The Milwaukee Bucks have relied on the generosity of strangers to prop up their playoff hopes for the better part of a month, so it made perfect sense to just pencil in a win against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. After the New York Knicks lost Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin and the Philadelphia 76ers turned back into a pumpkin, most teams far enough under .500 had been more than willing to accommodate the Bucks with an uninspired effort or two. Not this time.
When Kevin Seraphin executed the "pull the chair" move on Drew Gooden at the beginning of the third quarter -- which sent Gooden tumbling backwards without any hope of avoiding an embarrassing fall -- I laughed out loud. When the Wizards took a 65-62 lead on the very next possession with a long three by Chris Singleton, I paid it no mind. Strangers like the Wizards have been kind enough to the Bucks during the last few weeks. At the time, I had no idea that the Bucks would emulate the ebb of Gooden's low-light turnover and that the Wizards would never relinquish the lead. That development isn't nearly as funny. It's tragic, in fact.
When the confetti cannons at the Verizon Center burst and the final buzzer etched 121-112 on the scoreboard, nobody on the Wizards' side looked especially happy. The stadium didn't erupt with cheers. The loudest thing in the building was the image of the Bucks sidestepping confetti like landmines on their way to locker room, and a dejected Brandon Jennings swatting away the cascade of red, white and blue streamers. So much for the kindness of strangers, eh?
When a sweat-soaked Mike Dunleavy fouled Jordan Crawford with 18.9 seconds left to extend an already hopeless situation at 116-110, the camera zoomed in and for the first time ever I noticed his bald spot. I really noticed it. It struck me as something completely new. Of course that's not true, but that's how I felt in the moment. The circumstances conspired in a way that drew my attention to his flaw; that's not how I wanted my favorite Bucks player to look. We all saw the Bucks' bald spot tonight, and I'm sure it felt the same way for many of you. That's not how we want the Bucks to look, but it didn't all just happen overnight. It just kind of....happened.
Jim Paschke announced the time of death in the contest when Chris Singleton stole the ball from Dunleavy and flushed a breakaway dunk on the other end to make it 119-110 with 11.8 seconds remaining. While I admire his optimism , it happened long before that point -- perhaps even before a crushing 26-foot three by Jordan Crawford 40 seconds earlier. He will find more fruitful ways to apply that optimism and positive energy to the Bucks in the off-season. So will we. The future can be brighter than even the most potent flashes from this season. And make no mistake, it's time to talk about the future. Finally.
You don't really want to know the gory details, do you? Over at SB Nation's Washington Wizards blog, Bullets Forever, M. Katz summed up the biggest contributing factors like this:
- Every Jordan Crawford game is more Jordan Crawford than the last. Wednesday, Crawford led Washington with 32 points (on 11-of-17 shooting!) and essentially won the game with a contested 30-footer in the final minute BECAUSE OF COURSE.
(Near) death by Monta Ellis. Sure, Ellis can't check Mo Evans in isolation off the dribble, but he was also the only Bucks starter who could knock down a shot. Ellis picked Washington across using simple ball screens to score 31 points on 14-of-25 shooting. He dished out six assists for good measure. Somehow Drew Gooden and Brandon Jenningsended up with 21 and 25 points respectively?
That almost takes care of the basics. In essence, Ellis performed well on the offensive end, but he gave nearly everything back on defense. Jennings and Ellis produced 56 points on 44 shots and 10 assists. Wall and Crawford countered with 46 points on 30 shots with 13 assists. Ellis and Jennings were a combined -20. Wall and Crawford were a combined +20.
The Wizards' bench outscored the Bucks' reserves 43-17. Some of that disparity is owed to the fact that Nene came off the bench for Washington, but even James Singleton (a 10-day contract player off the scrap heap) put in more points than any sub for the Bucks, so there's that too.
What really chaps my arse is that every item on my wishlist (click here to read) went unfulfilled for another night, as...
- Ersan Ilyasova (14 points, 3-9 FGs, 11 rebounds) never served as a primary option on the reserve units, and basically just did the same thing he's been asked to do for the past 260 games.
- Monta Ellis (31 points, 14-25 FGs, six assists, three turnovers) did not get the opportunity to work in any lineup as the true distributor, but I suppose that's because he was scoring really well.
- Larry Sanders dressed, but he sat the entire game (stomach flu).
- Ekpe Udoh played just 13 minutes, and the invisible foul monster somehow kept him off the court.
- Tobias Harris didn't play a single second of basketball (DNP- Coach's Decision).
- Jon Leuer watched the game in a snappy suit. Again.