The Bucks tried.
Ohhhhh, did they try to stay to with the Indiana Pacers tonight, but there's only so much a team can do when its opponent is better than them at pretty much every position on the court. And such was the case tonight. The Bucks kept the game respectable for most of the night, but never got the margin to within anything threatening to Indiana, and they pulled far, far away from the Bucks in the fourth quarter to win 104-77. The Bucks were again without 80% of their starting lineup, though that probably wouldn't have mattered much against a legitimate title contender whose two all-stars lived up to their billing and then some. Roy Hibbert utterly dominated the Bucks inside on both ends on his way to 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks, while Paul George shook off a quiet first half with 17 of his 22 points (10/18 fg) after the intermission.
O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, and Gary Neal were the only Bucks players in double digits, as the offense could only manage to shoot 34 percent against arguably the best defense in the league. There just weren't a lot of easy looks to be had all night long. And when there were, Roy Hibbert was at the rim to send them back, including one that ricocheted off Miroslav Raduljica's head and out of bounds. If a play was capable of summing up a night, that right there was it.
It was ugly and left me with a case of the sads, but there were a few decent notes to point out.
- The game definitely had an edge to it, with a Middleton shove on George keeping things chippy early and Mayo and Stephenson each forcing up some questionable shots while trying to one-up each other throughout. Even without Tyler Hansbrough, Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders, it's apparent the Bucks and Pacers aren't going to be exchanging Christmas cards.
- Luke Ridnour logged his first minutes of the regular season after missing the first eight games with a back injury. Ridnour obviously didn't look as sprightly as usual (that -30 wasn't totally coincidental), but having him (hopefully) active gives the point guard position a little more stability going forward and means less of Neal and Mayo having to pose as primary ball-handlers. Maybe that helps make the offense more consistent and maybe it won't, but this should at least give us a chance to assess the situation properly for a change.
- As for the Bucks' starting point guard, Nate Wolters tied a season-high with two turnovers (!), but also handed out five assists while adding two steals and two blocks. He shared the court with Ridnour at times and played some physical defense against George Hill, who scored just nine points on 4/13 shooting
- Let's talk about the kids, shall we? Coming off the bench once again, John Henson struggled to find easy looks (3/8 fg) but did manage nine rebounds and three blocks in 28 minutes, while Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't play as much as many would have liked (12 minutes) but made both of his shots and blocked the first shot of his NBA career as well. He found an uncontested putback in the first half but didn't return until inside the final five minutes, when he matched a Chris Copeland three with a quick catch-and-shoot triple of his own. Defensively, Drew matched him against Lance Stephenson to poor effect in the first half, earning him a cameo in Stephenson's impressive highlight reel dunk.
- Though Zaza Pachulia went full #MONTE and shot 2-14 from the field, he did manage to grab nine offensive rebounds. Though most of them didn't lead to putback baskets, you can't really be upset about that many offensive boards. The Bucks actually nearly doubled Indiana in that category, besting them 17-9. But, ya know, let's not go bragging about that (read: SCOREBOARD). Considering they missed 19 more shots than the Pacers, the Bucks also had plenty more offensive boards to grab.
- Miroslav Raduljica didn't exactly wow anyone out there, but he didn't look as lost as he has in prior outings. I guess that's a good thing?
Next up for the Bucks: Oklahoma City comes to Milwaukee tomorrow night. Lord help us.