The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Bulls can still beat up the Bucks on the boards, the Bucks still can't win those get-over-the-hump games that actual good teams win, and Tom Thibodeau is still undefeated (9-0) in his head coaching career against his beleaguered rivals to the North.
The Bucks' inability to keep the Bulls off the boards will be the story of this one, as Chicago snagged 20 offensive rebounds against what had been the league's best defensive rebounding team leading up to the game. So much for that. Struggling starters Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer lit up their Bucks counterparts (Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova, principally), and the Bucks once again struggled from the perimeter (3/17 threes) while facing another huge deficit from the foul line (the Bulls were +18 in free throws made). And just as the game was slipping out of reach in the final minute, Brandon Jennings (22 pts, 7 ast, 5 stl, 3 to) sprained his left ankle for good measure. He's questionable for Monday's rematch between the two teams in Chicago.
Also raising eyebrows were Scott Skiles' big man rotations. Joel Przybilla was a surprising starter in place of Sam Dalembert (more on that below), with the big Haitian DNP-ing for the first time this season. Skiles also gave the still-disappointing Ersan Ilyasova another undeserving 30 minutes, which along with Przybilla's time meant almost no action for John Henson. Remember that Henson did more on Wednesday than Ilyasova and Przybilla have done combined all season, but instead we were left to watch Ilyasova get pushed around in the paint down the stretch while better options sat watching from the bench.
SI.com | Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and other early season trends
Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver offer up their take on the NBA's early season storylines, including the Bucks' strong start...assuming this still qualifies as such. Rob writes:
Winning at a respectable clip has a tangible impact on every stage of a team’s operation, from locker room morale all the way down to player development. It keeps teammates in line. It makes the scolding of head coach Scott Skiles a bit less grating. It gets the Bucks aimed in the direction that they’ll ultimately need to go, even if this isn’t the roster to get them to their final destination. There should be no expectation for this particular group of players to take Milwaukee to some new great heights, but the Bucks have developed into a fun, feasible extension of Jennings’ chutzpah; in a single-game format, they’re the kind of deep, giant-killing outfit no one thought them capable of being.
- JS | Dalembert surprised by change
During Saturday night's radio broadcast, Ted Davis alluded to "timeliness" being the possible reason for Sam Dalembert's benching on Saturday, but after the game there were no details offered up as to the reasoning for the move beyond it being a "coaches' decision." Dalembert certainly didn't sound like someone who understood what happened:
"I didn't know," he said. "How do you think the reaction would be? It was surprising. This is what it is. Nobody told me nothing."Dalembert has justifiably taken criticism for his play in the opening weeks of the season, but the bottom line is that the Bucks big men who played on Saturday failed miserably to keep the Bulls off the glass. So consider the decision to play Ilyasova and Przybilla more while benching Dalembert
JS | Gooden keeps working
Most of us aren't too broken up about Drew Gooden's absence from the Bucks' lineup, but it still seems rather curious that a guy who had the longest leash on the team a year ago suddenly can't even get on the active roster this year. Most of that can be traced to the additions of Dalembert and Henson as well as the emergence of Sanders, but you'd have thought Gooden would play at some point. It's as if the Bucks did everything they could to make Gooden tradeable heading into the summer, couldn't find any takers, and then just gave up on moving (or playing) him altogether. I'm not sure there's anything that will change Gooden's role with the team short of injuries to some of the other bigs, but kudos to Gooden for being a pro about the situation thus far.
"I know it’s been tough on him," Skiles said. "He’s practiced hard, he’s staying ready, and I like the way he’s handled it – very professionally."The Bucks were never going to amnesty Gooden last summer, but it certainly looks like a stronger option next summer, when he'll have "only" two years and $13 million left on his deal.