And so it goes. The most disheartening thing about writing a blog about the Bucks? Watching and recapping a game that you already know they've lost. And that's exactly what I got to do today after being out and about last night (at least I saw a good concert).
Then again, even not knowing the final scoreline there seems to be a degree of inevitability watching the Bucks take the court these days, especially on the road. They've now dropped five in a row and are 2-10 in March; all the inspiration that allowed this ragtag group to scrape together some gutsy, run-and-gun wins last month seems to have run out. A night after getting throttled in Orlando, the Bucks were once again unable to hit shots (36.9%) or adequately prevent the other team from making theirs.
As for the game, Dwyane Wade scored 27 on 17 shots while Udonis Haslem simutaneously shut down Charlie Villanueva while putting up a lovely line of his own: 16 points on 8/9 shooting to go with 12 boards. The Heat took charge with a 30-20 second quarter but the Bucks made their typical late run, giving the Heat some different defensive looks and chipping away the Heat's 25 point lead to just a 79-71 margin with nine minutes left. Not surprisingly, that was with Wade taking a brief rest, but he came back in time to score eight points in the closing minutes and restore Miami's comfortable lead. Even when the Bucks used early double teams to force the ball out of his hands late, Wade was patient and got his.
Dan Gadzuric. It was vintage Gadzuric in a good way--12 boards (half offensive) in 32 minutes and a couple floor burns to boot. It was also vintage Gadzuric in the lesser ways--an airballed jumper here, some blown layups there. Still, on a night when the Bucks' role player were largely MIA, Gadzuric channeled his athleticism into productivity (18/12). It took him 15 shots to get those 18 points, not great efficiency for a garbageman who should be taking most of his shots inside. But a few of those were missed tips and desperation shots with the shot clock running down. More importantly, he outplayed the typically disappointing Jermaine O'Neal (4/11 fg, 10 pts, three rebs).
Richard Jefferson. RJ's had a tough month and he didn't particularly light things up (10/23 fg though 2/4 from deep). Still, he was the most aggressive Buck on the court and it showed in his 10/10 performance from the line and 32 point total. Unfortunately he didn't impose himself in other facets of the game--four rebounds and one assist in 43 minutes.
Ramon Sessions. The box score is far from overwhelming--10 pts, eight assists, six rebounds. But in truth Sessions put in a pretty solid performance, pushing the ball and finding guys for open looks. Of course, most of the time they missed, but I wouldn't pin too much of the blame on Sessions. His opposing number Mario Chalmers didn't do too much either (7/6/4 with three turnovers), though with Dwyane Wade around he doesn't have to. And though he made only 6/11 free throws (including some big ones in the fourth), the mere fact that he got to the line for 11 freebies is an encouraging sign that his aggression is intact.
9. Charlie Villanueva's home/road splits have been dramatic all season, and even his improved play this calendar year hasn't done much to change that. Villanueva struggled again tonight with just nine points on 4/15 fg, and on the three game trip he's now averaging just 9.3 ppg on just 11/35 shooting. Combine the Bucks' lack of depth with CV's problems on the road and you're left without much shot of winning away from the BC.
- .369/.143/.778. The current Bucks don't defend well enough to win defensive struggles, so there's really no way for them to recover from poor shooting nights. A night after shooting 39% in Orlando, the Bucks fared even worse in South Beach.
- 20. The Bucks are the only team to hold Wade below 20 points twice this season, but asking them to turn the trick again proved too much to ask. Watching Wade operate even against the Bucks' best defenders (Mbah a Moute and Bogans) showed just how special he is--even an average game by his standards is pretty damn good.
Three Two Good
Play the kids. I don't think there's much illusion anymore that the Bucks are making the playoffs, so as a fan I'd at least like to see what the kids can offer. Mbah a Moute might be back on the bench, but he still saw 23 minutes of burn while fellow rook Alexander saw 24 minutes.
Alexander matched up at times with Michael Beasley, who played well the last times these teams met but shot just 4/13 tonight (including getting swatted once by Alexander). As for Joe, he saw early miinutes and didn't stand out except for a terrific block at the rim of Jamaal "Cement Shoes" Magloire. He missed his first four before hitting three mid-range jumpers in a row in the final five minutes.
And while he's more than deserved it at this point, Sessions again saw major minutes as Luke Ridnour was again a non-factor (no points, 0/2 fg, three fouls in 10 minutes).
- Gadzilla. There have been precious few nights when we can say Gadzuric has earned his $6.25 million salary this year (maybe two or three), so we should probably appreciate them when they happen. Many of his buckets were the result of great passes from teammates like Sessions, but I don't mean to be too much of a scrooge--he played well and should continue to start.
- Benched. The makeshift bench provided no support tonight, getting outscored 26-0 in the first half and 37-14 overall. To make matters worse, former bench option Charlie Bell couldn't duplicate the scoring punch he offered in Orlando and contributed just two points (1/5 fg) as a starter. And while it's easy to just blame injuries and a general lack of talent for almost everything that goes wrong in Milwaukee, Miami's bench isn't exactly the scariest of bunches, either--heck, Magloire has been getting consistent minutes of late.
Haslem vs. Villanueva. The two starting PFs are in many ways polar opposites: Haslem the ultimate consistent role player and little things guy, while Villanueva is the high-volatility talent. Many would argue the Bucks could really use the former rather than the latter, and at least for a night there was no argument. Of course, Haslem also has the benefit of playing off Dwyane Wade, meaning he's asked to do little more than take open shots offensively. Villanueva now must do much more offensively each night, and when he doesn't the Bucks' odds of winning are pretty long. Then again, Haslem's defense means he contributes even when he's not scoring.
- Consistency. Unfortunately the Bucks have finally found some of it--porous defense, poor shooting, and a tendency to dig themselves huge holes. They've now scored over a 100 points just once in the past seven games and have lost each of their last five by at least nine points.