Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Having narrowly won their last four games, the Bucks are due for a major test tonight in Los Angeles against the Pacific-leading Clippers.
Clippers update. The Clippers lost at home to the Thunder for a second time on Sunday, dropping them two games behind the Thunder for the second spot out West. L.A. remains a rather comfortable 8.5 games ahead of Golden State in the Pacific and two games ahead of the fourth seeded Grizzlies in the Western playoff race. Other than the two OKC losses, the Clips have won 18 of 20 at Staples, and they had little trouble throttling the Bucks 111-85 at the Bradley Center in mid-December.
Four factors. L.A. ranks seventh in both offensive and defensive efficiency, ranking fifth in eFG% and ninth in offensive rebounding on the offensive end while leading the league in turnovers forced and sitting ninth in eFG% allowed. Stylistically, they're middle of the pack in both free throw rate and three point accuracy and rank 8th in fast break points per game (15.5).
Blake. As we discussed back in December, Griffin's raw numbers (18.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) are at career-lows, but that's fairly deceiving. Much of it is a function of playing fewer minutes (32 mpg vs. 36 last year), and if you look past his scoring/rebounding numbers you'll find that he's upped his assist, steal and block rates while shooting a career-best 66% from the line and 58% in true shooting terms. Not surprisingly, that's also helping him post career-highs in PER (23.7) and win shares/48 (.219), suggesting less can indeed be more. If only the same was true on the defensive end, where the Clippers continue to struggle with Griffin on the court (+5.9 pts/100 allowed, +6.1% eFG% allowed).
J.J. having fun. Through five games as a Buck, J.J. Redick is doing exactly what Milwaukee was hoping for when they acquired him from Orlando (15.4 ppg, 62% true shooting), and the move to a playoff team has energized Redick, too. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports:
"There's been a number of moments since I've been here - in the fourth quarter, in overtime - where I've thought, 'Man, I missed this,' " Redick says. "And I did.
Redick will be a free agent after the season, but has interest in staying with the Bucks. (USA Today Sports)
"Even in Orlando, in a close game, coming down to the wire, you still think to yourself: 'We're 15-37 or whatever.' "
Woj writes that the Bucks have every intention of re-signing Redick to be their starting shooting guard this summer, with only one of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings expected back. That's no surprise--the Bucks were reportedly looking into the likelihood of re-signing Redick before they sacrificed the talented Tobias Harris for him at the trade deadline, and there's no way the Bucks make that deal if they didn't want to make Redick a long-term piece. The obvious follow-up question is how much that will cost; my guess is it would take $7-8 million for four or even five seasons, which isn't the kind of money you shell out for someone unless you expect them to play starter minutes. Note that only the Bucks will be able to offer Redick a five-year deal, and with Harris playing well in Orlando you can bet the Bucks will be extremely motivated to retain Redick for the long-term.
Pocket passer. Jennings has always talked about being a pure point guard and piling up assists, but until now it's been little more than lip service and never actually happened. Like, not even close. But with Redick and Ellis scoring effectively, Jennings may finally be embracing the sort of unselfish mindset that you would have liked him to adopt years ago.
"The easiest thing in the NBA is scoring. Trying to assist and count on guys to get buckets for you is the hardest part," he said. "Everybody didn't think I could pass like this. I've always been a pass-first point guard since high school, so now we have a little more help with J.J. so I can show what I can do."
The first part of that quote is of course rather mind-boggling given Jennings' poor scoring efficiency. The shooting part might be easy, but the scoring part? Not so much, though we also shouldn't be shocked that a guy like Jennings isn't carefully tracking his true shooting percentage. Still, the second sentence also offers some interesting insight into why Jennings has always felt the need to gun away: he hasn't trusted others to do it for him. I wouldn't consider that a valid excuse, but if Jennings is finally getting it now then I suppose it's better late than never, right?
Of course we'll need much more than two games to consider Jennings a changed man, but it's also tough to ignore those two games. Jennings had never totaled more than 13 assists in any single game before Saturday, but he's dropped 19 and 17 in the two games since, with his 36 assists in consecutive games representing the highest total by an NBA player this season. Maybe it's just a blip, but it's a hell of a blip.