Last night's contest against the Boston Celtics had a little bit of something for everyone in Milwaukee. For the win-now optimists, the first half was a wonderful sight. It had a 4-point advantage with Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova asserting themselves over the vaunted Boston defense. It had the pass-first Brandon Jennings, who took only 2 shots (with one of them being a hopeless heave at the end of the half), but registered 7 assists. We even saw the easy-going Larry Sanders get into it with Kevin Garnett, resulting in a double-technical. It was a stretch that made you think that Milwaukee could flip the script on the first 33 games and find a way into the playoffs.
Then, the second half started, and the optimists gave way to the reformist faction; those who want nothing more than to see the team fail now in order to spark more lasting improvement later. Brandon Jennings led the way by taking 9 shots while only connecting on two (at least they were three-pointers), and only recording 1 more assist. Drew Gooden did not continue working the Celtics frontcourt, though with Drew it's difficult to expect any sort of consistency. The Milwaukee Bucks, once leading in the game, fell behind by as many as 15.
Be inconsistent. Be Milwaukee.
But of course, you can't really ever tell what's going to happen next with this team. At the 2:21 mark in the fourth quarter, the Bucks sparked a 13-0 run that closed the gap to two with 24 seconds left. There were blocks, steals, drawn fouls, and all-around entertaining basketball from the plucky underdog. Maybe, just maybe they could pull off the comeback?
But Scott Skiles seemingly had different plans, and somehow left Jon Brockman in the game. JON BROCKMAN. Loved for his trick shot videos, but hated for his actual basketball acumen, Kevin Garnett went right at him to draw a foul and end the comeback from the free throw line.
BrewHoopers everywhere cried out in despair. Some wanted to see the win. Some wanted to see the loss, and were upset that they came so close to winning. Most wanted to see the young players in the game. Almost nobody wanted to see Skiles leave the 12th man on the court.
The 2011-2012 Milwaukee Bucks: Where Nobody's Happy.
Three Two and a Half Bucks
Drew Gooden. Who would have thought that the Bucks actually signed someone who can get to the line (and make shots after getting there)? Gooden's free agency mate Corey Maggette tried and failed, but Drew has done a good job of drawing fouls and cashing in afterwards. All in all, it was a pretty productive night: 23 points on 7-15 shooting, 9-9 from the stripe, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), and even a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio (which is very un-Gooden).
Ersan Ilyasova. A while ago, I said that Ersan had done a good job at remaining relevant while the rest of the roster toiled in mediocrity (or worse). That trend continued tonight, as Ersan had a game high 25 points on 11-19 shooting, with 10 rebounds to boot. He's easily the team's most all-around effective player. How have we not traded him yet?
Bran Jenn. As the resident Jennings defender, I'm going to go ahead and pretend that only the first half exists. No points in the first half, but 7 assists? We likey. To paraphrase Frank, those who can't shoot, pass. And since the Bucks "won" the first half, we can safely conclude that it had a lot to do with Jennings finding the right teammate for the score. (For those that actually choose to recognize his awful second half, Larry Sanders would be a much better choice here: 13 minutes, 8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 1 tech for getting into it with KG).
48/48. The combined point total of Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden/that of the other 8 Bucks who logged court time.
22.58%. The combined three-point percentage of the two teams (Bucks 4/15, Celtics 3/16). Only four players connected on any long range shots (Carlos Delfino and Jennings for Milwaukee, Ray Allen and Keyon Dooling for Boston), but neither team was particularly effective. You could give both teams credit for defending the arc, but it seems that neither one really had to try.
6. Jon Leuer's minutes, which are forever dwindling with Ersan and Gooden playing as well as they have. That he still managed this stat line (4 points on 2-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover) is astounding.
The first half. We've covered this ad nauseum, but the team generally played well during the first half. For those who want to see the team win now, it was encouraging. For those who want to see the team win (hopefully more often) later, it was depressing.
Larry's assertiveness. Larry Sanders is not Drew Gooden, but he sometimes acts like it. A strong rebounder, an inconsistent defender, makes questionable decisions, and loves to shoot from mid-range. Last night, though, he took it upon himself to leave his mark on the game, even pushing KG's buttons until the refs had to intervene (OK, so it's not that hard, but still). Most impressive were his 5 offensive rebounds during his limited minutes, which gives everyone hope that he's figuring things out on the court.
The tank is on! One loss down, however many it takes to get a top-5 draft pick to go!
Same old Bucks. The third quarter letdown is something of a Milwaukee tradition, but this game's manifestation of said tradition felt like an asthmatic in a coal mine. 13 points in 12 minutes is great for an individual player, but terrible for a "professional" basketball team.
Tobias Harris' night. Tobias had been impressing us of late, fueling the Paul Pierce comparison's with his crafty moves and effective offense. He must have gotten stuck watching his imposed idol, though, because Harris did diddly-squat last night: 0 points on 0-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, and 2 fouls in 12 minutes. This is the kind of outing that makes Skiles sit you on the bench, Tobias.
Stephen Jackson, DNP. Tonight, it was due to "hamstring soreness." Right. While his playing may or may not have affected the game, his presence is definitely affecting the team, and the longer his situation is unresolved, the worse off we all are.