If not for that 25-2 run.
The Bucks followed up their worst offensive performance in franchise history by scoring two points in an eight-minute stretch that spanned the latter half of the first quarter and the first couple minutes of the second quarter. Milwaukee missed ten straight shots at one point during the span while the Hawks made nine of ten shots. It was truly a team effort as six players (Mbah a Moute, Bogut, Dooling, Sanders, Boykins, Salmons) missed shots in eight lifeless minutes. The offensive disconnect stayed strong on their trip from Boston, as even the only three players to score throughout the first 18 minutes of the game for the Bucks -- Bogut, Delfino, and Salmons -- combined to look like they were in preseason form on a couple instances. Bogut threw an outlet pass to an unaware Salmons directly out of bounds on one play, and Delfino threw an intended pass to Bogut directly out of bounds on another.
And if it were not for all of that? If you strike that 25-2 run from the game?
The Bucks still would have lost (85-83).
Milwaukee sunk four of its first five shots to open the game, including a couple jumpers by John Salmons, a dunk by Andrew Bogut, and a three by Carlos Delfino. You know, the old recipe. But that gave way to one of those new-school prolonged scoring droughts described above.
Ultimately, Milwaukee could not play a competitive game against the Hawks in the first half -- only against Joe Johnson himself, with the Bucks entire team eventually pulling away for a 39-28 lead in the nine-on-one shootout at halftime. The Bucks caught Johnson -- who came into the game shooting all of 39.0 % in March -- on the wrong night. Johnson's 28 first-half points overshadowed Bogut's offensive reawakening -- his 16 first half points were highlighted by a series of long-ish hooks against Al Horford and Josh Smith.
Johnson (36/5/2) and Bogut (21/13/1) accumulated five-star stat lines despite both of them sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Because for all of the offenses outages against Boston and in the first half against Atlanta, the third quarter tonight -- a 29-16 downer on top of a downer of a first half -- ended the game early and was the worst quarter of the two-game trip yet.
This was a makeup for a January 11 game that was snowstormed out in Atlanta, and while there was no snow in the vicinity this time, Milwaukee found out tonight that when it rains it pours.
Andrew Bogut. Usually Bogut fits right into the malaise of a bad offensive game for the Bucks -- he will even "lead" the charge sometimes.
So if it seemed odd that Bogut would play so well offensively (21 points) as the team played so poorly, that is because it was so odd: The Bucks were 24-5 over the past three years when Bogut scored at least 20 points. Three of those five losses were single-digit losses to the Celtics, and the other two were by a combined six points.
The point is that the Bucks never, ever play this badly (or even badly at all) when Bogut plays this well offensively.
Carlos Delfino. His first shot was a well-taken three-pointer, but it turned out that Delfino had a rare night excelling on twos. The Argentine made five out of his six two-pointers, with just one at the basket. But that last part contributed to a troubling trend: Carlitos played a third straight game (a combined 79 minutes) without even attempting a free throw. Delfino's job is to spread the defense, to provide the kick option in the drive-and-kick, to stick in that corner threeball spot. But five free throw attempts in seven games is a bit much. Or a bit little.
Back to a good note: Carlos is on a bit of a steals kick this month -- he racked up at least three steals for the fifth time in eight March games, as the Hawks turned the ball over 21 times, third most of any Bucks opponent this season.
Earl Barron. The last two horrible losses could have been much worse if not for Earl Barron -- a disconcerting but honest assessment. Again he played the role of Fourth Quarter Embarrassment Minimizer to near-perfection, dropping 8/4/4 as the Bucks won the fourth quarter 30-26 to only lose by 25 points.
0/35. Milwaukee's bench scored zero points in the first 31 minutes of the game. Then they scored 35 points in the final 17 minutes.
57.9 %. The Hawks made 11-19 (.579) three-pointers, led by Joe Johnson (6-9), Jeff Teague (2-2), and Marvin Williams (2-2). Pretty wild stuff considering Atlanta entered the evening in the lower-third in three-point accuracy (34.9 %) while Milwaukee boasted the NBA's sixth-best three-point defense (34.0 %). But the Hawks came in with the second-best three-point defense (33.2 %), so that 3-10 (.300) shooting night from deep for the Bucks should not be so surprising.
+30. Jamal Crawford is the reigning 6th Man of the Year for his scoring exploits off the bench, but tonight he shot 1-4, scored four points, and turned the ball over three times. So how did he manage a game-best +30 differential in 26 minutes? The season-high eight assists helped.
Unintentional tanking. For those hoping that the Bucks make the lottery instead of the playoffs, these last two games have been a genuine blessing. And since Milwaukee was just making a playoff "push" they also cannot even be faulted for trying to lose these games, much less in such horrific fashion. Classic win-win.
Way more points. Sure, the Bucks had 56 points in the fourth quarter for a second straight game, but they totally blew past that mark once the teams featured Earl Barron, Corey Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Jon Brockman against Damien Wilkens, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell, and Hilton Armstrong.
Road trip over. They were blowing teams out of the Bradley Center and shooting for a season-best run earlier this week. That feels like forever ago, but that is just because time flies when you are having fun. Now that the "fun" is over, the Bucks return home against the Magic on Wednesday before hosting the Nets on Friday, the Knicks on Sunday, and the Kings on Wednesday. After that they play eight of their final twelve on the road, so anything short of a 3-1 upcoming homestand probably ends any lingering playoff ideas.
Defenseless. After the game, Andrew Bogut spoke about how if the team had played defense like they did against Boston tonight, this game probably would have been competitive. And that might be true. But think about this line of thought the other way: What if the Bucks had played defense like tonight against Boston? 110-56 anyone? The point is this: Milwaukee went from scoring 56 points one game to allowing their opponent to shoot 63.0 % the very next.
Playoff rematch. Milwaukee's long-awaited return to Philips Arena lived up to the billing, and it is a good thing the Hawks rescheduled this game so that those 84 fans (officially 13,590 -- really?) could get to the game.
On guards. Am I supposed to get excited when John Salmons rings in a couple early jumpers like he did tonight? This was my question in the first quarter, and it was answered throughout the final three. Are these games by Brandon Jennings (3-8 vs Boston, 1-8 tonight) less surprising than his good ones earlier this month (10-20 vs Washington, 7-10 vs Cleveland)? Be honest. Is Chris Douglas-Roberts (15 minutes) not given enough chances and just not that great (1-4) all at the same time? Probably. And after all they have done so far, what did you really expect from Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins (combined 2-8, -29 differential) from here on? This collective performance by the guards does little to quell the anticipation of Mike Redd's impending return, which says a lot about the state of the backcourt and the team in general.