News/notes after the jump...
It's pretty easy to divide the Bucks' season into two parts: the 8-3 start and the 4-15 period they're currently stuck in. Obviously an easy schedule played a role in the fast start, but I think everyone agrees there's a lot more to it than that--Redd's return and inability to do anything on the court, Jennings' return to earth after his ridiculous start, Bogut missing time and struggling to play consistently, etc.
I thought it'd be interesting to look just at team stats, and the overall result isn't too surprising--the Bucks have been worse in pretty much every regard over the past 19 games vs. the first 11. The starting point is offensive and defensive efficiency, which has essentially reversed from 105.1/99.1 in the first 11 games to 101.0/106.9 over the past 19. More details:
eFG%: Bucks are way down (49.7% to 46.3%) and opponents way up (48.1% to 51.0%). The Bucks continue to shoot about the same number of shots from deep (22.5 threes/game vs. 21.8) but are making a lower percentage (39.1% vs. 34.8%). Opponent shooting from deep hasn't changed too much, from 33.5% to 34.9% on slightly fewer shots (15.7 vs. 15.4). The Bucks are actually getting a couple more shots overall per game despite a slightly slower pace (see the FT and turnover discussions), but overall fg% is down from 44.5% to 42.0%.
- FT. The Bucks were already bad in this department and it's gotten even worse. While their own attempts are down about one attempt/game (20.5 to 19.4), their opponents are also up two (29.5 vs. 27.5). In terms of made free throws, the Bucks have been losing a whopping 9 pts/game at the line.
- Rebounding. Another sign of concern is the slip in the rebounding numbers, which is only partly attributable to Bogut's six game absence. The Bucks have fallen way off on the offensive glass, from 28.7% to 23.7%; their overall 25.5% rate is just 21st overall. Defensively they've been much better (3rd overall with 76.4%) but still not as good as they were earlier (78.7% to 75.0%). Having Bogut healthy and Mbah a Moute back in the starting lineup should help in this area.
Turnovers. Interestingly, the Bucks actually have been better on both ends in this department. After averaging 15.5 turnovers/g during the 8-3 start, the Bucks have averaged a miserly 12.3 over the past 19 games, while opponent turnovers have been essentially flat (16.2 vs. 15.9). Jennings in particular has taken better care of the ball, cutting his turnovers dramatically in December (2.2/game vs. 3.3/game in October/December). His assists are also up in that span.
- Assists. Nothing to report here, as these numbers haven't moved (21.5/game vs. 21.4/game).
JS: Redd still working
Charles Gardner spoke to Redd yesterday about his continued struggles; I really hope we won't still be reading these articles two months from now, but at this point I don't know what to expect. But one thing that's tough to ignore is the Bucks' struggles with Redd in the lineup. The start of the 4-15 dry spell coincided with Redd's return to the lineup in San Antonio, raising plenty of questions as to whether Redd is the best complement to Jennings in the backcourt.
"It's a little bit foolish (to think) that he would just seamlessly come back," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We have to have some patience. At the same time though, we're 4-15.
"Michael is healthy now but he has missed a lot of games the last couple years. Each step, hopefully he can figure out who he's out there with and what guys can do, and we can pick up the pace with that."
Not that much was expected of the Thunder coming into the season, but apparently OKC didn't get the memo. The Thunder has/have won five straight to put them tied with the Jazz for the 8th spot in the much-tougher West, showing that they're a lot more than just a fun young team. And as you might guess it starts with Kevin Durant, who comes to Milwaukee with six straight 30+ games to his credit--all coming in wins except for a narrow loss to the Lakers. It's not just volume shooting either, as Durant has been better than 50% shooting in all but one of those games. At the very least the Bucks will have Mbah a Moute this time around--Durant dropped 33 on Carlos Delfino and Charlie Bell in OKC in November while Luc was out with his foot injury. I'm not sure anyone can shut KD down at this point, but Luc at least has a bit more length to use against Durant (a long 6'10" or 6'11"), who had no problem using his size advantage against Delfino (6'5") and Bell (6'3").
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook seemingly hasn't made much progress as a scorer (slightly lower pts/40 min and worse shooting) but he's at least putting up better pure point numbers. Westbrook has bumped his assists up from 5.3 to 7.1 apg, and his turnover rate has fallen a couple percentage points (still a high 3.2 to/game). He was able to get to the rim early and often against Jennings and the Bucks in November, so of course the Bucks will do their best to make him more of a shooter tonight.