What, you wanted two wins...in a row?
C'mon people. We're 42 games in now...you should know better.
For the eighth time in as many tries this season, the Bucks failed to win a second straight game, falling 93-78 to the more physical Cavaliers in Cleveland. And in the process Larry Drew's gang flashed all the hallmarks of miserable basketball that has come to define the 13/14 Bucks. Let us count the ways, shall we?
- A starting lineup featuring at least a couple nonsensical choices--that feels familiar, yes? Luke Ridnour actually wasn't in it this time around, but Ekpe Udoh started ahead of Larry Sanders and Miroslav Raduljica while Ersan Ilyasova predictably struggled on both ends in his second career start at small forward. Presumably Drew felt he couldn't change things up after the Bucks downed the Pistons with this starting five on Wednesday, but it should be noted that the starters were -9 against Detroit and it's generally a lineup that no one would expect to work.
- Even with four Milwaukee starters measuring out 6'10" or taller (is that a record or something?), the Cavs bludgeoned the Bucks 52-34 on the glass including a 21-8 edge on the offensive boards. Tristan Thompson (5 offensive, 10 total) was the biggest culprit, while an active Tyler Zeller added four offensive caroms and three blocks off the bench.
- Ultimately the Bucks were done in by a familiar problem: that whole "scoring points" thing. Milwaukee's field goal percentage was under 40% for much of the game, they hit just 29% from three.
- The veterans generally disappointed: Caron Butler followed up his 30-point bobblehead night with a more typical-for-this-season 1/6 shooting/2 point effort, while Ridnour was 1/7 fg and Ilyasova 2/10. Related: I'd love to see whatever incriminating photos Ridnour has of Herb Kohl, John Hammond, Larry Drew, etc.
- Garbage time offered some consolation in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo splashing a late three and generally making first overall pick Anthony Bennett look inadequate (seriously, two missed dunks?), as Giannis finished with another nice line: 10 points (3/5 fg, 2/3 threes, 2/2 ft), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers. Giannis also started the game with a triple and later added a swooping, contested finish after taking a handoff going to his right at the three-point line.
The Cavaliers did their best to make the Bucks' lives complicated on the offensive end, clamping down defensively during a 19-2 first quarter run and generally preventing Milwaukee from getting easy buckets. To their credit the Bucks showed at least a little bit of fight, as Sanders provide a major spark off the bench with five points and adding an emphatic block of Jarrett Jack to spur a 12-1 Bucks run to close the first quarter.
Still, the Bucks could neither find daylight inside nor knock down their open looks from deep, and all in all they should have felt fortunate to only trail 46-37 at the intermission. Brandon Knight struggled with his jumper after a couple nice early drives to the hoop (4/12 fg, 0/4 threes, 8 pts, 3 ast, 1 to) and the Cavs got scoring from everywhere. Anderson Varejao was finding plenty of P&R real estate on his way to 16 points on 8/11 shooting, Thompson added a 14/10 double-double and Kyrie Irving never had to turn it on offensively, settling for a game manager-ish 10 points (4/10 fg) and 10 assists without a turnover.
- Khris Middleton quietly led the Bucks in scoring with (just) 13 points on 5/7 shooting including 3/5 threes. He also turned it over three times, but had another extremely active "hands" night (2 steals, plenty more disruption) after getting his mitts on a slew of Piston passes on Wednesday. Just start the guy.
- While Ridnour struggled, Nate Wolters mercifully got some garbage time run and did what he could with 6 points and an assist on 2/4 shooting.
- Luol Deng strangely only got two real touches against Ilyasova in the first quarter: once on a back-cut and another in an iso from the left where he predictably blew by Ersan for a layup. And the Cavs never really went after Ilyasova too deliberately, though he did predictably get run ragged on both ends.
- Ekpe Udoh started for the second straight game but suffered a nasty looking ankle sprain that cleared the way for Mirsoslav Raduljica to finally get some minutes in the second half. He didn't really make a difference, but after last game he deserved an earlier look than he got.
- Knight is much more of a drive-and-kick/swing around the perimeter type of passer, which makes the starting lineup we've seen the last two games all the more problematic. Just seems like he needs to be surrounded by at least a couple shooters, a description that no one in last night's starting five deserves. Ilyasova used to be a shooter from the PF spot, but his struggles continue unabated and Henson/Udoh/Giannis just don't seem like a group that's going to give you your best chance of putting points on the board (namely Ekpe). I'll continue to campaign for Drew to throw Middleton back into the mix with Giannis on the wing, though I'd also take O.J. Mayo (who had a semi-decent run in the second half last night) over Ridnour or a lineup that forces Ersan into the SF spot.