MILWAUKEE -- Back to back to... reality.
After wins against two historically inept teams -- first the , made 0-20 on the road, and then the , now losers of 16 straight overall -- the Bucks came back to the Bradley Center and went back to losing to a mediocre team. Just as they had prior to the pair of wins, when they dropped away games in Philadelphia and Houston.
They did not win a single quarter, they barely got past 80 points, and they have not turned a corner. Milwaukee's number one guy (Andrew Bogut) was outplayed by the other team's number two or three guy (Marc Gasol), and the Grizzlies just crushed it in the paint all evening.
The first quarter wasn't the worst, but it also wasn't pretty, as Sam Young scored six conspicuous points (all Sam Young points are conspicuous by nature), the Bucks shot 8-20 (remember 40 %?) including a couple airballs, and it was already obvious that the Wizards were long gone and that the team had departed from Cleveland. Earl Boykins owned the second quarter, scooping and shooting his way to 13 points, but Darrell Arthur (I know) led a balanced Memphis attack to edge Milwaukee 22-21 in spite of Earl. You could already tell Carlos Delfino, in his happy return to Milwaukee, was a bit off, as he didn't score or assist and grabbed one rebound in nine second-quarter minutes.
After halftime, the Bucks failed to score for more than five minutes, Marc Gasol (24 points and 16 rebounds in all) played well defensively and even better offensively, scoring 11 points in the period -- all in the paint. And that was the theme, as Memphis piled in 22 points in the paint in the third quarter as Andrew Bogut and assorted power forwards could not, did not protect.
Down by 13 entering the fourth the Bucks were not out, but this was not going to end well. Curiously, a Boykins/Maggette/Delfino/Brockman/Sanders fivesome outscored Memphis 12-6 to start the quarter, and the Bucks even drew within four points. But a couple of timely threes with less than three minutes to play by Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo turned it into a 10-point game, the Bucks missed all six of their long-range attempts in the quarter, and they were relying on Earl Boykins and Larry Sanders (8 points each in the fourth) for all of their offense -- not quite how you envisioned things before the season.
Now we are halfway through the regular season. And so the Bucks have fallen to 16-25 at the technical mid-point, and while that means they are only a game behind last year's team that dropped to 17-24 on this very day one year ago, it also means they are on pace to win 32 games, which would make them more like the 2008-09 edition, nothing like last season's 46-win team.
Earl Boykins. Player of the game mostly because he was player of the second quarter, momentarily disguising a retro (circa late-December 2010) offensive performance by the Bucks for twelve shining minutes. After sitting out the entire first quarter, Boykins started the second and proceeded to score 13 points including making all three of his three-point attempts. In that second quarter, there was a seven minute and forty-four second span when Boykins was the only Buck to score a point. And while Earl isn't and wasn't shy with his shot, this was more a matter of taking things into his own hands. And by "things" I mean the team's offense. During that Boykins-only span, five others missed shots -- Bogut, Sanders, Delfino, Douglas-Roberts, Maggette.
Boykins also scores points (in addition to scoring points) for poking his way to four steals. He is conveniently sized to swipe at the ball right when an opponent first gets it, and he did so very well tonight. Boykins was hot, but he didn't stay hot, and so his team-high 23 points came on 8-22 shooting. Only 3 assists, but also only 2 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Milwaukee Bucks 2010-11 offense in the process (slow motion airballs are the theme of team video this year), but he is still the one player who has any sort of a clue how to finish in transition and he played more than anyone else on the team (36 minutes) because he was doing more than anyone else on the team.. Corey shot an airball on his first attempt, succinctly/anecdotally encapsulating the
And it not only wasn't just scoring, it really just wasn't scoring: Maggette tied a season-high with eight rebounds, led the team with a season-high five assists, grabbed a couple steals, and generally gave the team a chance while he was on the floor. Needed to to double those 12 points (and 2-4 on free throws) to really give the team a chance, though.
Larry Sanders. With Drew Gooden out, Ersan Ilyasova woefully overmatched, and even Andrew Bogut having both of his hands very full of Grizzlies, the team needed this. They needed Larry Sanders to check a potent Zach Randolph a little bit, block some shots, and even take on a bit of the scoring burden. And he did all of that.
Sanders at least made Randolph look somewhat uncomfortable at times, extending those long arms high up on Zach's little mid-range fadeaways and mostly staying with him around the hoop. Randolph still usually had his way, but there was no one else about to guard him any better than Sanders did. In addition to competent man-to-man defense, he blocked 3 shots in 26 minutes, which feels about right, because it is about right (he blocks 4.56 per 48 minutes coming in).
But Sanders also helped out offensively, crashing the boards for 4 offensive rebounds, and shooting 6-11 from the field for 12 points. His shot selection remains questionable (he pumped the ball toward the basket 90 feet away after a defensive rebound under his own hoop at one point, but fortunately opted to deliver an outlet pass), but he made half (3-6) of his jumpers, and notably made all 4 of his shots in the fourth quarter.
0. Representing the number of minutes starting two-guard Chris Douglas-Roberts played in the second half: none.
4. Milwaukee's starters made a combined 4 free throws (on 6 attempts), as Corey Maggette (2-4) and Keyon Dooling (2-2) were the only starters to even make it to the line. Meanwhile, the starting five of Memphis combined to make 18 free throws on 23 attempts.
Andrew Bogut is a terrible free throw shooter (40.9 % this year) so it's not such a big deal that he failed to get to the stripe, but it's pretty shocking that a seven-footer whom defenses know can't make free throws doesn't get to the line even once in 31 minutes and on 14 shot attempts. His offensive game (hooks, namely) doesn't lend itself to drawing fouls, but it's hard to put up respectable points per shot numbers as a center when you don't make any free throws.
And Ersan Ilyasova would be well-suited to get to the free throw line considering that is one of (the one?) places where he excels offensively at this point (89.7 % free throw shooter). Chris Douglas-Roberts? Doesn't seem to get a lot of calls, but also just not much going forward, not much going on there.
9. Luc Mbah a Moute played 9 minutes tonight, marking the first time he did not play 10+ minutes this season, and the second time in the last two seasons.
Bench. Two of the Three Bucks came off the bench, and the five reserves scored more points (42) than the five starters (39) in fewer minutes.
The Larry Sanders Showing. We are not at that point in the season yet. But yeah, it's good to see some good things from the rookie.
Low turnover. The Bucks only turned the ball over 9 times, tied for their second-lowest of the season and newsworthy in particular because the Grizzlies entered tonight forcing an NBA-high 17 turnovers per game. The Grizzlies turned the ball over 19 times.
Now about those 56 missed shots.
And they played like they were not starters. Or ultimately, didn't play.
Dooling, Douglas-Roberts, and Ilyasova combined for 13 points in 59 minutes, and Scott Skiles lost faith in them by halftime. In the second half, Dooling played 8 minutes, Douglas-Roberts didn't play at all, and Ilyasova played six minutes. And it's not like that was because the team had so many attractive options elsewhere.
Frontline. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph just owned this one, scoring 50 points together on just 24 shots. They also totaled 27 combined rebounds. To Andrew Bogut's (-25 differential) credit, he was justly forthright after the game:
Obviously Gasol, he killed me tonight, and he had a lot of easy baskets. A lot of good post moves. And their bigs really played well tonight.
The Grizzlies scored 22 points in the third quarter (as the Bucks were outscored 29-19) and that was pretty much that.
1-7. Carlos Delfino led (and still leads) the NBA in three-pointers attempted per game pre-injury, and he does not appear interested in ceding that distinction. Problem is, he has now made just 1-7 in each of the first two games back. Delfino understandably has the green light, and as he is still getting back into the swing of things, you figure that an act as simple as a three-point shot is one that might come before the vicious dunk, for example, but he is off right now. And while the alternatives are currently limited, Delfino should not have played the entire fourth quarter, during which he missed all seven shots from the field, including four from outside.