There's nothing particularly surprising about the Lakers annihilating the Bucks at the Staples Center. I mean, if you're a Bucks fan then you're by definition a realist. Losing on the road to a great team? I get that, even if a season-low 77 points is a bit dire even by Bucks' standards.
But unfortunately there was so much more to dislike about this game than merely the fact that the Bucks lost it. For one, Michael Redd is again staring at a spell on the sidelines, as he capped off a scoreless 12 minutes on the court by tweaking his gimpy left knee on a drive to the hoop in the second quarter. He quickly limped to the bench before being helped into the locker room by Francisco Elson and trainer Marc Boff. No word as of the moment how severe the injury is, but given everything we've seen from Redd it's probably not wise to expect him back anytime soon.
Beyond that, Brandon Jennings couldn't make a shot (4/17 fg) and Andrew Bogut (1/5 fg) was essentially invisible on the offensive end, and only a bafflingly bad night from Kobe Bryant (4/21 fg, 12 points) kept the Bucks vaguely within striking distance for much of the first three quarters. Andrew Bynum was there to pick up the slack, though, scoring 12 in the first quarter and generally making Bogut look small and a couple steps slow on his way to 17 points and 18 boards.
Like the Packers earlier in the day, the Bucks came out flat and got blitzed 24-8 in the first quarter--not too far from the 24-7 deficit the Packers faced in Arizona. Hakim Warrick continued a solid start to 2010 by carrying the Bucks in the first half with 14 points, bringing the Bucks to within 11 at the break. But Warrick went scoreless the rest of the way and it seemed only a matter of time before the Lakers turned it into a laugher. The only surprise was that it wasn't Bryant who eventually got it going.
Adam Morrison (yeah, him) and Lamar Odom buried shot-clock beating 30-foot prayers from the right wing to blow the game open, and Shannon Brown (game-high 19 points on 12 shots) capped it off with a half-court heave to close the third. That gave the Lakers a 19-point lead heading into the fourth and acted as a preview for Brown's continued domination in the fourth. Brown shrugged off a Jennings foul to dunk on the break, then summed up the Bucks' season-long inability to finish by swatting both Ridnour and Jennings in one transition sequence.
Hakim Warrick: 32 min, 14 pts, 6/11 fg, 5 rebs, 2 ast, 0 to
As we noted yesterday, Warrick's good days have had an unfortunate correlation with Bucks losses; the trend continues. On a number of occasions Warrick has piled up numbers in garbage time, but tonight they were legit, all coming in the first half when Warrick helped the Bucks come back from a huge early deficit. The prettiest was a transition slam off a nice feed from Jennings, and he also drilled a couple tough jumpers--which unfortunately will likely encourage him to keep shooting them (with sub-par accuracy).
Jodie Meeks: 16 min, 12 pts, 5/8 fg, 5 rebs, 2 ast, 2 stl, 0 to
When the Bucks lose my only consolation is generally good play from one of the Bucks' younger players--ie, the ones I can still dream of becoming much better players than they are today. Unfortunately Bogut and Jennings provided me absolutely nothing to feel good about, but at least Meeks piled up some nice numbers in garbage time to give me something to feel OK about. A few rhythm catch-and-shoot jumpers started it off, before a rare road three--Meeks is now 2/23 from deep away from the BC--and a transition dunk.
Charlie Bell: 27 min, 10 pts, 4/10 fg, 2 reb
Bell made a couple shots, but I'd mostly like to acknowledge his diligent work defending Bryant. Kobe missed a couple jumpers early and then continued shoot despite Bell and Mbah a Moute doing a good job of staying in front of him on drives.
Honorable mention goes to Luc Mbah a Moute, who was surprisingly absent for much of the game. I seem to complain a lot about Carlos Delfino getting burn ahead of Mbah a Moute, and I'll do it again tonight. Mbah a Moute had been on the court for much of the bad first quarter, so it seems Skiles decided to keep him on the bench him even after Delfino threw up a bunch of bricks. And in case you were wondering, the fact that Delfino somehow managed the Bucks' only positive +/- differential only underscores how misleading that stat can be.
24. We mentioned in the preview that the Lakers get it done on defense, and the Bucks' starters got a good taste of it tonight, as they scored a paltry 24 points total on an awful 9/36 shooting.
24.5%. Following a 4/17 night in front of family and friends in LA, Jennings has now made just 12/49 shots in the last four games and needed some garbage time buckets to avoid his third straight single-digit scoring game.
34.1%. The Bucks as a team weren't quite as bad as Kobe from the field, but Kobe had plenty of teammates to pick up the slack.
Opportunity knocks. Most of us are resigned to Redd not being a part of the Bucks' long-term future, so the silver lining to another possible spell on the sidelines is the opportunity it will provide to some younger players. Meeks is the most obvious guy who should see his minutes increase with Redd out, but it could also mean Joe Alexander suiting up sooner than expected. He made the trip with the team and seems a likely inclusion for the active roster tomorrow in Portland now that Redd is likely out.
This also gives us another test of the "Bucks are better without Redd" hypothesis, which got some ammunition from the Bucks' fast start and December struggles. I think there's a lot more to it than just Redd, but I'm also not sure if you can play a weak defending, offensively-oriented guy next to Jennings at this point. Redd's been useful when he's on, but unfortunately his offensive inconsistency has often made him a major liability for much of the season.
Slowing Kobe. Bryant seemed to take increasingly difficult shots as his struggles began to mount, so you have to give the Bucks' defense--particularly Bell and Mbah a Moute--credit for doing all they could to slow down (in my opinion) the league's second best player.
Redd's knee...again. We don't yet to know how bad it is, but it's easy to be pessimistic given his history. Not that I was expecting Redd to be tradeable anytime soon, but another injury only delays his ability to become a consistent contributor on the court.
Homecoming. Playing in front of friends and family for the first time in the NBA, Jennings didn't make a shot in the first half and was just 1/10 through three quarters. Despite another game tomorrow night, Skiles put him back in for much of the fourth quarter, allowing Jennings to rip a couple threes and a tough fadeaway jumper to give his cheering section at least something to cheer about.
Battle of the Drews. Free throw misses aside, Bogut was more than solid in the teams' first meeting in Milwaukee. Tonight? No contest. Bynum hit a couple short jumpers and threw down a pair of alley-oops on Bogut, who aside from an early lefty hook looked short on confidence and rarely got the ball the rest of the way.