Last night was a really, really important win for the Milwaukee Bucks for a whole mess of reasons. It brought yet another losing streak to an end, it got Milwaukee's offense on track (for a night), and it lent a load of confidence to a frustrated team that has been beset by bad luck. 24 hours after getting embarrassed by bottom-feeder Detroit, the Bucks played with intensity, they played with grit, and they won a game against a team that gave them everything they could handle. Except more than 5 minutes from their starting 2 guard. But still...!
Who knows if this is a jumping-off point or just a short peek above the clouds before the looming storm that is the Bucks' December-into-January schedule. For now, here's the weekly look-in on Milwaukee's performance.
Defending the Three-Point Line...mostly: Okay, I'll admit right away that the Pistons shot 7-14 from deep on Friday night. The Pistons also shot 56.2 from the field; that's not gonna happen that often. But even with that aberration, Milwaukee's opponents shot under 30% from behind the line last week. It not for Mo Williams' heroics, we might have talked about how their 6-21 effort from three cost them the game (sigh...). The most efficient places to score on the basketball court are at the rim, at the free-throw line, and behind the three-point line; In the past week, Milwaukee has done a fairly solid job taking one of those away.
Patchwork Frontcourt making it work: Without Andrew Bogut, the Bucks are a completely different team. So with Andrew missing time due to back soreness (keep your fingers crossed...), plus the multitude of other injuries to Milwaukee's bigs, they've had to mix-and-match players more than they might have liked. Yet the Bucks have outrebounded their last three opponents 123-113, thanks in large part to an incredible 42.0 ORR against Detroit (seriously, how did they lose so badly in that game?). Considering they missed Bogut for three of those games and Gooden for one, it speaks a lot to the work Milwaukee's depth did on the boards.
<please hurry back, guys>
Transition Defense: Milwaukee's transition offense is actually ranked 6th in the NBA by Synergy Sports, but defending the open court hasn't been a strength of late. Part of the issue is Milwaukee sudden propensity toward giving up the ball (Milwaukee's TOR is now an above-average 14.25 (although their defense is turning opponents over enough to maintain a top-5 differential (that's right, it's a triple parenthesis))), but for being a team seemingly full of hustle, they're not getting back in transition the way they need to. Opponents are shooting over 60% in transition and drawing fouls on 12% of their possessions. 7 of those fouls have gone for And-1's. It's not the playoffs yet, but if you're going to foul a guy on the break, you'd better make sure the ball can't even get above the rim. With transition plays representing almost 12% of Milwaukee's opponents' offense, that 1.19 PPP needs to come down.
Basketball is not a contact sport. Okay, maybe it is, but, c'mon. I mean, not that much...: Not so much an issue from the whole week as in last night's contest versus Charlotte, but Milwaukee's fouling was totally out of hand against the 'Cats. Charlotte shot 41 free throws and made 35 of them, one more than Milwaukee attempted. When both teams combine for 75 free-throw attempts, it's at least partly a critique on NBA refereeing, but it's still a problem when the entire starting lineup has at least 3 fouls, plus 11 more from the bench. We all know how much Scott Skiles-coached teams like to foul, but at least they're usually defensible fouls. Last night, it was just a rugby scrum in basketball shoes.