Pacers 103, Bucks 97: On Pace For No Playoffs

Neonmag_medium

Box Score

MILWAUKEE -- They say it's better to be lucky than good. Not so.

Because while the Bucks were lucky enough to play a meaningful game with playoff implications in spite of a 20-32 record, they were not good enough to make it matter.

At one point in the second quarter, Jon Brockman went in for a tomahawk jam (this is a non-fiction website) but was fouled by Roy Hibbert. He missed both free throws. It was that kind of night. It is that kind of season.

Cutting right to the point (or lack thereof), the fourth quarter was a wreck. All of the energy in the building at the start of the game -- and there was quite a lot, for whatever reason -- evaporated as the fourth quarter wound excruciatingly down. The Bucks actually scored six of the first eight points of the quarter, but failed to score for a full five minute and fifty-five second span thereafter. As such, a 78-77 lead turned into a 91-78 deficit. The Bucks poured in 17 points in the final 1:49 of the game, but it was desperate stuff, and the game was over.

Coach Skiles, after the game, on the recent fourth quarter troubles:

Honestly I have never seen anything quite like this. We are trying to get through it. We are trying to let the guys know they have plenty of freedom to go out there and take their shots in rhythm, their threes, their twos. We want to share the ball. Simple concepts like that. For the most part, the guys do that. Having some tough luck right now.

It began with a jolt, as Frank Vogel's Pacers played to an entertaining 32-29 lead after one quarter. Points slowed a bit from there, Corey Maggette had left with lower back pain in the first quarter, and the Pacers led by a couple points at the half. Jennings scored six straight to finish the third quarter, first sinking a jumper and then floating in an and-one (though he missed the free throw) and then getting momentum toward the rim, again drawing a foul (making both free throws). I would detail the first three quarters a bit more, but to focus on the good (or merely okay) in these situations is diverting from the real result.

Ultimately, Jennings (10/6/2) was again outplayed by the opposing starting point guard, this time Darren Collison (22/3/3). Since returning to the starting lineup against the Suns on Feb. 2, Jennings has been outplayed by all of the opposing starting point guards (Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Ben Gordon/Tracy McGrady, John Wall, Mike Conley, Darren Collison) except one (Jose Calderon). Not coincidentally, the Bucks have only won one of those games, against Calderon and the Raptors. And even before this February sample size, so went Jennings, so went the Bucks.

The Bucks are not going anywhere, and that is not just on Brandon. Everyone is culpable -- no one (really, no one) has met expectations.

Through misfortune and good conditions alike, the Bucks have consistently underperformed. But it's hard to still say that they are underperforming, or unlucky, or underachieving. At some point, maybe after 53 games, this is just who they are.

Three Bucks

Carlos Delfino. Made all sorts of plays that reminded of the glory years, including a reverse layup to start the second quarter, a cut off the ball to shake Paul George that freed him for a wide-open layup on an around-the-back pass from Andrew Bogut, and nifty passes to teammates for rhythmic jumpers. That Carlitos earned player of the game honors sans a barrage of threes (just 1-4 from outside) testifies to his all-around performance, which was so very welcome after four straight forgettable ones.

Earl Boykins. Coach Skiles was not bursting with compliments after the game, but he spoke well of Boykins, who made the most of his 11 minutes by scoring 11 points and adding 4 assists. Those four assists in 11 minutes were twice as many as Brandon Jennings had (2) in 35 minutes.

Keyon Dooling. Some lineup shuffling after Maggette left the game led Dooling to play some off guard, and he played reasonably well taking on a scorer's role. Dooling dropped 13 points on 5-8 shooting in 20 minutes, and he not only led the Bucks with a +13 differential, he led everyone on both teams with a +13 differential.

Three Numbers

0. Zero blocks for Andrew Bogut tonight, after totaling 11 over the past three games. And he didn't make up for that offensively, either. Bogut's hook shot is set to default to such an extent that sometimes he is liable to reflexively turn an open opportunity in the paint into a relatively difficult hook shot, like he did on one play in the second quarter tonight. And that is in part why he shot 4-10 tonight, and why he is making fewer than half of his field goals (49.1 %) this season.

36.0 %. Milwaukee's starters shot 18-50 (.360) from the field as Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova "led" the way with 10 points each. The starters scored 47 of the team's 97 points. It would appear that this starting lineup is (also) not the answer.

2:1. The Bucks were not all bad -- they had twice as many assists (20) as turnovers (10), compared to the Pacers, who had fewers assists (17) than turnovers (18).

Three Good

Not an important game. The Bucks did not lose at home after leading in the fourth quarter against the team they are currently chasing for the final playoff spot.

Star power. Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut stepped it up against comparable opponents Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison.

No adding of injury to insult. No one was hurt in the loss.

Three Bad

Nothing to fear here. The abnormally cheerful atmosphere was Packers-inspired in part, as the Lombardi Trophy was in the house this evening. But the presentation honoring the state's Super Bowl champs was not until halftime, and Bradley Center was abuzz from the tip. And that enthusiasm -- for a team that had lost six of seven -- was nice to see and hear, no matter.

Unfortunately, by the time the game was out of hand and the Bucks were dragging it out by fouling late in the fourth quarter, the enthusiasm and sound was sapped from fans watching a team that was about to lose their seventh of eight. To make matters worse, the final couple minutes heard Area 55 chants ring out, including a mocking version of "Fear the Deer."

The Bucks are 12-12 at the Bradley Center.

Maggette's back. Maggette's back. Not "Maggette is back"

I watched Corey make 13 of 15 threes at one point in pregame warmups, and that isn't necessarily an astounding percentage for an unguarded shooter in warmups. But while Maggette is a professional scorer, he has never been a three point ace (32.2 % on threes in career). Until recently. A night after hitting 4-6 from outside, he started game by scoring the team's first six points -- on a pair of triples.

But his night was cut short after heading back to the locker room in the first quarter with lower back pain. Right when the team gets almost healthy. After the game, he opted not to chat with reporters.

Fourth quarter. Milwaukee actually started the night with an even (0.0) differential in fourth quarters this season, making it their best quarter overall (they do not have a positive differential in any quarter).

But this makes two straight games lost in agonizing fourth quarters. They led going into the final quarter against Memphis before scoring two points in the first six minutes and forty-three seconds of the fourth. In true Bucks fashion, they did that performance one better (worse) tonight against Indiana.

After holding a 78-77 lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Bucks failed to score for five minutes and fifty-six seconds. In that 5:55 scoreless span, the Bucks:

  • used seven players
  • missed all nine field goal attempts
  • did not attempt a free throw
  • were called for a palming violation
  • committed three charges
  • were blocked once
  • committed a 24-second violation
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