MILWAUKEE -- You want to win half of your road games. Not half of your home games.
But that is where the Bucks stand as we closed 2010 at the Bradley Center.
Milwaukee fell to 7-7 at home after an absolute drubbing at the claws of the Hawks, a team that in almost its exact same shape and form got the better of the Bucks after 12 head-to-head matchups in the calendar year: The Hawks broke a six-game Salmons-spurred win streak last spring in the first matchup of 2010, they beat the Bucks in Game One, and they trounced Milwaukee the last time they visited Milwaukee. This one most resembled that last one, unfortunately.
While they were never really out of the game, the Bucks were never quite in it either. The deficit never eclipsed 15 points, but they also never drew closer than eight in the fourth quarter. Hardly acceptable at home, no matter the injury list. The teams who played closest to .500 ball at home last year -- the Clippers (21-20), Rockets (23-18), Grizzlies (23-18), and Pacers (23-18) -- not only did they not make the playoffs, they were all at least eight games out.
So the Bucks left their encouraging road trip on the road and returned home for a typically horrific / horrifically typical offensive performance. Yet somehow, the Bucks are still the eight spot, right now in.
Keyon Dooling. The only guy to really, really outplay his counterpart -- Dooling went for 15 points and added nine assists while perpetual Buck-killer Mike Bibby (came in averaging 17.6 in his career against Milwaukee, second highest vs. any team) totaled as many turnovers (3) as points (3).
Dooling's only real weakness was his outside stroke, as he missed five of six from deep. Choice stuff other than that. Pretty much the opposite of...
John Salmons. Mostly this is a matter of all three of his threes going in, as this game would have been only uglier yet (frightening as that is to imagine) had they not. Other than those? Not much. We're typing two rebounds, one assist, four turnovers, zero steals, and four fouls in 40 minutes. He scored 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting in the third quarter -- the only winning quarter -- and he's just and justly here for those game-high 18 points on 12 shots.
Andrew Bogut. The matchup between the league's worst offensive starting center and possibly the best defensive starting center was not nearly lopsided enough. Granted, Collins didn't exactly light the scoreboard, and four points on four shots is pretty harmless, but Bogut's 14 points on 19 field goals was more harmful than anything. Bogut did not make a free throw, while Collins made 2-3.
The team went to Bogut early with some success, but he just never looked confident making moves in the post. They threw mostly Collins and/or Horford at him, and that was plenty, I guess. After the game Skiles said he probably shouldn't have kept Bogut out there for so long -- he played almost 43 minutes (Brian Skinner has played a minute and twenty-five seconds this season, and has not played in twenty days).
1. With minutes falling and sometimes non-existant, Corey Maggette has needed to pack in a lot of shots in a short amount of time lately. Well, he hasn't necessarily needed to, but he has this month: 0-5 in 11 minutes against Orlando, 1-5 in 7 minutes against Dallas, and 0-5 in 7 minutes against Utah.
But tonight he returned after three games out and shot just once in 18 minutes, and didn't attempt a single shot in seven fourth quarter minutes as the Bucks shot a miserable 5-20 (.250) from the field in a dreadful, 13-point finish.
10 % Elaborating on that 5-20 fourth quarter shooting mark, the Bucks made just 1-10 in the fourth quarter outside the paint. The Hawks made 6-10 from outside the paint in the fourth quarter.
Three One Good
Dooling it. 'Twould be much more convenient if Dooling and Boykins were clearly bad in lieu of Brandon Jennings, so we could at least try to pin the offensive issues on missing Brandon. But as Dan highlighted earlier in the day, point guard play has actually been a relative (again, relative) area of strength lately. Dooling (9 assists, 1 turnover) managed the game just fine and Boykins (13 points on 11 shots) provided some scoring pop off the bench.
Notably, Dooling has 43 assists and 7 turnovers since Dec. 4, good for a 6.14:1 assist/turnover ratio during that time. Jason Kidd leads the NBA this season at 4.03:1. I want Brandon Jennings backlikerightnow, but still. I anticipated a lot worse than this.
No chance. Or second chance. Allowing offensive rebounds and second-chance points continues to plague the Bucks of late. And not getting offensive rebounds or second-chance points themselves isn't helping the matter. The Hawks doubled up the Bucks in second-chance points (12-6), and while the Hawks only tallied a couple more offensive rebounds (11-9), you must consider that both teams shot exactly 75 field goals, but the Bucks missed 10 more shots, so they had plenty more chances.
Chris-miss. A few weeks ago before the Rockets game, I chatted with Chris Douglas-Roberts in the locker room all about defense. Among other things, I asked him what was stressed defensively in New Jersey (with the 12-70 Nets) as opposed to here in Milwaukee under Scott Skiles. And after a few shakes of the head and finally a helpless half-laugh:
I don't even honestly remember. Honestly. I don't remember what we stressed in Jersey... there was too much going on over there.
Douglas-Roberts started tonight opposite Josh Smith at the three, the wiry Buck giving two inches and 30 pounds to one of the NBA's most electric athletes. But defense isn't just a size or athleticism game. So when CD-R let Smith pass him by right through the lane for a tragically simple layup (his second layup in a row) just three minutes and change into the game, Scott Skiles had seen enough. He pulled Douglas-Roberts for Luc Mbah a Moute less than five minutes into the game.
And after the game, this is how Skiles finished the press conference after a question about how the physically larger Hawks (and Smith in particular) caused problems for the Bucks early (and Douglas-Roberts in particular):
Yeah, but you've got to compete. He just took the ball dribbled right to the basket and layed it in. Caught it, took it where he wanted, laid the ball in the basket. If a guy competes against that, and it happens, because it is the NBA, there's no problem. You've got to be ready to compete. This is what it's all about.
Might go from CD-R to to CD-DNP if that keeps up.