Bucks deficiencies stand front and center vs. Grizzlies

Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

The Milwaukee Bucks were exposed against the bigger, nastier Memphis Grizzlies. It was the first time this season, but definitely won't be the last.

Occam's razor says that the answer that derives the fewest assumptions in its construction is, more often than not, the correct choice.

The MIlwaukee Bucks are a perimeter oriented basketball team, relying almost exclusively on backcourt playmaking to create offensive opportunities. The Memphis Grizzlies adhere to a traditional NBA philosophy of physical defense complimenting a frontcourt-centric offense with an athletic, versatile playmaker at the three spot.

That explains everything you need to know about how the Grizzlies handed the Bucks a 108-90 beating Wednesday night. Milwaukee's first loss of the season exposed the team's lack of width down low, as well as a "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong"-like glimpse into the risks of offensive dependency on two high volume, size-deficient guards.

Save for a 10-2 run in the second quarter and a 21-6 run in the third, the Grizzlies mauled the Bucks (pun totally intended) with a barrage of low block moves on offense and uncomfortable shot selection on defense. Milwaukee had no offensive answer for the prodigious girth that is Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Marreese Speights, all of which spent much of the evening posting and pulling up as they wished.

Three Bucks

Branta Ellennings. Other than Monta Ellis' 0-7 start to the game (his first basket was actually a fitting goaltending call), there's really no point in splitting these two into separate categories. Combined, Jennings and Ellis scored 34 points on 11-38 shots (29% FG), dished a respectable 12 assists, collected 6 steals, and only turned the ball over two times. Their quickness was an asset on multiple occasions, but neither could finish what they started when they did penetrate effectively and both looked surprised to even be getting a look at the rim up close.

Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova hit his first shot (a three ball) midway through the first quarter, but quickly assumed the role of an innocuous mass of irrelevance throughout the rest of the game. Turkish Thunder played just 3:12 of his 20:59 minutes in the second half, totaling seven points and four rebounds on 3-7 shooting. So far, Ersan has been an incredible disappointment, and I'm not sure if it's a good or bad sign that Skiles opted to sit one of the team's offensive cornerstones and richest players through an entire second half. Then again, it's not like he's shied away from it before (see: Bogut, Andrew and Jackson, Stephen).

Joel Przybilla. The Vanilla Gorilla checked in as the symbolic white flag with 5:30 remaining in the fourth. On the bright side, he posted 2 points (1-2 FG) and 3 rebounds in just 6 minutes, so his efficiency metrics look amazing right now.

Three Numbers

42% and 27%. The first number represents the allocation of Milwaukee's 91 total shots that belong to the Jennings-Ellis combo. The second number represents their share of the team's 90 points. Both are incredibly depressing numbers, reflective of the fallacy born out of a heavy reliance on two players with reputations for shooting, regardless of whether the shots are falling.

10 turnovers. Milwaukee averaged 18 turnovers in its first two games, but was much more careful with the ball against the Grizzlies, who are notoriously good at clogging passing lanes and creating possessions the other way off of steals. However, if you can't hit quality shots created by ball security, you might as well be giving the other team a free possession.

68% opp FG from mid-range. The Grizzlies shot 51% in the paint (23-45 FG), and hit a respectable 37.5% of their three point attempts. However, fared even better between the arc and painted area. Memphis connected on an astonishing 15 of 22 shots from outside the paint and inside the three point line. I'm not sure we're going to see those numbers again this season.

Three Good

Sharing leads to swishing. It's no coincidence that the Bucks' most successful offensive quarters (first, third) also included the majority of their assists and three point makes (6-10 3FG, 14 assists). This should go without saying, but solid screens and guard penetration are crucial for opening up the perimeter for MIke Dunleavy and Co. Just imagine if Jennings, Ellis and Beno Udrih could finish at the rim consistently.

The soft underbelly that is the next two weeks. Zach Lowe wrote a stellar article the other day explaining why luck is always a factor in any team's road to the NBA Finals. Well the Bucks should get some pixie dust exposure of their own in the coming weeks, as they take on the John Wall-less Wizards, Andrew Bynum-less Sixers, Danny Granger-less Pacers, Eric Gordon-less Hornets, Derrick Rose-less Bulls (twice), and Charlotte Bobcats. All these games are winnable, and could put a fairly healthy Milwaukee in an advantageous position in the Central Division.

The emergence of Larry Sanders. Watching Larry Sanders is like watching the Three Stooges act in a Shakespearian drama. It can be incredibly funny, and equally as positive for Sanders' development as an NBA player. For the third time in his career, Sanders recorded a double-double (10 pts, 4-8 FG, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists), and for the seven hundredth time in the past year, he recorded a near technical from arguing with the refs. There were obvious points of invisibility, but as he has often done this season, Sanders turned on the jets for a brief moment, helping lead the Bucks' third quarter surge with solid defense, aggressive rebounding (3 offensive boards), and timely scoring (4-5 FG).

Three Bad

Lost Without Udrih. Even with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis' chuck-happy misgivings, the team's offense simply looked lost without both of them on the floor running around screens and driving inside to create shooting opportunities along the perimeter. When one (or both) are on the bench, it makes for a very one dimensional, stand around and wait-type of offense. Udrih's value as a the second unit's quarterback is very clear, so let me be the first (or second) to say, "Get well soon, Beno!"

Far too soon for a reality check. We all kind of knew what the Bucks' biggest weaknesses were, but to see them exposed so blatantly on their home court just kind of throws your spirits right back to Earth. That's not a bad thing if you want to be realistic about the team's ceiling, but no one wants a honeymoon phase to end, right?

The West has stolen what the East may want. According to the 2012-13 Pro Basketball Prospectus, the Memphis Grizzlies are expected to squeeze into the Western Conference playoffs as the eighth seed. Many people believe the Bucks' ceiling is the eighth seed in this year's Eastern Conference playoff picture. Let that disparity in talent gap by conference sink in along with tonight's shellacking.
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