The Milwaukee Bucks lost again on Sunday this time to the Charlotte Hornets 87-83. They made strides defensively, allowing just 87 points, the fewest points they’ve allowed to a non-Brooklyn team this season. Unfortunately, the Bucks scored only nine points in the second quarter and made numerous errors late in the game, which mucked up any progress the team made defensively.
But the defensive development and offensive struggles weren’t the big stories of the afternoon. The lineup changes were the big story.
Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker moved from the starting lineup to the bench. OJ Mayo and Jerryd Bayless both got the start (Greivis Vasquez missed the game with an injury that isn’t thought to be serious). From there, the rotations changed up quite a bit and had a big impact on the game, and people had lots of strong takes on Twitter in the aftermath.
Mayo and Bayless both played over 40 minutes
Mayo and Bayless played more than 40 mins today? What the heck is going on. What happened to owning the future?
— Ty Bauschek (@tbauschek) November 30, 2015
Bucks really got OJ Mayo and Jerry Bayless combing for 87 minutes today huh?
— Today’s Fastbreak (@TodaysFastbreak) November 29, 2015
There were more like these three. It’s a curious move, going all in on two veterans with a strong track record of inconsistency.
Mayo hasn’t even been especially helpful this season. After Sunday’s 5-13 (2-8 3FG) effort, he’s still shooting under 40% and has made only 9-34 3FG. Bayless has been stellar thus far, but he also struggled with significant minutes Sunday, making just 4-14 (2-9 3FG).
Before Sunday’s game, though, both Mayo and Bayless both seemed more plugged in and aware on the defensive end all season. After Friday night’s rough loss to the Magic, it’s fair to assume Jason Kidd had seen enough of the lapses of effort, focus, and communication on the defensive end. His goal appeared to be a better defensive effort, and he did get those results, even though Milwaukee struggled to score themselves.
Are the Bucks going to ride two veterans for 40 minutes every night? Definitely not. This was a radical departure from what Coach Kidd typically does. He spread minutes out as much as any coach in the league, and it’s safe to expect that his rotation will continue to run deep and stay varied. Sunday seemed like a message to his young players who were drifting around on defense. Starting in the NBA is not a right for MCW or Jabari.
Parker played 17 minutes off the bench, scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds, the second most he’s had this season. MCW played 15 minutes off the bench, scoring three points, grabbing four rebounds, handing out two assists and turning the ball over twice.
As well as anyone, I understand the knee-jerk reaction to mock the #OwnTheFuture hashtag after a game like Sunday. But let’s wait and see how next week plays out before we assume Milwaukee has given up on its young players, specifically Parker. As I’ve written before, it was time to move on from MCW.
Giannis took five shots
Giannis took…five…shots! — Mitchell Maurer (@WhalesLarry) November 29, 2015
OJ and Bayless combined to shoot 9-27 and Giannis shot 4/5? That’s the @Bucks lost. Why are our worst players taking all of our shots?
— Nick Dorey (@ndorey21) November 29, 2015
Why can’t Giannis have a post up or PnR called for him? He needs 11 shots per half. 4 isn’t enough. — Eric Cheney (@Galaxy_Diener) November 29, 2015
When Giannis isn’t shooting, Bucks fans aren’t swooning. Or something like that. This has been an ongoing theme this season that reached a new level on Sunday. After taking at least 11 shots in 10 out of his first 11 games, Giannis has taken 10 or fewer shots in four out of his last five games. Kidd told reporters Giannis needs to stay aggressive, despite his tendency to find himself in foul trouble.
“When you’re one of the top guys in the league in fouling, he has to find a way not to foul,” Kidd said. “Him and Khris (Middleton) are tops in the league in fouling or getting in foul trouble early. So if you have to sit, it puts him in a non-aggressive mode.”
If he isn’t scoring on cuts to the basket, a lot of Giannis’s one-on-one success stems from his ability to drive to the basket, finish and pick up fouls. But teams are more often playing him for the drives and having success drawing charges on his attacks. Such is the development into a primary offensive force. Teams will always find counters and be more prepared for better players. Giannis will have to learn how to adapt without becoming hesitant.
Without his aggression, Milwaukee’s offensive is a shell of itself. They rely on difficult jump shots and even more Greg Monroe in the post. Monroe has proven to be a very adept post scorer for the Bucks, but Giannis averages 5.2 points per game on drives. Milwaukee cannot afford to live without those points and right now, they don’t have a way to re-distribute them.