OH NO, RUN, HERE COMES THE OTHER SHOE!
The Bucks suffered a momentum-killing defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats Monday night, falling 98-102 in a tight game between surprising Eastern Conference teams. Monta Ellis led the Bucks with 31 points (14-28 FG), but Brandon Jennings couldn't find his shot, missing 13 of his 18 attempts. The Bucks got crushed at the foul line as well, as the Bobcats sank 27 of their 30 free throw attempts to earn a 19-point advantage at the stripe.
Milwaukee started the game out as well as they could've hoped, with Monta Ellis setting up a Samuel Dalembert dunk off a drive down the lane. But Milwaukee's controlled aggression, which has been key to setting up easy baskets for many of their interior players, seemed to fall apart soon after, as the offense dissolved into wild attacks by Jennings and Ellis or botched passes from nearly everyone else.
Meanwhile, Kemba Walker scored effortlessly in the first half, displaying a sensational handle and repeatedly freeing himself for mid-range jumpers that swished through with ease. Charlotte rode him (and a buzzer-beating turnaround jumper from Brendan Haywood) to a one-point lead at halftime.
The third quarter stayed tight throughout, with neither team holding more than a 6-point lead. Monta Ellis scored 8 points in the quarter and looked primed to carry the Bucks to victory, but eventually the jumpers started ending up in the hands of the Bobcats instead of the bottom of the net.
Despite a disjointed offense and questionable defense, Milwaukee held an improbable 11-point lead with seven and a half minutes remaining in the game. But Charlotte hasn't played like the pushovers they were last year, and it showed in a 21-8 run that gave them a two-point lead. Milwaukee had a chance to tie or win it when Ellis forced a turnover by Ramon Sessions with under 20 seconds to play, but his subsequent three-point try went wide, and Sessions iced it with two more free throws.
Bucks fans (this one included) could be forgiven for questioning an officiating crew that creates such a massive free throw differential, but Milwaukee just didn't help itself enough tonight (and indeed, drawing fouls has never been a strength of this roster) to win. Milwaukee's defense lacked the discipline and speed that has made it one of the NBA's best, and the Bobcats took advantage tonight.