In a season of worsts, you can still find some bests.
On a night where they needed 9 minutes, 11 seconds to crack the 10 point mark in the fourth quarter, the Milwaukee Bucks sunk their first 12 shots within the game's opening 6 minutes, 54 seconds. Even after setting a new 2014 record for consecutive shots made to start a game, the Milwaukee Bucks' 112-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves is, by definition, a loss. One of the "by thiiiiissss close" kind.
But let's not focus on the Bucks' failures (30 points off 16 Bucks turnovers spoiling 52.7% shooting, for one). Rather, let's get nostalgic about one of the Bucks' cleanest offensive stretches of basketball this season.
Basket 1 - Knight driving reverse layup (Pachulia assist)
Getting the ball as the third checkpoint on a perimeter swing from Nate Wolters to John Henson, Zaza takes one dribble left of the key and flicks a bounce pass to a cutting Brandon Knight, who slips behind two ignorant defenders and wrap-arounds the Bucks' first basket of the game.
Basket 2 - Wolters layup (Pachulia assist)
Inbounding from the right side, Wolters hits Pachulia on the right elbow coming off a right-to-left John Henson screen. Pachulia tucks the ball to his outside hip, while Wolters freezes for a few seconds before sprinting around a Knight screen towards the hoop. At the same time, Pachulia flinches towards Knight before rifling a pass perfectly behind the defender's slight show. It hits the cutting Wolters for a quick, easy two.
Basket 3 - Knight 20' pullup jump shot
Wolters takes the ball up court and settles in on the right perimeter. He passes to Pachulia, and cuts down to set an outside screen for a rapidly approaching Knight. Brandon swoops around, grabs the ball, benefits from an excellent trap screen from Pachulia, and hits a brief 20 footer.
Basket 4 - Wolters 20' pullup jump shot
Brandon Knight dribbles twice above the three point line, and flips it to a left-to-right approaching Khris Middleton. Middleton does the same for Wolters, who steps back, sees his defender sag and the overall defense follow their men deeper towards the baseline, cuts left across the mid-range semi-circle, and hits an open 20' jumper.
Basket 5 - Knight 1' driving layup (Middleton assist)
In a one-on-three in transition, Khris Middleton fumbles the ball slightly with his back facing the basket and two defenders in close proximity (Ricky Rubio outran the play). He power dribbles and hits a streaking Brandon Knight, who slices to the hoop, maneuvers around a very late contest by Kevin Martin, and lays the ball off the left side of the backboard.
Basket 6 - Knight 12' jump shot
Wolters inbounds to Brandon Knight, who resets the offense beyond the arc. Khris Middleton jukes his defender and zig-zags across the paint and back, which opens up the floor for Henson and Knight. Knight lobs the ball to Henson, who returns it after Knight keeps Rubio off-balance with a series of off-ball jab steps. Knight then drives to the right elbow, loses his dribble, shoulder jabs right then left, and finally drop steps hard inside and delivers a spectacular scooping teardrop as the shot clock expires.
Basket 7 - Knight layup (Wolters assist)
Wolters pushes the ball in transition and passes to Knight 8 feet from the basket on the right side. Knight uses leverage for a better position in quasi-congested traffic and elevates for a lay-in.
Basket 8 - Pachulia 15' jump shot (Middleton assist)
Wolters brings the ball up, and hands it off to Henson, who faces up Kevin Love 21' out. Henson dribbles once and hands off to Middleton wrapping around the arc. Middleton drives hard to the left, drawing in Pachulia's defender. Pachulia steps back slightly, receives a pass, and rips a mid-range shot through the cup.
Basket 9 - Henson 10' hook shot (Pachulia assist)
Nate Wolters approaches the right side of the arc and receives a screen from Pachulia. Zaza takes a bounce pass and swings it over to Henson off the left elbow. Henson closes off the inside defender with his right side, steps once, and lofts in his patent-pending lefty hook shot.
Basket 10 - Middleton 2' driving layup
Middleton nabs an errant pass from Kevin Martin to Kevin Love and takes it three-quarters of the court for a contact-inducing layup.
Basket 11 - Henson 6' jump shot
John Henson starts at the right elbow, sets a
half-assed screen, then moves diagonally to the left block. He transfers to the right block, only to get pushed out beyond the inner semi-circle by Love. Zaza Pachulia bounce passes to Henson for a post-up opportunity. Henson leans in a bit, dribbles twice, hesitates, backs down Kevin Love with a few twitch moves, and wide-scoops another lefty hook after reclaiming six feet from the larger, shorter-limbed Love.
Basket 12 - Middleton 15' jump shot (Knight assist)
Brandon Knight brings the ball up the floor to the left side, and receives a screen from Middleton that switches Rubio to Middleton and Corey Brewer to Knight. Middleton posts up the smaller Rubio, and when Rubio predictably bites for the steal, he dribbles and quickly gets off an open jumper.
Basket 39 - Tony Mitchell spills some blood, just for kicks
Reading through these descriptions, very few of these plays will get the highlight treatment. Hell, the most SportsCenter-esque play of the night was probably the game's final basket (an earthquake of a dunk from Tony Mitchell).
Rather, they were indicative of well-executed team basketball, something coach Larry Drew has emphasized as a primary reason for the team's improvement on offense since the All-Star Break. The majority were fluid, instinctual, and collaborative plays that showed signs of a young team (with a few undervalued assets) learning how to play together.
"As long as the basketball moves, and we're in attack mode, particularly in transition, we come away with a high assist total. But when it starts sticking and we start trying to do it one-on-one, we become a lot more predictable."