Take that, Gary Neal: Bucks 99 – Wizards 92

Washington Wizards 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker, PF 41 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-6 FT | 9 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | +5 +/-Parker had one of his better first halves of the season, going into the break with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He rattled in a 10-footer for Milwaukee’s first points of the second half but was mostly quiet the rest of the way, finishing with 17 points and nine boards on 7-of-11 shooting. Parker’s four assists tied his season high.

The numbers say this was one of Parker’s two or three best games of the year, and while that’s probably the case, it’d be a stretch to say Parker ever dominated, much less controlled, the game at any given point. Per usual, the bulk of his scoring came within 12 feet, though he was able to get to the line six times, all of which came in the first half.

Thursday’s game aside, heading into the All-Star break, the growing consensus seems to be that Parker’s first half has been a disappointment. And relative to expectations, that’s probably true. Parker is essentially through his first “full season” of NBA basketball, and what’s most concerning to me is hasn’t shown many flashes of the ability to take over a game, offensively. The defensive struggles I can live with — young players rarely enter the league as strong defenders — but Parker has topped 20 points only once this season. That’s a concerningly low number for a player who was billed as the most NBA-ready prospect in the 2014 draft. Consistency hasn’t necessarily been an issue, which is good, but at this point I think I’d rather Parker go off for 30 points one night and struggle the next two, rather than consistently sit in the 12-18 range without much offensive variety night-to-night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF 37 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-2 3FG | 4-5 FT | 13 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -4 +/-Antetokounmpo played the entire first quarter, finishing with six points and five rebounds, but he was replaced to begin the second and didn’t return until the 2:32 mark, adding only a pair of free throws before the half. Though he struggled to finish around the rim for much of the night, Giannis pushed the Bucks’ lead to six late in the fourth with a strong drive and finish through contact, drawing the foul on Jared Dudley.

Antetokounmpo three-point shooting update: Connected on a three early in the first quarter and attempted another in the third. He’s now attempted at least one three in six straight games, his longest streak of the season.

Miles Plumlee, C 15 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -2 +/-Starting for the second game in a row, Plumlee played only 15 minutes as Jason Kidd again leaned heavily on Greg Monroe off the bench. Plumlee denied a John Wall layup attempt for his highlight of the night, and he also pulled down six rebounds, though it helped that Washington missed 54 shots.

Khris Middleton, SG 40 MIN | 9-17 FG | 1-3 3FG | 8-9 FT | 6 REB | 9 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | -8 +/-Middleton closed the first half of the season with one of his best overall performances of the year, finishing with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting. It was his 22nd 20-point effort of the season, and he’s shot at least 50% from the field in 11 of those games. Middleton also tied his career high with nine assists, a number he said he was most important when asked whether he most values scoring, rebounding or passing.

“I was just trying to get things under control, take good looks every time I felt like,” Middleton said after the game. “I was able to make plays and cause sparks.”

O.J. Mayo, SG 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -3 +/-Jason Kidd still is yet to provide a rationale for starting Mayo at point guard, and the veteran struggled early, picking up four fouls and entering the fourth quarter scoreless. His only basket of the game came on a runner late in the fourth that gave the Bucks a four-point advantage with 2:45 to play.

To his credit, Mayo played well defensively, especially late in the game, helping to hold John Wall and Brad Beal to a combined 11-of-34 shooting. Wall attempted a career-high 12 threes – he’d only attempted 10 once in his career – noting after the game that he was affected by a knee injury suffered early in the game.

“I couldn’t really move as much as I wanted to,” Wall said, “so I just settled. I never would shoot 12 threes if I didn’t make eight of them. You could tell I wasn’t really in attack mode and I couldn’t really move, so I put the game on me. I lost this game.”

Greg Monroe, C 33 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +9 +/-Coming off of arguably his best game of the season Tuesday against Boston, Monroe struggled to make an impact, offensively, for much of the first half. He failed to convert a couple of looks off of catches around the rim, but the Bucks didn’t really look to isolate Monroe in one-on-one situations until later in the game.

While Monroe ended up finishing a floater in the lane for what would prove to be the final dagger, he nearly cost Milwaukee down the stretch, missing a pair of free throws with under 4 minutes to play and picking up a technical for barking at a referee away from the ball with 1:36 to play.

Jerryd Bayless, PG 21 MIN | 3-10 FG | 1-4 3FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +13 +/-Bayless struggled shooting the ball (3-10 FG) but grabbed eight rebounds and, like Mayo, played a hand in limiting the Washington backcourt to a dreadful shooting night. As a team, the Wizards missed 26 threes, and the Bucks were able to limit second chance opportunities off those misses, finishing with a plus-20 advantage on the glass.

“I thought that was one of the big things, not giving up offensive rebounds where they can get to that rebound and look for a wide open three for Beal or Wall,” Jason Kidd said postgame.

Michael Carter-Williams, PG 20 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-1 3FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | +9 +/-Carter-Williams played just 20 minutes off the bench, as Kidd opted to go with a four-guard rotation with Carter-Williams, Bayless (21), Mayo (20) and Vaughn (14) splitting minutes relatively evenly. Outside of a couple of egregious turnovers – a bad pass intercepted at the top of the key in the second quarter was one that stood out – Carter-Williams didn’t hurt the Bucks, and his length certainly played a role in helping to defend the three.

Rashad Vaughn, SG 14 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-3 3FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +16 +/-Hit a mid-range jumper, knocked down a three and was fouled on another three-point attempt, making all three free throws.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Every time I watch Nene I come away impressed with his vision. He only had two assists Thursday but made a number of ridiculous, no-look or in-air passes you don’t often see from players his size. Unnecessary? Probably. Entertaining? Definitely.
  2. The artists formerly known as Squad 6 (I think it’s the Cream City Clash now?) were really getting after Gary Neal for much of the night with various chants and taunts that appeared to be premeditated. It was a little bit puzzling considering Neal has played for three teams since leaving Milwaukee on relatively decent terms in 2013-14, and it was even more puzzling considering he wasn’t in uniform Thursday due to a right leg injury.
  3. The official diagnosis on Wall’s injury is a bruised knee, and while it’s nothing serious he acknowledged that it may force him to miss Sunday’s All-Star Game. If that’s the case, Khris Middleton, who’s already there for the three-point shootout, could be tabbed as a replacement.

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  1. In Khris, Giannis and Jabari, I see three potential all-stars, and more than that, three very unselfish players who have the stuff to be NBA champions — hopefully with the Bucks.
    I like that Jabari doesn’t try to take over games as basically still a rookie, that he plays within the team, and that he’s patient with himself as he learns the game at the NBA level. What he really needs is a point guard, perhaps some better coaching, and patient support from the fans.
    Plus, I really want him to be gradual getting back into basketball after his knee surgery, and it concerns me that he was played 41 minutes last night.
    Look at the improvements Khris and Giannis have made over the past couple of seasons, and that will be Jabari, too, if we allow him to grow mostly in his own way and at his own pace.

    • Good analysis Swisch. Jabari is learning. Giannis wasn’t as stellar as he is now in his rookie year; it takes time for rookies to learn the game. I saw Jabari hit some jump shots last night, which was a nice sight to see considering his shooting woes. Patience will be key and I’m confident he, Giannis, and Khris will be stars one day.

    • What’s up swisch! I agree this team needs a real PG who can distribute to these young bucks. I was half expecting a Scott Suggs name drop haha. I like Middleton running the offense. He’s patient and calculated. I like the idea of a small scale trade for some backup PG who can shoot a bit n has good vision.

      • Hey, JD, see my Scott Suggs rave below, coincidentally.
        As for the back-up point, I’m still high on Kendall Marshall of the Sixers. When he was with the Bucks last season, the ball would whisk and whiz around the court with a sweet humming noise and sweet results for scoring. Swing and swish!
        Treasures can be found at thrift stores.

        • What are your thoughts on a miles plumlee, or possibly john Henson and/or Bayless or mayo trade to Portland for CJ McCollum? McCollum can shoot and would spread the floor more. If the Bucks could do that by a possible sign and trade or something he could be a starter or great sub.

          • Wow! McCollum could be a game changer for the Bucks, that is if he’s a team guy, and even more so if he has some point skills — all of which I don’t know one way or another.
            Maybe Portland parts with McCollum if he and Lillard are considered to be too much the same. Maybe they’d take Greg Monroe; I like Greg, but not as much if he needs to be a featured scorer for us. Plus, I think John Henson and Miles Plumlee could do quite well as a tandem at center.

            Speaking of my hidden treasure metaphor above, how about walk-on Zak Showalter for the Wisconsin Badgers — and who is this Vitto Brown guy? Great win for the Badgers over the #2 Terps just now; I love how the Badgers play the game of basketball.

  2. I’m glad that you are still handing out the Jabari love. The way I see it is I just want Jabari to get through this season healthy. I cannot imagine the mental toll that is injury has put him through. Hopefully his confidence will grow in the second half of the season and his production increases. This offseason he can work on his shot and overall game instead of just physical rehab. Next season we will see if Jabari is the real thing, which I still believe that he is. Remember Nerlans Noel didn’t even play the year after his ACL injury. I give Jaabari great credit for his work and dedication.

  3. How about Scott Suggs strokin’ it and splashin’ it in the D-League all-star game this afternoon with 13 points (all in the second half) on 5-9 from the field, with 3-6 from the arc. I’ve been promoting him for maybe two-plus years at Bucksketball since he played for us in summer league. Why not be daring, be dashing, and give a minor leaguer a shot at the big time, with very little risk, and the possible reward of filling a big need by finding in Suggs a talented outside shooter. Also, he’s very unselfish a la Khris Middleton. C’mon, let’s get creative!
    Go Suggsy!

    • Seems good to me. I think Greg is from Louisiana, so he might be really happy with the move. I hope all of our guys find a team and a city that’s right for them. if it’s not the Bucks and Milwaukee. For Khris, Giannis and Jabari especially, I hope they’re not going anywhere else. I hope the same for John Henson, but if the Bucks’ management is going to continue to underplay him, then I hope for his sake that he finds a better situation.

      • Michael Redds Knees

        Swisch – I truly believe the only reason Henson has been sitting out with “lower back soreness” is because they were showcasing Plumlee. Minnesota has strong interest in him now, and the Bucks have mild interest in Kevin Martin. I think that if they find a way to have a starting 5 of Holiday, Middleton, Giannis, Jabari and Henson with a bench of MCW, Rashad, Martin and Anderson, that they will make the playoffs with their home heavy schedule the rest of the way.

      • I like Henson. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. But the kid cannot stay healthy. It seems like every year he has something like an ankle, lower back, jammed pinky finger, that he always has to sit out 10+ games. I do not think the Bucks are underplaying him. Its been what 3-4 years and we see the same player with the same game each year. He just hasn’t developed his offense or become any better at being a consistent rebounder. I don’t know. Despite his shot blocking abilities, I think for him to gain more playing time he would have to improve in one of those two areas.