If you're looking for an explanation for the Bucks' opening night loss in Philly, just pick a stat. Really, any stat. Because if you compare the bottom lines in the box score you'll notice that Philly was better in every category save for offensive rebounds. The Bucks didn't shoot well, which isn't surprising. The Bucks also held to form in the foul department, sending Philly to the line for 15 more free throw attempts (which translated into 18 more points). And while the Bucks normally make a living forcing the other team into conceding turnovers and cheap points, tonight they were the more wasteful ones, turning it over 20 times and looking physically overmatched against a Sixer team that was faster, more intimidating, and more decisive.
Aside from a second quarter surge that saw Brandon Jennings (17 points, nine boards, nine dimes) quarterback the Bucks to a promising 47-41 halftime lead, every quarter went Philly's way, which shouldn't be a surprise. Andrew Bogut looked out of sorts and uninvolved (eight points on nine shots, six boards), while Michael Redd sputtered in the second half to finish with 17 on 17 shots. No one else aside from Jennings made much of an impact, though it's not really going to matter when Bogut and Redd are both off their game. While Philly's not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, they have the type of athleticism that will give the Bucks problems. More after the jump.
Brandon Jennings. Could we have reasonably expected any more from the kid? The rookie's promising debut was the only thing that made this vaguely watchable from a Bucks' perspective, with five turnovers (a couple of them coming in the waning minutes as he started to press) being the biggest blemish on his line. And as we feared/expected, there were also a few moments where he was far too content to put up off-balance jumpers.
But for the most part Jennings let the game come to him, and was not surprisingly at the heart of the Bucks' two best spells of the game: an 18-4 run midway through the second quarter as well as a late 9-0 surge that briefly brought the Bucks to within five. There were a couple "wow" moments--coast-to-coast layups in the second and fourth quarters where his blinding speed was unmistakable--but mostly he was making solid decisions, taking what the defense was offering, and getting down below the foul line enough to pick up loose balls (I'd be somewhat surprised if he has another game all season where he grabs nine boards).
Lou Williams--himself still a youngin'--was a good first matchup since he was unlikely to punish Jennings' lack of physicality, and Jennings got the better of his counterpart for much of the night. But Williams scored 11 of his 16 in the second half, and Jennings could only watch after picking up his fourth foul with five minutes left in the third.
Ersan Ilyasova. Was Ilyasova good on Friday night? Um, that's overstating it. In truth there wasn't anyone beyond Jennings who stood out in a truly good way. Ilyasova was nothing if not uneven (11 points on 10 shots, four boards and five fouls in 18 minutes), looking dangerous in the pick/pop with Jennings one moment, dribbling out of control the next. Among his five fouls, at least two were on block/charge plays where he simply came to help too late; a third was when he blatantly took a foul at halfcourt to stop a break.
What's promising is that Ilyasova did show some good understanding with Jennings, working the pick/pop together to get Ilyasova some good looks that he'll hopefully convert more of from here on out. Interestingly, Skiles went small with Ersan and Hakim Warrick as his bigs on a couple occasions, including at the start of the Bucks' 18-4 second quarter run.
Michael Redd. There were some signs early on of the old Mike Redd, as he scored 12 in the first half along with some pretty respectable defense to pace the Bucks. Unlike Bogut, his movement appears pretty much back to where it was, which is good, because it's painfully obvious that the Bucks can't afford Redd to be off his game.
29. The weirdest part of the first 24 minutes? The Sixers had only five free throw attempts, well below what we expect from an opponent of the hack-happy Bucks. Eddie Jordan must have noticed at halftime, because his gang came out looking to take it to the Bucks in the second half, and sure enough, they racked up 29 freebie attempts in the final 24 minutes. When you look at the two teams' personnel it probably shouldn't be that surprising, as the Sixers were simply too athletic and physical for the Bucks to handle in the second half.
15. Three quarters of the Bucks' 20 turnovers came in the second half, leading to plenty of transition opportunities and depriving the cold-shooting Bucks (40%) of much-needed possessions.
6. No Sixer particularly stood out, and Williams and Iguodala tied for the most shots with just 12 apiece. But what they lacked in star performances they made up for in balance, as Iggy led six Sixers in double figures with 19 points, nine boards and seven dimes.
Young Buck. He's looked like the real deal ever since he first put on a Bucks jersey in Vegas, and tonight we finally saw him bring the goods in a real game. Take heart, Bucks fans.
Where games happen. Did I expect a win? Nah, not really, But on opening night just have a game to watch is something worth appreciating. Now we just need a good game.
Saturday Night Fever. The Bucks were the last team to start the season, so it's just as well that they only have to wait 24 hours to try to bounce back from a disappointing opener. Bring on the Pistons already.
Lacking Luc. Was anyone expecting Luc Mbah a Moute to only play 18 minutes? Starter Carlos Delfino was suspended. Joe Alexander is hurt (and apparently the Bucks have given up on him anyway). And the Sixers' swingmen seem like just the type of athletic, versatile players who Mbah a Moute would be especially useful against.
Apparently not. Luc came out trying to play like a small forward offensively, but had just three missed jumpers to show for it and Skiles seemed to lose faith quickly, opting instead to go with mostly three guard lineups. Considering that meant Charlie Bell getting 31 minutes and Roko Ukic playing nearly nine minutes, mostly as a two guard, I don't really get it.
Emo Bogut. I thought we'd retired this term, but as has too often been the case against Philly, Bogut just couldn't get into the game. On a handful of occasions Bogut fumbled quick interior passes from teammates, and he generally looked sluggish following a solid preseason. Some blame also goes on his teammates, who didn't provide him many post looks, but in general the Bucks need a lot more from Bogut than this.
Brickin'. This applied to a lot of things tonight. We'll see much worse from the Bucks than 40% shooting this year, but it wasn't a good start, as Kurt Thomas was the only guy who made better than 50% of his shots. And the line wasn't much kinder, as the Bucks converted just 11/19 from the stripe. Oh, and I'm officially giving up hope on the whole "Andrew Bogut becomes a respectable free throw shooter" dream.