Happy Holidays Everyone! I apologize for my absence of late. Last weekend happened to fall right in the middle of Finals week for me and my UW-Madison classmates, meaning instead of writing about the Bucks (fun) I was typing Campylobacter jejuni 27 times (not as much fun). A quick word of warning - college, like everybody says, is maybe the best years of your life, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few weeks in there that just royally suck. Today's post was supposed to go up yesterday, but I was lucky enough to get tickets to go watch the Packers obliterate the Giants at Lambeau.
In any case, a lot has changed since I last looked in on what was going well in Milwaukee. We've got a new starting point guard while Jennings puts his feet up, we lost in horrifying fashion to the only team as beat up as us (Portland), only to immediately go on and stomp the defending champs in a manner only slightly less embarrassing than their stinker on Christmas. Does anybody really know who the Milwaukee Bucks are? No. Is that why this post is always written in one-week increments with no regard to the past or future? Heck yes.
The small presents are sometimes the best: When Brandon Jennings' broken foot was revealed, it meant both Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins would play much larger roles in Milwaukee's backcourt. Dooling hasn't been bad (5 assists in each game as the starter, only 4 total TOs in those games), but it's no secret that Earl Boykins has been the big hero (there had to be at least one pun). After a nasty performance in Portland, Earl exploded in LA for 22 points 67% shooting, including 4-5 from deep. Then he kept the party rolling in Sacramento, scoring 19 points in a game that was closer than it probably should have been. In his two standout games, only 5 of Earl's 17 made shots have been assisted, giving you an idea of how well he's been creating for himself. If Boykins can continue to provide this kind of offensive infusion off the bench, it's going to make Jennings' absence much easier to weather.
Rebounding: The Bucks remain one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA - top-5 in defensive rebounding and top-15 in offensive rebounding - but overall they got hammered on the boards in the last 3 games (-24 total rebound differential in their last 3 games). Sacramento outrebounded the Bucks by twenty and had an ORR of almost 40. For a team as offensively challenged as the Kings (as if a Bucks blogger can call anybody else offensively challenged...), getting that many chances at the rim is almost the only way they can hope to stay in a game, and that's exactly what happened. Even in LA, where Milwaukee had a stellar ORR of 39.4, they couldn't grab defensive boards to match, giving up a 36.6 ORR to the Lakers. Milwaukee's ability to keep LA off the line and defend the 3-point arc proved to be the difference, but Milwaukee needs to exploit their strength on the boards whenever possible, and last week they weren't performing at the level we're all used to seeing.