MILWAUKEE --That scoreboard photo above? It wasn't taken immediately after Brandon Jennings made a three to open the game, so it's probably best that you can't make out the numbers. Because you can then safely assume the Bucks were losing.
The Sixers are among the rarest of teams with a better record on the road than at home. And this game against Philadelphia started and ended like the season started in Philadelphia: in bad form, in disappointment, in a loss.
Only now the expectations are so much higher for Milwaukee, and so much lower for Philadelphia, that this one stings even more, and it always hurts to lose the first game of the season after a too-long spring and summer.
This was a bad time for the Sixers to realize their talent, but the Bucks have no excuses. Not on a night when Elton Brand (1-7 shooting) was hardly there and Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams weren't there at all. Philadelphia's talent level doesn't suggest they are a bad team, but after five months a loss tonight would have meant they had twice as many losses as wins. And that's bad.
Unfortunately, the Bucks were worse, as human-after-all John Salmons (four points on 2-12 shooting) clunked back to earth, Andrew Bogut (eight points, three rebounds) was outdone not by one but two Philadelphia centers (Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith), and not a single Milwaukee player was memorable.
Meanwhile, Willie Green only needed 16 to lead all scorers, as most everyone on Philadelphia contributed to the killing, with Jrue Holiday (15/4/7) playing more mature than someone born in the 1990's, the aforementioned Dalembert (12/10) having his way with Bogut, and even Jodie Meeks (seven points in 21 minutes) getting in on the Philly fun.
But the team can't forget games like this, because for as great as the Bucks have played at home recently and all year, they are certainly prone to fall into absolute disarray from time to time. In the Bradley Center, when it rains, it pours -- the last five home losses have been by 12+ points. Granted, that dates back three months and plenty of personnel changes, but Jennings, Bogut, Mbah a Moute, Delfino, Ridnour, and Skiles are pretty substantial constants.
And speaking of constants, defense wasn't one for Milwaukee. A bottom-tier Sixers offense put up 58 first-half points even as Skiles went a legitimate ten-deep in the first 24 minutes to try to find answers.
Also unfortunate is that the Bucks haven't quite yet played their final minutes against the Sixers this season. Bogut, Ivey, Brezec, the whole crew, travel to the City of Brotherly Love on April 9.
Luc Mbah a Moute. While this wasn't his finest hour, he was fine in 15 minutes, so it's difficult to understand why Mbah a Moute didn't play more. Elton Brand was a non-factor, The Prince came up with three steals in limited burn, and the rest of the Bucks couldn't stop anyone. They needed points to keep up, but Luc made his way to the hoop for a couple baskets including a dunk early.
Jerry Stackhouse. Stack wins points for aggressiveness. Maybe loses them too for the same reason, but at least he was alive out there. He made almost half of the team's 17 free throws, and made all of his free throws (8-8). Unfortunately, he couldn't make a thing from outside (1-6 on threes) and that was just killing the Bucks all evening.
Primo Brezec. The Second Buck shot 1-6 from outside and the star of the night was benched after 15 minutes, so yeah, Primo's four points (2-2 shooting) and three rebounds in the final seven minutes of the game are
good mediocre enough.
17.9 % The Bucks kept on firing their way to a 5-28 (.179) night on three pointers. That is merely terrible, but when you consider that the Sixers are the worst team in the NBA at defending threes, the stat becomes almost unbelievably ghastly. Philadelphia entered this evening allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-best 39.8 % from beyond the arc.
The Bucks started 1-14 on threes.
28. An odd one: The Bucks scored 28 fastbreak points (11-11 shooting) compared to 12 (on 5-5 shooting) for the Sixers.
4. John Salmons scored four points on 2-12 shooting after scoring at least three times (12) that many points in every game as a Buck heretofore.
I'm just an impartial reporter who doesn't care which team wins.
Home run. Another home loss was bound to happen eventually, but quite a run at home. Milwaukee fell tonight at the BC, but not before eight straight home wins that spanned a full month and a week.
Now here's the strange part. Remember all of those early-season nailbiting home losses? Well, can you remember the last one? Key(hyphenated)word was "early-season."
You'll have to think all the way back more than three months ago when Tyreke scooped in a layup to burn the Bucks, on Dec. 19 for the last close loss at the Bradley Center.
The five home losses since then? All big, bad, blowouts.
- Dec. 23: The Wizards and the no-longer Big Three of Arenas/Jamison/Butler ran past the Bucks 109-97.
- Dec. 26: Tim Duncan worked the Bucks for an easy 112-97 win.
- Feb. 9: The hapless Pistons crushed Milwaukee 93-81.
- Feb. 18: Houston got extra-hot and destroyed the Bucks 127-99.
- March 24: Tonight's eyesore, 101-86 to Philly. Philly.
Iggy's dunk. The Bucks threw down at least three dunks (Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova, Stackhouse) in the first quarter alone, but Andre Iguodala's third quarter windmill slam summarized the night with an exclamation point.
A particularly vocal fan spit insults at the Sixers very early and very often in this game, targeting Samuel Dalembert and Andre Iguodala in particular. As the game turned in Philly's favor, Dalembert enjoyed some good-natured ribbing at the expense of this paying patron, frequently talking back and standing up to turn around and taunt the fan during some of the many Sixers highlight moments. This guy had also teased Iggy quite a bit, saying he was not the real AI.
But the dunk altered things, to the point that he admitted Iggy was indeed the real AI. This guy seriously seemed to fire up half the players on Philadelphia and so it was somewhat gratifying to see him play the fool in the end.
Bogut. "Emo Bogut" was One Bad in the opening night loss in Philly, and we thought that things were different now, but here we are... This marks a third straight Emo-ish game for Andrew. Another single-digit scoring game (8) after going for two points in Denver and nine points against Atlanta, and he totaled as many turnovers (3) as rebounds.
We're not overly concerned or anything like that. Any player can go through a three or four game stretch during the season where they are not the same. But, you know, it's there, and everybody can see it.
Starters' start. The starters didn't even last five minutes on the floor as Scott Skiles subbed out Jennings, Delfino, Mbah a Moute, and Bogut at the 7:29 mark of the first quarter. The Bucks only trailed 14-9 at that point, but coach had seen enough, he had seen too much, really. And Skiles is never shy to bench someone, anyone. The idea isn't so much to send a message, but to get someone on the floor who will play.
So, who will play? Skiles doesn't play around:
With 5:15 to go in the first quarter, a colleague of mine asked, "Am I seeing things?" upon Royal Ivey making his way to check in at center court. The PA announcer said the words "Royal Ivey," to which I asked "Am I hearing things?"
No, times were just that desperate, that early.
The Jennings/Salmons/Delfino/Mbah a Moute/Bogut quintet has been mostly magnificent (+74 in 237.6 minutes before tonight) but they have proven very breakable recently, as Skiles noted after the game:
The Denver game was very good. Take that game out of what I was saying. But the rest of the games, Clippers, Sacramento, Atlanta the other night, and tonight, we're not doing anything to set the tone or anything. We're starting the game just kind of passive and teams are taking it to us and forcing us to get back into the games... Tonight was much more like the Clippers game where we just couldn't get back into it.
Easy, breezy. Jrue Holiday and Jason Kapono lit up the Bradley Center with 10 points each in the first quarter, making 9-10 shots from the field combined.
And neither played a second in the second quarter.
Need to make time for Jodie Meeks, I guess. The former Buck managed more court time (12:52) than both Holiday and Kapono in the first half. It's almost as if Eddie Jordan was just toying with the Bucks in this one. Like a great team against a terrible one, the Sixers interchanged players with little noticeable change. No matter who Philly threw on the court, the result was the same. Willie Green, Jason Smith, Marreese Speights, they all got theirs.
The Sixers cruised to this win, no sweat.