There are four quarters: Thunder 114 – Bucks 101

The first quarter was a success for the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. Jabari Parker was hitting long jump shots. Brandon Knight made a couple threes. Zaza Pachulia was finding open shooters from the high post. The Thunder weren’t able to get out in transition much or get to the rim. The Bucks shot better than 50%, the Thunder shot worse than 40%. Those are successful results.

Unfortunately, first quarter results don’t necessarily indicate how the remaining three quarters are going to go. As soon as the second quarter began, shots stopped dropping in for the Bucks. Easy opportunities at the rim failed to present themselves, and when they did, Milwaukee couldn’t take advantage enough. The Thunder began to¬†push the ball more aggressively and attack in transition. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant did their thing. Milwaukee watched rebound after rebound fall into the hands of opponents and player after player find a way to the rim for dunks.

Milwaukee was out-rebounded by 18 over the final three quarters (54-31 for the game) and out-shot 54% to 36%. This is what it’s like when a middling Eastern Conference team travels to play a Western Conference basketball team:

Tuesday night’s shot chart from the second quarter through the fourth quarter (via
Milwaukee Bucks 101 Final
Recap | Box Score
114 Oklahoma City Thunder
Jabari Parker, SF 29 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | -16

He had 14 first half points, so I’ll let you do the math on how things went for him in his 15 second half minutes. If he and Giannis are going to split time at the three and the four in Milwaukee’s primary lineups, one of them has to figure out a way to become a better than average defensive rebounder or the Bucks are going to keep getting crushed on the glass all season. Parker is definitely lagging behind Giannis right now in that category, despite his general ability to stay moving and be aware of his surroundings. It seems like those benefit him more on the offensive side, but they’d be useful if he could put them into play as a rebounder.

Larry Sanders, C 13 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -12

Four fouls in 13 minutes. One missed dunk.

Brandon Knight, PG 31 MIN | 2-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | -5

He made half of Milwaukee’s 3-pointers on the evening. That’s about all he did. There are nights where Knight looks nothing like a point guard – at least there was this night, where he looked about a million miles away from being the point guard of a functional team.

O.J. Mayo, SG 29 MIN | 6-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -11

Mayo didn’t pop off the screen as someone who was playing all that well, but at least he had some production on the evening, which sets him apart from many of his teammates. So far as I could tell, his most notable moments of the game were his near constant exasperation with the officials who kept calling fouls on him as he attempted to defend Russell Westbrook. He fouled out and got a technical for those efforts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 26 MIN | 4-11 FG | 8-11 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -11

Don’t let these stats fool you, he didn’t have a great night. Giannis padded his numbers with a couple of late rebounds and baskets – including a buzzer beating three – against that Thunder B Squad Milwaukee beat up on about a month ago. But still, it was fun to see him toss in a three with good form and hit a solid percentage of his free throws. Baby steps towards being a shooting threat. As that develops though, a few more rebounds from that four position would help.

Khris Middleton, PF 22 MIN | 2-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -2

While not blessed with the athleticism or length of some of his forward counterparts on the Bucks, Middleton still found a way to be Milwaukee’s best rebounder on the night. Giannis technically grabbed more, but Middleton pulled down six rebounds during non-garbage time. Of course, even his rebounds didn’t really involve things like boxing out, so it’s a further indictment of the Bucks that Middleton is who ends up on top in such a category.

Zaza Pachulia, C 30 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -3

Kendrick Perkins finished with seven offensive rebounds.

Kendall Marshall, PG 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -9

On a night where Milwaukee struggled badly to function on offense in the second half, it would have been nice to see more of Marshall paired with the non-veterans. Unless I missed something, I don’t believe we saw a Marshall/Knight lineup at all on Tuesday.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 20 MIN | 3-6 FG | 5-5 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -1

He helped keep Milwaukee in the game early in the fourth quarter with a string of baskets and assists, but no Milwaukee guard was doing a good job at that point of keeping penetrators out of the paint.

Jason Kidd
What were the Bucks or Kidd to do? The Thunder are back to full strength and, at full strength, they are a far superior team to the Bucks. Westbrook and Durant did a number on Milwaukee and given the big man shortage, the Bucks had little firepower to return the favor with.

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    • He was more or less thrust into a power forward position most of the night and I thought he handled it well enough, at least when compared to his teammates.

  1. I know people don’t want this to happen but it would be in our best interests if we went on a bit of a losing streak. this season does not matter in terms of wins and losses. neither does the next one. we need to develop talent. and get in positions to draft in more high end talent. if we can be competitive and only win another ten games I’d be happy. just looking long term. our roster ain’t anywhere near good enough yet.

  2. I think this is a very good recap, although I wonder about the grade for coach Kidd of a “B.” After the Bucks gave up a whopping 90 points through three quarters to the Mavs, they gave up 87 points in that time frame to the Thunder. What has happened to our scrambling and scrappy defense?

    As far as injuries, the only player missing who was getting significant minutes is Ers, and I don’t think that he’s the difference on defense.

    At one point in this game when the Bucks still had some hope, the lineup on the court had Giannis with four veterans: O.J., Jared, Jerryd, and Zaza. Generally speaking, the last guys off the bench for the Bucks — the least guys — are Khris and Kendall, with John Henson being in that category when he was healthy. My hunch is that this is getting discouraging for them, even with their good attitudes.

    So, it seems to me, the Bucks have a choice. Given that Jabari and Giannis and Brandon should continue to get their minutes, when it comes to the rest of the team, do we emphasize our veterans or our other young guys? Do we go with our current practice of giving priority to O.J., Jerryd, Jared, Ers, and Zaza; or do we start giving more minutes and better minutes to Khris, Kendall, and John, plus maybe Nate?

    Since I don’t consider this season to be critical in terms of wins-losses, but do consider it critical in terms of developing a team for the future, I’d go with the young guys. I’d play Khris and Kendall and John each about 24 minutes per game and see what they can do, allowing them to have their ups and downs. I’d fill in veterans as important but subsidiary players around the young guys, as complimentary players.

    I’m not sure that any of our vets our going to even be on the Bucks in a couple of seasons. I’d like to see if Khris, Kendall and John might be key parts of our long-term future, which I think is very possible. Use ’em or lose ’em. As great as the Thunder have been in recent years, they still haven’t won a championship; while the case of the Spurs as champions shows the value of a complete team to be truly great.

    As a postscript, I’m not sure what to do about Larry. I’m a big fan of his, but he does the same thing just about every game, which is to emotionally take himself out of the game figuratively and literally. One of the hard lessons of life is to learn that life isn’t fair, and that each of us has to make the best of things. I hope Larry learns really quick that he doesn’t have to try to block every shot, and that he doesn’t have to argue every call — for his sake and ours.

    • The Bucks, at the very least, have been competitive in all of their games this year, except for maybe 2-3 games. Part of the reason they’ve been competitive is that they’ve been able to squeeze production out of pretty much everyone who has played significant minutes. I personally don’t think the Bucks would be able to squeeze enough production out of Henson or Marshall with significant minutes to justify the move. Henson has showed a little bit of chemistry with Mayo this season, but has not shown any significant development in his offensive game, and doesn’t have the size or strength to hold down his defensive responsibilities. And Marshall… yikes. Good distributor, keeps an offense moving, but is no scoring threat whatsoever. You need your point to at least be a threat to score, or you simply create a defensive power play for your opponent.

      If the Bucks did what you’re asking them to do, these 8-10 point losses turn into 20+ point blowouts. It was already painfully obvious last night that we just don’t have the horsepower to stay in games against good teams, especially now that some of them are seeing us for the 2nd & 3rd time and have made the adjustments (like taking away Giannis’s drive and forcing him to shoot). Moving purposefully away from veteran contributors would open more minutes for the developmental guys… sure, but at what emotional cost? They’re the only ones keeping the Bucks in games over the past 2 weeks.

    • Also, completely agree with you on Larry Sanders. Is it possibly he has regressed, even in the last 5-6 games? 2 years ago, I seem to remember he was at least a guy you could count on for 8-10 points and 8-10 rebounds a game. Watching him try to score now, even when he is literally right at the rim, is like watching someone trying to pass a kidney stone. Ugly and painful.

      I think this is a team that could really use some time on the practice court so they can get back to what they were doing well… which was playing active defense and getting quickly into transition. There have been too many games in too short of a time span, and it’s resulted in a team wide “funk”. Things go bad for them when they can’t stop the ball, can’t secure rebounds, and are forced to play in a half court offensive set. They remind me a LOT of the George Karl Denver Nuggets of about 6 years ago. Their half court game will develop as their young core matures, but until that time, they need to recognize the formula they’ve used to win some games…. by keeping opponents under 100 points, and getting out on the break where they can utilize their speed, length, balance and depth.

  3. The Bucks need an actual point guard among other things. Why not start Nate at point and let Knight do his thing at the 2? Nate is big, a good passer and defender and he’s shown he can drive and score. Bring Mayo off the bench. Why not?

    As for the rebounding. I don’t think that there is any question that Kidd is going to have a big voice in upcoming personnel moves. That’s why he came to Milwaukee in the first place. Watch Kidd remake the squad in his image. I think Larry and Henson are on the way out. Others too. Larry hasn’t developed at all. His total game is not NBA worthy. Plus he’s a complete head case. The refs hate him. As for Henson …. it’s clear he is not going to get a solid shot here in Milwaukee. Looks like another season of watching Za Za play 30 minutes a night. Lord help us.

    • The reason you can’t give Wolters big minutes is the same reason you can’t give Marshall big minutes… they’re no threat to score, other than the occasional drive to the rim. If you don’t have to guard them outside, then you can dare them to shoot and double up on someone who is a more significant scoring threat. Until either one of them develops a consistent mid-range jumper, they’re never going to get more than spot-job minutes. I also don’t think Knight would function well as a 2. What makes him effective is his ability to create his own scoring opportunities, and he does so quite well. What would happen if his success is dependent on his off the ball movement, especially at his smaller size? I think he’d get locked down pretty easily by bigger defenders. He also hasn’t shown an ability to knock down shots consistently off of passes and sets.

      I actually think Kidd is making all the right moves in regards to personnel, considering the ingredients he’s been given. He’s tried a ton of combinations, positions and strategies… the Bucks just literally don’t have the firepower right now to be real contenders. It’s gonna take a few seasons and some moves to create the team image Kidd is looking for, as you said.

  4. I swear I only come to the comments section to see in what form Swisch makes his Kendall Henson Khris Nate are the second coming of the Showtime Lakers speech. None of those four will ever be a starter on a championship contender so not giving them minutes changes nothing at all. There are two people on this roster that matter, Giannis and Jabari. The rest will very likely be playing elsewhere by the time this team is a contender again.