The Bucks just seem intent on disappointing everyone on their current road trip, don't they? For the Bucks faithful, that part is obvious: start by showing up incapable of stopping the other guys and get crushed in the first quarter. Tonight it was a 31-16 deficit, which believe it or not is the best margin they've had in any of the three games on the current trip.
Then, salvage some dignity by getting back into the game once the other team is feeling good about themselves--thank you, Luke Ridnour (12 pts, 8 ast), Jodie Meeks (21 pts) and Ersan Ilyasova (24 pts). Meeks especially provided a ray of hope in the aftermath of Michael Redd's injury, showing off both the outside touch expected of him as well as a surprising knack for finishing around the hoop.
But in the end...well, you lose. Sorry, but 30 point deficits just aren't overcome (unless you're from Sacramento visiting the Windy City obviously).
Of course, the Bucks won't let their opponents' fans enjoy it too much either: as soon as the Bucks look dead, they scrape together a run just to make the other team look lazy. Then again, Portland fans may have been too concerned with getting free chalupas to be bothered too much by a furious Bucks rally that saw a 30-point deficit slashed to a vaguely do-able 12 with five minutes remaining. Key word: vaguely. In the end the Bucks could never stop Portland when it mattered, and a 12-point defeat was probably flattering to the visitors.
Overall, the Bucks never had an answer for Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, or LaMarcus Aldridge. Or Jeff Pendergraph, Juwan Howard, or Martell Webster. The Blazers shot a scorching 60% from the field and, well, that's all your really need to know. The Bucks buried 12 threes and scored well above their usual efficiency as well (13 offensive rebounds help), but they also struggled to get Bogut the ball period, as Portland's fronting and doubling left the Bucks grasping for straws early on.
Jodie Meeks: 31 min, 21 pts, 9/17 fg, 3/7 ft, 4 rebs, 2 ast, 1 to, 1 stl
Meeks checked in with seven minutes gone in the first and quickly gave the Bucks a boost with a pair of driving layups and a catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper. He added five more in the second quarter as the Bucks went on a 15-6 run, showing he can get out in transition and finish there, too.
It's not that Meeks is a great driver, but with so many weak finishers surrounding him he looks pretty damn solid. While not big, he's got just enough quickness, handles, and explosiveness to get things going to the rack. His first two layups came off screens, catching the ball at the left elbow, and immediately driving right past his defender. Later in the game he began to do more of his usual perimeter shooting, playing the final 16 minutes as the Bucks made up 18 points on the scoreboard.
Ersan Ilyasova: 32 min, 24 pts, 9/15 fg, 4/6 threes, 2/2 ft, 5 reb, 1 stl, 0 to
It had been 13 games since Ilyasova last shot better than 50% from the field, so it was nice to see a bit of the Turk Nowitzki stuff we got a taste of in November, especially on the pick and pop. Ilyasova's hot-shooting night from the perimeter was the only thing going for the Bucks in the first and third quarters, so his -20 differential was mostly a product of having the misfortune of playing with the other Bucks' starters.
Luke Ridnour: 31 min, 12 pts, 4/12 fg, 4/4 ft, 8 ast, 1 to
Ridnour quarterbacked the Bucks' aborted comeback in the fourth--though it had a lot more to do with his distribution to Bell and Meeks than having his own shot going. Unfortunately, like Jennings he was unable to stop the bigger Andre Miller, who abused the Bucks' little guards for 19 points on just eight shots.
60.3%. If a team shoots 60% against any team they're almost guaranteed to win. Against an offensively-challenged team like the Bucks, it's even more of a foregone conclusion. Part of it is hot shooting, but the bottom line is that the Bucks allowed way too many decent looks around the hoop to Miller (backing down Jennings in particular) and Howard (yes, he made as many shots as Bogut).
97. The first three quarters were as uncompetitive as you'll see in an NBA game, as the Blazers scored at least 31 points in each quarter to hit nearly 100 in the first 36 minutes alone--hence the Blazers faithful were worrying about those free chalupas rather early.
8. Bogut got just eight shots against a team boasting a severely undersized frontline of Aldridge and Howard. Maybe the Bucks could have done a better job of getting him involved, but the Blazers did a great job of fronting, doubling, and generally denying Bogut the ball in good positions.
Meeks. In games like this the only thing that really keeps me interested is watching the young guys work on their games, and fortunately Meeks delivered with arguably his most impressive performance as a pro. Again, it's not really about replacing the Michael Redd of old so much as getting the best out of a pretty talented young player. As we've discussed a bit in the fanposts, I don't think Skiles needs to be starting Meeks just yet, but consistent minutes (at least 15-20, more if he's on) would be a very good thing to see.
Fight. It seems like this was a common theme we focused on last year--the Bucks lost a lot, but they always seemed to keep things respectable. That's a major credit to the Bucks' depth and the attitude Skiles has instiled in this team, but it isn't quite enough to overshadow the Bucks' overall lack of top-shelf talent.
Gimmicks. The Bucks simply couldn't stop the Blazers straight up--Mbah a Moute was giving the quicker Roy room to bury jumpers, Bogut and Ilyasova could only put up a hand when Aldridge elevated for shots out of the post. And Howard and Jeff Pendergraph both took it to the Bucks' frontcourt. That left the Bucks grasping for straws--trapping in the backcourt, zoning, and generally trying anything to scam the Blazers into turnovers and quick misses. It worked surprisingly well against the Blazers' bench in the second and fourth quarters, but when push came to shove the Blazers' starters buckled down and got it done--as usual.
Bogut's involvement. It was disappointing to see Bogut unable to convert more of his opportunities in Phoenix, but last night it was more about simply not getting the ball in positions to do damage.
Roadkill. The Bucks are now 0-3 on their current trip with the most winnable game up next at Golden State. Drop that one and they're staring down the barrel of an 0-6 trip.