For the second year in a row, Andrew Bogut is finishing his season watching from the sidelines.
Thankfully we won't be seeing Robo-Drew anytime soon, but unlike last year we also won't have the chance to bemoan what might have happened if the Bucks had Bogut for the playoffs. For better or worse, we're being subjected to a fairly boring end to the season in that sense: no playoffs to worry about (sad), but no catastrophic late-season injuries either (nice).
To be fair, boring wasn't exactly the best way to sum up the Bucks' loss in Detroit on Friday night: there was a high-flying, high-energy performance from Chris Wilcox (season-high 27 pts, 13 rebs in just 24 minutes), a big-scoring and surprisingly high-efficiency effort from Brandon Jennings (31 points in 33 minutes, 13/21 fg), a quality comeback game from Ersan Ilyasova (18 points, six rebs), and the Bucks did fight back from a 14-point deficit to make it a game, closing to within 100-96 on a Drew Gooden layup with 2:46 remaining. But Stuckey hit four free throws on the next two possessions and Wilcox closed things out in fitting fashion, dropping in a jumper before a steal and slam capped the night.
Three games left.
Without Bogut, the Bucks' fourth-ranked defense bore little resemblance to the one that had held 12 consecutive opponents to 98 or fewer points, as Detroit pushed the pace and had the Bucks on their heels early in the second quarter. With his team's playoff hopes finished, Scott Skiles played all twelve of his active players by halftime, but it was mostly Jennings (17 points) who by himself slashed a 41-27 Detroit lead to a more manageable 55-51 margin at the intermission.
Jennings drew the Bucks to within two on the first possession of the third, but Detroit answered with a quick 9-0 burst and then nursed a double-digit cushion before the Bucks' final, abortive surge. The normally diligent Jon Brockman and Luc Mbah a Moute were each caught napping in transition by Wilcox, whose athleticism was on full display on the break and on the offensive boards (game-high five offensive rebounds).
Brandon Jennings. Detroit made little effort to slow Jennings on the perimeter, and he punished them by getting wherever he wanted on the court in making 4/6 mid-range jumpers and 7/10 shots in the paint. Jennings' 13/21 night was his best shooting percentage since the third game of the season, a reassuring effort following a combined 9/33 shooting the previous three games. In fact, he's only twice made more than 13 shots as a professional: the 55 point game (21/34) and the first game of the 2010 playoffs in Atlanta (14/25).
Ersan Ilyasova. The biggest victory for the Bucks on Friday: having Ilyasova on the court rather than riding a stationary bike in a dark room somewhere. The fact that he played well was gravy--Ersan was the first man off the bench and did most of his damage on garbage buckets down low before also splashing in a pair of jumpers. What if...
49-32. The Pistons were the aggressors all night, no more obviously than on the boards. Detroit grabbed 15 offensive boards on their way to a +17 edge on the glass.
0. Every Buck substitute played and scored at least four points, but only two Buck starters even got into the scoring column. Brockman, Delfino, and Mbah a Moute combined for 0/12 shooting in 38 minutes.
110. The Bucks marked their first game post-Bogut by allowing more than 98 points for the first time in 13 games.
Youngsters doing work. My main wish for the last week of the season: to see Brandon Jennings finish with a flourish. If nothing else it will give us something to feel vaguely optimistic about going into the offseason, particularly given his struggles the previous three games. I don't have any illusions that Jennings will suddenly figure things out once and for all over the final three games--we've seen him excel in small samples a number of times this season. But aside from Bogut getting the full use of his arm back, there's really nothing more important to the franchise than having Jennings develop into an above-average point guard.
Bogut rests. We've known for months that Bogut wasn't going to get healthy until the summer (if at all), but with the Bucks out of the playoff picture there was no longer any reason to delay the inevitable. That the Bucks didn't shut Bogut down earlier is a testament to how desperately they wanted to sneak into the playoffs, but in the end this is for the best. Get well, big fella.
9th. Yes, we've reached that part of the year where losing is winning and losing is winning. Dropping their 47th of the season means the Bucks are again tied with the Bobs for 9th in the East--which also happens to place them 9th in the lotto standings.
Defense rests. Just a sub-par, lackadaisical effort from the Bucks' front line, which was overpowered, outjumped, and outworked by Wilcox, Greg Monroe (11 pts, 8 rebs), and even Charlie Villanueva (7/13 fg, 15 pts). Not having Bogut definitely hurt, but it's not like the big man would have been the one running up and down the court with Wilcox and the rest of the Pistons, who scored 24 in transition alone.
Energy deficit. I hesitate to call it a lack of effort so much as a lack of focus and intensity, which is in many ways understandable on a team eliminated from the playoff race--then again, why didn't the Pistons struggle with the same issue?
Enter Sandman? With no Bogut and no playoffs, Sanders should be playing 25-30 mpg. I mean, why not? Yes, it's nice to see that Drew Gooden can still play some basketball and it was good to see Brockman return from injury, but none of them need regular minutes in the same way a raw talent like Sanders does.