Well...at least they tried.
It's tough to tell what counts as progress for the Milwaukee Bucks these days, so let's start with the obvious: the Bucks lost their 10th game in a row Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards...but they almost didn't!
Coming off pathetic efforts against the Bobcats and Pistons, the Bucks returned home to actually put up a fight against John Wall and the Wizards. So, uh...kudos? But once again Larry Drew's troops were done in by common problems down the stretch: sloppy turnovers (Brandon Knight, ahem), disjointed offense and a defense that just couldn't make enough plays to compensate. That gave the Wizards just enough slack to overcome their own ball control problems and wayward shooting in the fourth quarter, as Marcin Gortat's near-perfect shooting night (11/12 fg, 25 pts) propelled them to a back-and-forth 100-92 overtime win in Milwaukee.
Ersan Ilyasova (12 pts on 6/7 shooting, 6 rebs, 4 ast) quietly outplayed Nene (9 pts, 8 rebs) and Khris Middleton looked good for about 45 minutes (6/7 to start, 0/4 the finish including a pair of airballs), but that was mostly it in terms of positives for the Bucks. Brandon Knight looked energetic on both ends, but looked disastrous running the offense in the final minute (5 ast, 5 turnovers) and was once again a negative on the offensive end (2/12 fg). John Henson never got on track (2/6 fg, 5 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk in 15 minutes) and spent the fourth quarter and OT mostly observing from the bench, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters (who missed shootaround due to an illness) DNP-CD'd. In short, this was your garden variety "Bucks play their vets and lose"-type of game.
- The Bucks surprisingly won the battle of the boards rather easily (44-34 including 11-5 on the offensive boards), but two of Washington's reloads came on a single possession in the final minute of OT. Trailing 96-92 after an Ilyasova layup with 1:14 left, the Bucks allowed the Wiz to run 48 seconds off the clock before Ridnour ultimately had to take a foul on Gortat to stop the clock. Gortat hit both to clinch the game.
- Knight pulled up with what appeared to be either cramps or a reaggravation of his hamstring injury late in the fourth, but stayed on the court to defend Wall on the game's final possession. Wall missed a driving lefty scoop shot at the buzzer to keep the game tied, and Knight then went back to the locker room before OT started.
- It's fashionable to say Knight isn't a point guard, but that's really not what I see when I watch him. He can handle it, he's quick, he can push it in transition, and he defends the position well; all that says he's a point guard. The problem is in the end results: the lack of reliable finishing, the lazy perimeter passes and--for now at least--the complete inability to hit a jump shot. The maddening part is that you can see flashes of the tools that could make him a good point guard, it's just the inability to piece things together with any consistency.
- Both teams piled up both assists and turnovers: 26/24 for the Bucks and 27/20 for Washington. The Wizards overplayed passing lanes all night and were richly rewarded for it with 14 steals, as the Bucks just kept playing into the Wizards' hands and never punished Washington with any backdoor passes.
- Every team in the league is going to be playing Henson to go to his left hand at this point, and nights like these re-emphasize the importance of him developing some kind of counter-move. Henson didn't get many looks outside of post touches tonight, and his repertoire on the block just isn't varied enough to beat teams consistently.
- Knight and Luke Ridnour combined for 7 turnovers and 6 assists tonight. I'm not sure how much Wolters' illness impacted his DNP, but it's kind of ironic that the rookie with the 3.7 ast/to ratio can't get off the bench at this point, eh? For what it's worth, I'm totally on board with benching Ridnour and letting the Knight/Wolters combo sink or swim.
- In locker room political news: Khris Middleton (6/11 fg, 13 pts, 7 rebs, 3 to in 33 minutes) started ahead of Caron Butler once again, and he played throughout crunchtime as well. Butler missed his last four shots and didn't play again after Middleton replaced him at the 8:04 mark of the fourth, though Middleton matched him by missing his last four shots as well including a pair of airballed jump shots. I'll live with it.