Statistics can tell us a lot about a game: who played well, who played poorly, and which team won. But they can't tell us how these numbers came about. That's why we're going inside the box score and finding out the story behind the stats.
Today's subject: The team's 8/20 performance on three-pointers.
Hallelujah, it's raining threes. The game box score shows the Bucks shooting a very respectable 40.0% from deep, but what it doesn't show is just how scorching hot they were in the first half. From tip-off to halftime, the Bucks were 7/10 from three-point land. That means they shot ten times and made seven of them. That simply doesn't happen for Milwaukee. Even in an empty gym, Bucks players call 50% a good outing. Simply astounding.
Again, context is the all-important killjoy. Last night's opponents were the lowly Wizards, who are so disorganized they earned a technical foul for subbing in a player who wasn't even on the active roster. So what was it; the offense being on, or the defense being off?
Let's go to the tape of this first-half flurry.
1st quarter, 10:10 - Brandon Jennings misses 26-foot three-point shot
Jennings takes a handoff from Andrew Bogut at the top of the key and moves right. He probes the defense, arcing around the lane and passing along the baseline to Dunleavy in the corner. Dunleavy dribbles to the left elbow and passes off to Ilyasova, who then passes to a curling Jennings on the left wing. Jennings gets a good look, but the attempt hits the back rim and falls out.
1st quarter, 7:33 - Mike Dunleavy misses 27-foot three-point shot
Ilyasova gets the rebound from a JaVale McGee miss and pushes the ball up-court with Jennings. Jennings backs off, but finds Dunleavy gathering himself at the top of the key. He's wide-open, but the attempt is a bit rushed and rims out.
1st quarter, 7:18 - Mike Dunleavy makes 25-foot three-point shot (assist by Ilyasova)
Dunleavy is on the right wing with Stephen Jackson, who sets a screen on Jordan Crawford. The screen has a lot more arm-pushing than most legal screens should have, but the ref doesn't call it, and Dunleavy has all the time he needs to set up in the corner, receive the cross-court pass from Ilyasova, and make the shot.
1st quarter, 2:29 - Ersan Ilyasova makes 25-foot three-point shot (assist by Jackson)
Ilyasova sets a down-screen for Jackson, who moves up to the left wing and receives the ball. Mike Dunleavy dives down the middle of the lane, freezing Andray Blatche. As Jackson moves to the center of the floor, Ilyasova abandons his post in the post in favor of a wide-open space on the left wing. Jackson dishes him the ball, and the shot is easy since there's no Wizard within three feet of Ersan. A total brain-freeze by Blatche, which shall henceforth be called a "Blatche-lism".
1st quarter, 1:59 - Brandon Jennings makes 25-foot three-point shot (assist by Jackson)
Jennings and Jackson run the floor, with Jennings giving the ball to Jackson after realizing the defense is set against a fast-break attempt. Jackson pump-fakes, freezing his defender, then dribbles towards the top of the key. Jennings sets a soft screen against the defender, but both his and Jackson's defender stay put while Jennings sets up in the right corner. Jackson passes out of the "double team", and Jennings makes a shot that was so wide-open it would have caused a riot had he missed.
1st quarter, 0:52 - Carlos Delfino makes 26-foot three-point shot (assist by Larry Sanders)
Larry Sanders receives the ball on the left block, back to the basket. He takes a few wild power dribbles, then jump-stops to the middle of the lane. Carlos Delfino's defender inexplicably leaves Carlos alone on the right wing, and even Larry sees how wide open he is. Nick Young valiantly closes out, but he's not able to get there in time to contest the shot.
At this point, the Bucks have made four consecutive three pointers. It closes out a 36-24 quarter, but serves to break the Wizards' spirit and set the tone for the majority of the game.
2nd quarter, 3:15 - Stephen Jackson makes 25-foot three-point shot
Jackson and Ilyasova are running side-by-side down the floor. Ilyasova sets a screen on Jackson's defender, and Jackson dribbles over the top of the key and launches up a quick shot with 24 seconds showing on the shot clock. Yes, the quickest possession possible, but it's exactly the kind of shot Jackson loves.
2nd quarter, 1:58 - Stephen Jackson misses 25-foot three-point shot; 2nd quarter, 1:52 - Mike Dunleavy makes 25-foot three-point shot (assist by Delfino)
This is also a shot that Jackson loves: the heat check. Jennings darts up the floor and finds Jackson all alone on the left wing. Jackson has been set since the timeout ended, so everyone in the building knew he would take this shot. Except for the Wizards, apparently. Lucky for them, the shot bounces off the far part of the rim, but Jon Leuer does a great job boxing out JaVale McGee and comes down with the rebound.
Leuer kicks it out to Delfino on the right wing, who swings it to a wide open Mike Dunleavy at the top of the key. This was probably the most space any Bucks shooter had all night. You could have fit an Eddy Curry in there.
2nd quarter, 0:41 - Carlos Delfino makes 27-foot three-point shot (assist by Jennings)
Jennings brings the ball up the left side of the floor, using a Leuer pick to get to the top of the key. Stephen Jackson sets a screen for Delfino to come up to the right wing, but the defender actually fights through and meets Delfino as the pass arrives. But Jennings' defender follows the ball and doubles Delfino, who passes it right back to Jennings. Both defenders follow the ball back to Jennings, who takes a quick pair of dribbles to the free throw line while Delfino resets. One last pass, and it's nothing but net.
2nd quarter, 0:07 - Brandon Jennings misses 25-foot three-point shot (block by John Wall)
Jennings dribbles...and dribbles...and dribbles, then uses a half-hearted Jackson pick to get space on the left wing. He launches up a shot, but lets his momentum carry him forward instead of straight up, allowing the uber-athletic Wall to get a piece of the ball.
This is one of the shots that Jennings haters point to and say, "Look at how terrible his shot selection is!" While they might be right sometimes, this situation (seven seconds left, up 24 points) was far from important and completely forgettable.
* * *
This closes the Bucks' scorching first half, but they predictably regressed to the mean in the second half. The second and third shots in the third quarter were Stephen Jackson misses from long-range. They didn't convert another three-point shot until the 9:12 mark in the 4th quarter (Delfino, assist from Andrew Bogut).
Thankfully, the Wizards' offense was never potent enough to finish the comeback they started, and Brandon Jennings' Swag came through late in the fourth when he made an acrobatic reverse layup, followed by rattling in a mid-range jump shot that caused the crowd (read: me) to go bonkers.
Having watched the game live and then watched these plays again, I cannot stress enough how AWFUL the Washington defense was. Rotations were lazy, close-outs were ill-timed, and the team defense was non-existant. The Bucks are a much better offensive team than a year ago, but they are probably league-average. This was a classic case of one team getting hot while the other team folds under some early duress. Honestly, this game felt over by the middle of the second quarter, despite the Washington comeback.
There were a lot of things to like, though. Jennings was relatively efficient for a third consecutive game, looks stronger, and certainly isn't afraid to attack the rim or take big shots. Bogut's defense was normal (for Bogut). Jackson and Ilyasova displayed some impressive two-man ball. Delfino and Dunleavy showed their shooting prowess. The offense moved quickly and crisply, and everyone seemed to be on the same page. If they can keep this up, we might have to reconsider our opinions on the Bucks' historically offensive offense.