|Jabari Parker, PF 37 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -2 +/-On paper, Parker had one of his better games of the season, but it’s worth noting that six of his eight field goals were dunks or point blank layups. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s something to be said about putting yourself in a position to convert those – but Parker is still struggling to diversify himself offensively and find ways to score off the dribble.
One of the issues is the amount of room defenders are giving him. Rudy Gay and Quincy Acy dared Parker to shoot from outside all night, playing three or four feet off of him even inside the three-point arc. Parker took the bait on a few occasions, but it’s obvious that he’d prefer to get to the rim, rather than hoist a 15-footer. Parker often uses a series of jab steps off the catch, effective moves against an honest defense, but with defenders giving him several feet of space, the fakes are rendered useless, and he has trouble getting by defenders, even with his quick first step.
Parker knocked down a mid-range jumper midway through the first quarter but was cold outside of three feet the rest of the way. On the season, he’s shooting just 39% from 10-16 feet and 31% from 16-23 feet. On the bright side, his mechanics look fine and his confidence doesn’t appear to have waned, so it’s possible he’s simply in a prolonged slump. With the way the season is trending – the Bucks are season-high (season-low?) 10 games below .500 – Milwaukee can afford to be patient.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 3FG | 5-7 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -12 +/-Coming off of a big game Friday against Miami, Giannis struggled out of the gate and was held scoreless in the first quarter. The size of Willie Cauley-Stein, the rare player who can match him in length and athleticism, gave Giannis some problems early, as he struggled to finish two attempts around the rim, while also rimming out on a long-two in the first quarter. Giannis entered halftime with only five points, two of which came via a crafty fake + righty floater over Cauley-Stein.
Giannis was able to get things going in the second half, hitting a spot-up 20-footer and making a tough catch on the fast break to finish a layup + the foul in the third quarter, but it was ultimately too late. A pair of Giannis free throws with just under five minutes remaining trimmed the Sacramento lead to three points, but was as close as the Bucks would get the rest of the way, as Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi, and… Rajon Rondo put the game out of reach with threes on the Kings’ next three possessions.
|Greg Monroe, C 35 MIN | 11-16 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-3 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | -5 +/-I feel like I write it every time, but Monroe has been the definition of dependable, offensively, for the Bucks this season, and particularly over the last month. Monroe finished with a team-high 24 points to go with 12 rebounds and three assists, notching his ninth double-double in his last 12 games. Over that span, Monroe is averaging 20.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and one block per game while shooting 56% from the floor.
Monroe takes a lot of heat, and rightfully so, for the Bucks’ defensive collapse, but he’s been as good, or better, than advertised on the offensive end.
|Michael Carter-Williams, PG 34 MIN | 6-8 FG | 1-1 3FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 13 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | -1 +/-Carter-Williams was the Bucks’ best player for a good chunk of the game, especially early on. He put up 11 points, seven assists and three rebounds in the first quarter alone and went on to finish with 18 points, 13 assists and five boards in 34 minutes.
Carter-Williams got to the line five times in the first half, taking advantage of a Kings frontcourt that sorely missed DeMarcus Cousins. He also did the unthinkable and knocked down a pull-up jumper in the second quarter, a shot Sacramento was more than happy to give up to anyone outside of Middleton and Bayless.
What most stood out to me about Carter-Williams’ play was his insistence on pushing the ball up the floor. The Bucks finished with 30 fastbreak points, compared to Sacramento’s 12, and Carter-Williams was the primary reason. One sequence, in particular, stood out to me: Carter-Williams grabbed a rebound after a Rondo missed layup, recognized the advantage, raced up the court and fired an alley-oop pass to Giannis. While the pass was intercepted by Rudy Gay and went the other way for a Quincy Acy dunk, Carter-Williams immediately took the ball out of bounds and fired a 45-foot pass up to Middleton, who took a couple of dribbles lobbed to Monroe for an easy dunk.
|Khris Middleton, SG 34 MIN | 6-18 FG | 2-7 3FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -1 +/-For the second straight game, Middleton was a virtual non-factor offensively. While he tacked on a few baskets late in the fourth to bring his scoring total to a respectable 14, Middleton had just three points in the first half, and he was held scoreless from the 9:45 mark in the third quarter to the 2:31 mark in the fourth.
Given his play of late, it’s reasonable to expect the Kings to key on Middleton, but he seemed extra passive, even while matched up with smaller guards for much of the night.
|Johnny O’Bryant III, PF 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4 +/-Played six minutes. Missed two shots. Committed a foul.|
|Miles Plumlee, C 13 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -2 +/-With John Henson (back) remaining out, Plumlee had an opportunity to see increased minutes, though he attempted only one shot while grabbing three boards in 13 minutes. Plumlee registered a pair of blocks but didn’t do much to turn heads as a potential trade chip as the deadline approaches.|
|Jerryd Bayless, PG 27 MIN | 2-9 FG | 2-6 3FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -4 +/-Save for a pair of threes – one early in the second quarter, one early in the fourth – Bayless’ struggles continued on the heels of an 0-of-4 shooting night against Miami on Friday. The veteran has been Milwaukee’s best bench player this season, but perhaps it’s fair to expect a regression from beyond the arc. Bayless is shooting 41.1% from three on the season, nearly six percentage points above his career average and more than 10 points higher than the 30.8% mark he posted in 2014-15.|
|Rashad Vaughn, SG 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-5 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -4 +/-Vaughn connected on a career-high three three-pointers and is now 5-of-8 from deep over the last two games. His confidence appears to be back after a rough 1-of-9 stretch near the end of last month, though he still has his lapses defensively. Regardless, given the Bucks’ position in the East, the rookie should continue to see between 10 and 18 minutes per night off the bench for a team desperately in need of floor-spacing.|
Three Things We Saw
- Willie Cauley-Stein is for real. I guess it depends what your definition of “for real” is, but he’s been exactly what he was billed as coming out of Kentucky. Because of his offensive limitations, I was extremely low on him as a prospect, especially in the Kings organization, but he’s already found a niche as a volume rebounder and versatile defender who doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. Over the last eight games, Cauley-Stein is averaging 7.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals.
- Marques Johnson exclaimed “’Shady dahdy loves to pahdy!” every time Rashad Vaughn hit a three. This needs to stop.
- The Bucks shot 50% from the floor and hit eight threes but finished minus-16 on the glass and minus-13 at the free throw line. Even with Cousins out, protecting the interior remained a glaring issue.