sprained ankle, Knight took it on himself to shoulder the scoring load, with varying results. He discovered early on that Steve Blake simply couldn’t defend him and a late surge as the Bucks struggled to catch up late in the game pushed him up to 24 points.

O.J. Mayo, SG 36 MIN | 4-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -9You can really tell when Mayo is engaged in the game and when he checks out. He came out with a flat performance in the first half and then emerged briefly after halftime with a welcome aggressiveness. Then he just kind of disappeared again. He’s also fallen back under 30% from three-point range for the season, which can be seen as an outlier that will progress back to his career 37% or as an alarming trend going forward for a player the Bucks expected to carry a significant load on offense as recently as last season, depending on your levels of optimism.

Jared Dudley, SG 27 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -1At least he was the team’s leader in assists. But Dudley looked hesitant whenever he got the ball, even when he had an open look. When he’s right, he should be a valuable floor spacer for a team that desperately needs it. But Dudley certainly wasn’t right tonight.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 18 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -3Just to prove that nothing good can last in Milwaukee, Giannis sprained his left ankle on a drive to the basket near the end of the first half after showing some seriously impressive moves. Of his four made baskets, one was a great lefty hook, two were of the now-standard “stride and reach around the defender for a lay-in” variety, and one was a clean 20-foot jumper. The last one, in particular, is most exciting to me because if he can hit those shots with regularity Giannis will become that much more terrifying for opponents to defend.

On the other end of the court, he did an impressive job disrupting Aldridge while the two were matched up. While Sanders couldn’t seem to keep up with the pump fakes and recover to challenge LaMarcus’ midrange shots, Giannis did a far better job disrupting the big sharpshooter. Now we hold our breath to find out the severity of his injury.

Khris Middleton, PF 33 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +3The Bucks were 0-5 on three-point shots in the first half and then proceeded to make 4 of 6 in the third quarter. Middleton was a big part of that and ended up making over half of the team’s threes on his own. In a competitive late third quarter, he played a significant part in matching Portland’s shooters shot-for-shot. Interestingly, he was 4-6 from beyond the arc and only 1-6 inside of it. But as long as the threes keep falling, Middleton plays a crucial role with much-needed outside shooting.

Johnny O’Bryant III, PF 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1Played! Scored his first NBA points! O’Bryant has a way to go in grasping the speed of the NBA game and how to fit in with his teammates, but it’s always good to see another player get back on the court.

Zaza Pachulia, C 26 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -9Pressed into big minutes again because of Sanders’ foul trouble and uneven play, Zaza responded with less scoring than we’ve seen out of him as of late but with some more deft passing, especially early in the game. But he (and the rest of the Bucks’ frontcourt players) got manhandled on the boards, leading to a 20-rebound difference and 10 more shots for the Blazers.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 22 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -9I don’t know how much cumulative time Bayless has spent practicing those teardrop shots in his career, but he’s become quite adept. At one point he was a perfect 5-5 and I was confident that he wouldn’t ever miss again. On the downside, he was more than a little responsible for defending Damian Lillard, who went off for 29 points in the game.

Kendall Marshall, PG 17 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -3It was a shame that we didn’t see the passing wizardry of Kendall Marshall in this game, because without Parker and Antetokounmpo in the game, good ball movement and the involvement of other players would have played a valuable role. Instead, his relatively pedestrian outing was capped by a buzzer-beating 3 that brought the Bucks within 7 at the end of the game.

Jason KiddStuck in an even more dire situation after Giannis’ departure near the end of the first half, Kidd went with several different looks and varying degrees of success as he attempted to keep the game close with the skeleton crew he had available. It worked up until the end of the game, when the Bucks simply appeared to run out of gas. He also made the interesting decision to play Hack-A-Thomas-Robinson down by 10 points with 2:30 left in the game. It wasn’t very effective and it also made the fans in Portland rather upset with him.

Still, hanging with a quality Blazers team for 3+ quarters is impressive for this team and says a lot about the qualities Kidd has instilled in his players despite some pretty crushing blows to morale in the last few days.

Four Things We Saw

  1. The Bucks have had a penchant for long cross-court passes lately, and those have rarely resulted in anything good. I understand the desire for rapid side-to-side ball movement, but it’s rarely the crisp kind of passing that leads to open looks; instead, these slow lobs are getting to players around the same time as their defenders and often in serious danger of being intercepted. Both Knight and Marshall were guilty of this at varying points in the game, and it’s something that should be re-evaluated going forward.
  2. Depth concerns seriously cramped Kidd’s rotations in the frontcourt. The Blazers held a 52-32 advantage in rebounding, which continues to plague the shorthanded Bucks. In particular, Aldridge snagged 15 and Robinson grabbed 16 of his own. The upcoming returns of Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson should help, but the going will continue to be rough until rebounding issues are resolved.
  3. The team broke out a Sanders/Pachulia frontcourt in the fourth quarter, possibly to help even out the rebounding deficit. Not only did it not fix that problem, but the resulting spacing issues contributed to an utter lack of offense as Portland pulled away. 3/10, would not recommend.
  4. Giannis reportedly had his ankle re-taped and was testing it during halftime. While he was wisely held out for the remainder of the game, it’s encouraging that the injury was minor enough that returning was even a possibility. He’s questionable for tonight’s tilt in Sacramento but should be fine in the near future.

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1 Comment

  1. A few weeks back, as we commenters on this site were nitpicking the minutes each Bucks bench player was getting and whether the team was doing a capable job of keeping everyone “happy”, I mentioned that sooner or later injuries were going to catch up with this team, and the guys who were getting either minimal minutes, or dissatisfied with their minutes needed to stay ready and take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.

    Well, my friends… that time has come. Henson and Ersan need to tape it up and get their butts back on the court, and they along with Marshall, O’Bryant, and Wolters need to step up and take some of the load off this dwindling group. It’s time to prove they belong on this team and can help this team develop and grow. Right now. And if they can’t contribute in a way that is meaningful and consistent, then I think we’ve learned all we need to know about the guys we’ve been wondering about all year.