MILWAUKEE -- "One of our default things offensively is to go into dribblemania." -Scott Skiles, post-game.
Milwaukee strikes the keyboard looking for "O" but just keeps hitting "0" after "0" after "0." The keys could not lie any closer together, you can see, but they are so far away. Maybe the Bucks do lead the league in shots that have rimmed out. But ultimately that is just a dressed up way of saying the team misses more than anyone else. And that they do.
Zero offense for five minutes and thirteen seconds. This is not to focus on an anecdote to try to explain an entire game. These spells of ineptitude are so commonplace and so sustained that they will deservedly stand as not only the lasting impression of this game, but of this season, this edition of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Injuries have been awful all season. In this game, Andrew Bogut (strained left intercostal muscle/rib cage), Drew Gooden (plantar fasciitis), Ersan Ilyasova (concussion), and Luc Mbah a Moute (stomach virus) were out, and just look at the absurdity of those ailments. There is no way this was going to work. But the Bucks have compounded the problem. Because when one player goes down, no one steps up. And when three or four players go down, three or four players don't step up.
Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, and Carlos Delfino -- the only players left from last year's outfit -- shot a combined 8-33 (.242) from the field. Along with everyone else on the team, they neglected to score during a five minute and thirteen second stretch that went from a 53-45 lead to a 64-53 deficit.
During the scoreless span, the Bucks missed seven shots. The Suns made seven. A 19-0 run. And the Bucks are not quite built for comebacks.
The team has now officially lost more games (37) than they did last season (36). And what could be more fitting in a week that started with Brandon Jennings telling me: "It ain't like last year."
Corey Maggette. The consensus is that when Corey Maggette is so clearly your only hope, then there is no hope at all. That is less of a shot at Maggette than it is at the rest of the team -- you know, the hopeless guys. Maggette scored six points in the third quarter while everyone else was completely clueless. In all, 21 points on 8-12 shooting along with 9 rebounds.
Earl Boykins. As much as I like to see Earl scoot his way around a pair of defenders far more than a foot taller than him each and work his way into Three Bucks, it also pains me that I am not all that surprised to see him outplay Brandon Jennings.
Carlos Delfino. Because sometimes shooting 1-7 for three points as a starter is good enough.
5. Career-high five steals for Carlos Delfino.
1. John Salmons shot 2-8 overall, but he did make one shot in the paint, infinitely more than in the previous two games. In the last three games, Salmons has attempted 36 shots, and has made one in the paint. In 110 minutes. Will discontinue tracking this when it is appropriate to do so.
13. A lot of focus early on Steve Nash's five first quarter turnovers, but he ended up with as many assists himself (13) as the Bucks had as a team (13). And the Bucks turned the ball over 14 times, exactly twice as many times as Nash (7), who did not turn the ball over at all in the second half.
CD-R CD-DP. Chris Douglas-Roberts received his first "Coach's Decision - Did Play" in almost a month -- he played a minute on Feb. 9 in a blowout loss in Washington. This time he played the final three minutes in a blowout home loss. Stay tuned for him to play five minutes in a blowout loss next month.
Their Names are Earl. In a season full of great expectations gone bad, some of the players to which we assigned the lowest of expectations -- players like Earl Boykins and Earl Barron -- are playing moderately competent basketball.
Break-fast. The Bucks jumped to an early lead because they jumped some passing lanes. Milwaukee finished with a 16-5 edge in fastbreak points, and Phoenix did not score a single fastbreak point in the second half.
Opposites attack. The Suns are the anti-Bucks. They are very efficient offensively, quite dreadful defensively, and play at a fast pace. And after tonight, they are also the anti-Bucks because they remain in the legitimate playoff picture.
PG-3. The starting point guard matchup pitted the best (active) player on each team. And Brandon Jennings easily got the better of Steve Nash in a first quarter that saw Jennings score 11 points and Nash turn the ball over 5 times.
Then normalcy stuck. Struck down hard. Nash took over the game in the third quarter, and it helps to have shooters who can shoot and players who can play. But Nash dropped 13 assists on an off-night. He is averaging 11.3 assists this season in his first season in Phoenix without Amare Stoudemire -- more than he averaged in either of the last two years. Jennings had a touch for points early, and that is fine, but he finished the evening at 5-17 from the field, missing all five of his long-range attempts. And one assist in 33 minutes is one assist in 33 minutes.
And the reality is that Jennings is actually Aaron Brooks, as far as Phoenix point guards go.
Threes, Bucks. Before the game, Coach Skiles warned about limiting Phoenix from pouring in shots from outside:
We've done a decent job (with the New York's and Phoenix's) in the past three years of limiting their three-point attempts, which is our goal. Then theoretically you are going to limit their makes as well.
Phoenix made 11-24 (.458) three-pointers. Milwaukee made 3-15 (.200) of their own.