One small step forward, one big step back.
That's seemingly been the Bucks' story all season, so maybe we were just being silly expecting the Bucks to take care of business against the Wizards just 24 hours removed from a dignity-restoring blowout home win over the Raptors. After all, while the Wizards had lost eight straight games, they have also won better than half of their home games--which not coincidentally is the only arena in which they've won a game all season. So considering the Bucks began the evening just 8-19 on the road, there's really nothing too surprising about another lackadaisical, unfocused effort and the predictable outcome that followed.
In truth it's also only fair that what the Bucks brought to the table wasn't good enough against a Wizard team that looked both more energetic and more confident, headlined by the consistently dangerous Nick Young (26 pts on 19 shots). Young was the centerpiece of Washington's attack in the second and third quarters, mixing in a pair of highlight reel dunks with a flurry of decently-defended jump shots to help the Wiz outscore the Bucks by seven in each of the two middle periods. After a ho-hum first quarter, Young's 11 second quarter points helped Washington take a 10-point halftime lead that swelled to 18 only minutes into the third, as Young stroked a pair of threes on his way to 13 in the period. Neatly summarized: Washington played well, the Bucks did not, and in the end everybody got what they paid for: an easy 15-point win that saw the Wiz lead by double digits for the final 23 minutes of the game.
Not to be overlooked was JaVale McGee, who outplayed Bogut for the vast majority of the game in dropping 16 pts/17 rebs/3 blks to Bogut's 12/11/4. For the Bucks, Brandon Jennings suffered through another forgettable shooting night (9/24 fg, 20 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, 3 stl), but he provided a shot of adrenaline--and some much-needed emotion--in the fourth quarter with a series of attacking moves to the basket. Still, Cartier Martin assured that the Bucks never threatened seriously, stroking four of his five threes in the final period to keep the Bucks at arm's length.
Brandon Jennings. I never like choosing a guy first who needs 24 shots to get his 20 points, but I suppose these are the 10/11 Bucks we're talking about. And honestly it's not just how much you score, but when and how you do it. That's particularly true of Jennings', whose continued development is essential if the Bucks want to have any hope of becoming relevant again in the coming years. Early on Jennings was mostly invisible, starting the game 1/6 with his only make coming on an awkward bank shot from 17 feet that probably had no business going in. John Wall wasn't playing too much better in the early going, but both guys had ample opportunity to show off their much-talked-about speed and played better in the second half. Jennings scored all eight of his points in the final period on drives to the hoop, blowing by Wall and/or P&R defenders to finish on either side of the hoop. I've been fairly critical of Jennings' play since his return from injury, but amid the frustration of another loss, there was something here to feel positive about.
Andrew Bogut. Bogut's here almost by default--he was outplayed for long stretches by the more energetic McGee, but he also brought his usual shot-blocking (four) and still managed to claim 11 boards in spite of the Bucks' overall struggles.
Ersan Ilyasova. No one really distinguished themselves here, but I'll give Ersan the nod for helping the Bucks mount something vaguely resembling a comeback in the fourth period. He wasn't particularly convincing defending Andray Blatche, but Ilyasova's 10 points and nine boards represented a respectable effort on an otherwise forgettable night.
+12. Led by McGee's 17 boards, the Wiz outrebounded the Bucks 51-39.
5/12. The Bucks made just 5/12 from the line.
24. Young scored all but two of his 26 points in the middle periods when the Wiz made their big push.
Jennings goes to the rack. Brandon made a season-high seven shots in the paint, exploiting the Wizards' slow help time and again in the second half as he thankfully abandoned his broken jump shot altogether. So while his final numbers were nothing to get too excited about, it was good to see Jennings attacking and seeing no ill effects from his surgically-repaired foot.
Boarded. The Wizards entered the game 15th in offensive rebounding and 29th on the defensive glass, but you wouldn't have been able to tell by their major edge on the boards all night.. Maybe it was the back-to-back, but the Bucks just looked flat from the outset and seemed to be running in quicksand much of the night.
Half a Bogut. Bogut's numbers were OK, but he was mostly ineffective while Washington made its move, going scoreless in the second and third quarters while watching McGee both outrebound and outscore him. The Bucks all too often went away from getting Bogut the ball, but he also looked slow to react on a number of occasions where McGee snagged rebounds right over top of him.
Dirty Dozen. Milwaukee trimmed Washington's lead to 12 on a number of occasions in the fourth, but the Bucks simply couldn't defend well enough to get any closer. I figured the Bucks would get it to single digits at some point--don't they always manage to do that--but not even that turned out to be attainable.