Game of runs: Pelicans 85 – Bucks 84

Milwaukee Bucks 84 FinalRecap | Box Score 85 New Orleans Pelicans
Ersan Ilyasova, PF 36 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -6 +/-

Vintage Ersan reappeared Tuesday night. He was active on the glass; he flicked up a couple putbacks; and he flopped around, drawing several charges and earning heavy boos from the New Orleans crowd. He wasn’t much of a presence defensively, especially in limited minutes against Anthony Davis, but he wasn’t a total liability on that end, either.

Ilyasova and Pachulia kept the Bucks afloat after the Pelicans stormed out to a 15-0 lead to start the game. Ersan ended the drought with a three-pointer nearly six minutes into the game and led the Bucks with eight points in the first frame. He was fairly quiet the rest of the night until another offensive rebound and putback tied the game at 80 with 2:16 left. With the Bucks down one and two seconds left, Ersan freed himself from Davis for a wide-open three at the buzzer, but it rattled out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 36 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -6 +/-

Apparently Anthony Davis brings out the best in Giannis, who stuffed the stat sheet. After a passive first quarter, Antetokounmpo was aggressive but calculated on his drives. He wasn’t at all deterred from going at the mountains of Davis, Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik – and more often than not, he did so successfully. Twice he challenged Davis, finished at the rim and drew a foul. Giannis also converted a ridiculous midrange jump hook at the end of the first quarter.

He played a significant role in limiting – and frustrating – Davis on the offensive end. After roasting Milwaukee for a career-high 43 points earlier this month, Davis was just 6-18 from the field Tuesday. He had far fewer open midrange looks and was constantly contested at the rim, in large part due to Giannis’ length.

Zaza Pachulia, C 24 MIN | 3-9 FG | 5-6 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -11 +/-

Pachulia’s post defense and rebounding were on full display late in the fourth quarter, when the Bucks were in desperate need of stops.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 25 MIN | 2-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -10 +/-

Carter-Williams, who missed Saturday’s game with a sore ankle, returned Tuesday but appeared limited by injury. His lateral movement was underwhelming, as Tyreke Evans got to the rim at will and scored a quick eight points in the opening minutes. He missed his first five shots and finished just 2-12 from the field. Carter-Williams pieced together a few highlights – flicking up a nice lob to Henson and dunking on a decisive drive for his first basket – but he was rightfully benched in favor of Bayless to close the game.

Khris Middleton, SG 35 MIN | 2-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 4 PTS | +4 +/-

Middleton experienced his worst shooting performance in months, finishing with just four points on 14 shots. He also led the Bucks with four turnovers. He couldn’t get any separation from Eric Gordon or Quincy Pondexter, who blanketed him all night and prevented him from turning the corner. The struggles of Carter-Williams and Middleton played no small part in Milwaukee’s six-minute scoring drought to start the game.

Middleton did call a clutch timeout – if there is such a thing. He prophetically motioned for a timeout right as Bayless picked up his dribble after attempting to drive. Bayless appeared to have turned the ball over on an errant pass to Giannis, but the refs acknowledged the timeout. Middleton’s awareness temporarily saved the game for Milwaukee.

Chris Johnson, SF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2 +/-

Johnson picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and never re-entered the game.

John Henson, C 24 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +10 +/-

After a listless two-week stretch, Henson put together a complete game Tuesday night. He dove hard and finished around the rim, hit a hook shot over Davis, blocked four shots and grabbed seven rebounds. There was a three-minute stretch midway through the third quarter when Giannis connected with Henson on four field goals around the rim, with two blocked shots by Henson sandwiched in between. Despite his play and rapport with Giannis, Jason Kidd opted to go with Pachulia for the final 10 minutes of the game.

As always, it’s a question of consistency with Henson – the talent is undeniable. It will be interesting to see how he follows up this impressive outing against another tough frontcourt Wednesday against San Antonio.

Tyler Ennis, PG 23 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +6 +/-

Ennis was a key stabilizer in the first quarter as the Bucks were digging themselves out of a 15-0 hole. He hit his first two shots – a floater and an uncontested three-pointer – and threw a nice lob to Henson, who was fouled. He didn’t do much the rest of the game, but there were sure signs of growth: calming the first unit as the primary ball handler, leading an effective second unit, and only turning the ball over once in 23 minutes.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 34 MIN | 4-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +10 +/-

Bayless, who returned from his ankle injury, was generally solid. He dished out five assists, played within himself, and hit a big floater with three minutes left to bring the Bucks within two.

However, no matter how productive the Bucks are moving the ball throughout the game, their point guards – Brandon Knight before, Bayless and Carter-Williams now – frequently try to shoulder the scoring burden down the stretch and opt for largely inexplicable, unsuccessful isolation basketball. With about a minute left and the Bucks down three, Bayless isolated and bricked a fadeaway midrange jumper. Then, with nine seconds remaining and the Bucks down one, Bayless drove, was walled off by his defender, and threw a panic pass off Giannis out of bounds. It would have been a game-ending turnover had Middleton not called a timeout.

Bayless also grabbed eight rebounds, partly as a beneficiary of uncontrolled tap-outs from Milwaukee’s big men, who were battling with Davis, Asik and Ajinca.

Johnny O’Bryant III, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-


Jared Dudley, SF DNP BACK SPASMS MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-

DNP-Back spasms

Miles Plumlee, C DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-



DNP-Right hamstring soreness

Five Things We Saw

  1. Basketball is a game of runs, as the saying goes. This game was far from an exception. The Pelicans started on a 15-0 run. The Bucks used a 17-3 run at the start the second quarter to tie the game at 35 and briefly take a three-point lead. The Pelicans answered with a 7-0 run of their own. The Bucks then went on a 6-2 run to end the half, taking a 44-42 lead into halftime. The Pelicans started the second half akin to their first, opening with a 14-3 run. The Bucks answered with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 56-56. The Pelicans ended the quarter on a 14-6 run – which included a 7-0 stretch – taking a 70-62 lead into the final frame. The Bucks crawled back again to tie the game at 80 on a rebound and putback by Ilyasova with two minutes left. Gordon then drilled a three to break the tie. Bayless converted four free throws – with a Davis midrange jumper in between – to bring the Bucks within one with 30 seconds remaining. The Bucks had an opportunity to take the lead in the closing seconds, but Ilyasova missed a wide-open three.
  2. Ajinca scored New Orleans’ first bench points at the end of the third quarter. In all, Milwaukee’s bench outscored New Orleans’ 33-10.
  3. Davis had his shot blocked six times, according to That seems like a lot.

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  1. The big story, to me, is coach Kidd continuing to go small ball, and doing it for the entire game. I know that’s repetition on my part for continually pointing that out, but remember it’s also repetitious for Kidd to go with undersized lineups seemingly 99 percent of the time.

    Along those lines, I think Zaza has played really well for us, and Ers has had his moments, perhaps playing pretty well overall., but seemingly highly inconsistent. I like those guys, but in limited roles off the bench, especially if they’re not going to be part of the Bucks for all that long.

    There’s no way Ers should be playing 36 minutes, while John Henson plays 24, and Miles Plumlee 0. As for Zaza, he shouldn’t be finishing games instead of John, although perhaps maybe with John in some situations. As I think rowe has claimed, perhaps it’s John who’s not long for the Bucks. To have the stellar third quarter he did, and then to be taken out of the game for the final 10 minutes or so, is a real slap in the face. John may not want to come back with the Bucks — and for good reason. I’m not sure the Bucks deserve him!

    I won’t even go much into the point guards at this point, in part because I’m having trouble figuring them out. It wonder if we have one point guard who is better at setting up his teammates for shots, than setting himself up for shots. I’m getting to the point where I’d prefer that Khris and Giannis share the point duties at the end of games rather than MCW, Jerryd, or Tyler (with a finishing frontline of John and either Miles or Zaza). How I miss Kendall Marshall!

    • I’m unsure what you mean by “small ball”. The team had a “traditional” center (Zaza or Henson) on the floor for all 48 minutes, 6’10” Ersan Ilyasova played 36 minutes at power forward, and Giannis played small forward despite being bigger than almost everybody else on the floor. Even Middleton is big for a shooting guard. It’s certainly not small ball, and if anything it’s a “traditional” or oversized lineup.

      Furthermore, playing Ersan a bunch makes sense considering that he was the only floor-spacing threat on the floor for the team last night. A big lineup featuring two centers (like Henson & Plumlee) at the forwards would pretty seriously cramp the spacing for a team that doesn’t currently have that many shooting threats and mainly succeeds at driving to the rim and playing uptempo. Defenders don’t have much incentive to follow either forward outside the paint if they aren’t a threat from outside of 5-8 feet, which lets them stay in the way of Giannis/MCW/Bayless/Middleton drives.

  2. I truly appreciate getting your thoughts on this matter, Mitch, and I’m also wondering what others think. Hey, I could be way wrong, but in that case I’d like to hear better alternatives.

    It seems like the Bucks frontline has been seriously outsized against, for example, the Lakers, Jazz, Grizzlies and Pelicans. If Zaza plays up near the free throw line, and John plays down near the rim, that would supply at least some spacing. I don’t know what Miles can do on offense, because he has hardly played with the Bucks, but I’d like to give him a try. I know John can run the floor pretty well, and I’m guessing Miles can, too. It might be worthwhile to give Ers 20 or so minutes per game, but he seems so inconsistent with his outside shooting that I don’t see him as a big threat on offense. Also, it’s hard to watch Ers and Zaza on the floor together lumbering around.

    In any case, whatever the Bucks have been doing on offense since the all-star break seems to be really terrible, so why not try a bigger lineup at least some of the time by pairing two of our three biggest bigs: John, Zaza and Miles.

    Also, I’m open to other ideas about getting the Bucks going on offense, which has seemed like a quagmire for the last month or so. I know we lost Brandon to a trade, are trying to integrate some new guys, and have lost a lot of players to injury — but isn’t there anything we can do? Oftentimes, the Bucks are just about unbearable to watch, and especially so when we’re playing guys who don’t seem to be part of the future of the team.

    I know this is hyperbole, but it seems like the only solution offered is to blame John Henson by limiting his minutes. Why not try some other ideas? One practical one is to tie the shooting hands of our point guards behind their backs, or at least yank them from the game if they get shot-happy, dribble-drugged, or turnover-tipsy.

  3. We can argue all year long (and we have) why the Bucks do what they do with Henson vs journeymen like Za Za and Ersan. The Bucks obviously don’t see the value in playing the younger players with the greater chance to develop in all situations.

    The cold fact is the Bucks lost last night cause’ 2 of their primary players (mcw and Middleton) had terrible games. I appreciate the sentiment that Ersan needed to play 36 minutes cause’ he’s a “threat” (3 of 9) to hit perimeter shots. Not to mention he missed a wide open game winner. Of course, when’s the last time Ersan has ever been called on to shoot the last shot of the game????

    Bright side- great defensive effort by the Bucks. Build on it!!!

  4. Couch Potato Scout

    I thought the lineups were ok, but I feel like Swisch does that the minutes need to be spread around more. Henson should get a couple more, Plumlee should get a little bit more, and I feel that the best thing might be to just try and tell MCW not to shoot and again just work of ball-screens. I really despise the isolation basketball (unless it’s with Giannis) and it always seems to end in a turnover or missed shot. Lastly, I feel Middleton should have the ball in his hands more, because it seems to me that he’s one of the few Bucks that has really good shot selection (I know he went 2-14, but still I think his shot selection in general, is 5x better than Bayless, Mayo, or MCW’s shot selection. In fact, for me, I think Middleton only had one or two bad shot selections this game.)
    However, after reading this article:
    It seems as if MCW has incredible potential and is actually playing good (?), although I’m not sure how.
    Lastly, I feel that the Bucks should hang their hat on defense and fast break, focusing on getting as many quick buckets as possible. This way they could optimize the height/length advantage they have with a MCW-Middleton-Giannis-Henson-Plumlee squad, and just push the ball up more for dunks.

    • The Bucks offensive rating with MCW on the court is a respectable 98.6 vs a putrid 89.6 with him off the court since coming to the Bucks. Personally I attribute the recent struggles to injuries to the bench. Even with Brandon Knight, it was common for the starters to struggle a bit, and then the bench would come in a destroy the other teams bench. Once Bayless, OJ, and Dudley get healthy, I expect the Bucks to be slightly above average the rest of the way.

      Also, there was a 21 point difference between when Zaza was on the court vs when Henson was on the court. So if poor individual play, as well as the teams +/- isn’t enough to keep Zaza on the bench, nothing is.

  5. It was painful watching Kris miss shot after shot against the Pelicans — and yet he managed to finish the game with a court rating of +4. I think this speaks to him not taking bad shots, the kind that demoralize teammates, throw the rhythm of the team out of whack, and lead to easy scores going the other way. Plus, it seems like Khris does a lot of little things during a game to help the Bucks win, including that heads-up timeout he called that Preston notes above.

    Thing about Khris is that he’s been thrust into a more prominent role as a scorer, especially with outside shooting, and yet at the same time he doesn’t have a point guard who is consistently helping him to get good shots. I’m not sure if Khris is the kind of player who is going to consistently carry the scoring load for a team, anyway, although he could still average about 20 points as a secondary scorer. In any case, Anyway, he’s likely to be just fine.

    As far as MCW, the man does seem to have a lot of talent; over time we’ll see how much of it translates into point-guard effectiveness for his teammates. I’m hoping coach Kidd will rein him in when he gets careless with the ball or shoots too much, either by friendly persuasion or firm benching.

    • Couch Potato Scout

      I agree Khris seems to be more of a secondary scorer and I think he would be a great one-two punch with Giannis. I think a more defensive/fast-paced approach would help cure the Buck’s PG inefficiency, by forcing them to push the ball up and either give the ball up or finish themselves. What do you think about that idea? and/or is it even possible to have a team do that for at least 30 out of the 48 minutes?

  6. I agree that I’d really like to see the Bucks at least try to push the ball upcourt as much as possible, but with an emphasis on the pass over the dribble.

    It seems like Kendall would get a lot of hockey assists, because his pass would lead to another pass (or two) that would lead to a basket. I hope MCW and Tyler and Jerryd realize that being a point guard doesn’t mean always starting the offense with dribbling; let’s whisk the ball up the court and around the court as much as possible — mixing in some pick-and-rolls with MCW/Giannis (and maybe other pairings) along the way.

  7. Bucksketball Staff you’ve disappointed me again. Recaps have been excellent as always but no more predictions? I’ve seriously come every day of the last 15 games or so hoping it’ll make a comeback. Bring it back boys.

  8. If we can just hang our hats on defense like we have the whole season and compete i will sleep better at night! Playing an old team after a back to back i thought would have been closer until i saw the stats…how can we rebound better and still have better shooting threats? What is the best lineup for that?