Well, at least Brandon Knight started off well.
In yet another uninspired performance, the Bucks slogged their way to a blowout loss in Dallas, 106-93. If 13 points doesn't seem like much of a blowout to you, know that Milwaukee trailed by 30 points by the middle of the third quarter before making a "run" in 12+ minutes of garbage time.
Five Mavericks scored in double-figures, as Dallas shot 47.7% from the field and 41.7% from behind the arc. Vince Carter was particularly effective off the bench with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, and a block. The Bucks were led by 18 points and 13 rebounds from John Henson.
What little success the Bucks had in the early going was largely thanks to Brandon Knight (16 points, 7-16 FG), who arrived in his Superman garb but gradually morphed from basketball hero to bespectacled benchwarmer. Knight's speed earned him a few baskets at the rim in the first quarter, and his drives set up a couple open shots, including a wide-open corner three by Khris Middleton.
Dallas adjusted quickly, however, and when Knight started struggling, the Mavericks' lead ballooned. Milwaukee allowed 38 points on just 26 first-quarter possessions (a 146.2 ORtg), and though they defended better in the second quarter (87.5 DRtg), their offensive output plummeted; The Bucks made just 6-17 field goals and committed 8 turnovers in the period.
Things really fell apart after halftime:
Bucks are the very worst right now. Completely clueless about how to handle traps, Ersan is a mess, Henson quiet, defensive breakdowns.— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) December 15, 2013
Bucks have 5 assists and 13 turnovers tonight. No one can create plays for anyone else. It's been pretty miserable.— Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks) December 15, 2013
There are times when the Bucks can claw and scrape their way into a competitive game, typically by frustrating opponents with quick hands and long limbs on defense. "Energy" is the quality most correlated with success. Tonight, no amount of energy could overcome a lack or planning or execution. Players weren't communicating and didn't seem to know where to be, and any offensive cohesion quickly gave way to ad-hoc isolations or sloppy pick and rolls if Dallas hit them with even token pressure.
We're all aware of the limitations of Milwaukee's roster. They don't have a consistent means of creating offense, and they're missing their best player and most impactful defender. But once again, the Bucks showed little heart and even less direction, looking completely incapable of dealing with a well-coached team stocked with talented players, even one who drove everybody crazy as a Buck. Just tack another question on the bulletin board.
- The Bucks have had issues rotating out to shooters all season, and those problems were on full display in the first quarter. The trouble often seems to stem from a hyper-aggressive "pack the paint" scheme where the Bucks crash into the lane whenever opponents get near the rim. With so many lengthy defenders, the Bucks can close off the paint quite well (except for, you know, the rebounding), but they're susceptible to the draw-and-kick game, which is exactly what Dallas hit them with. Jose Calderon did most of the damage, sinking four three-pointers, three of which came off of drives by teammates.
- Larry Drew told Charles Gardner before the game that Giannis Antetokounmpo "is in the rotation and has earned it." He wasn't kidding; Giannis led the team in minutes played (35) and was much more involved than the usual fast-break dunking and weakside shot-blocking. Not that there's anything wrong with that stuff! He only hit 3 of his 9 shots but went 7-8 at the line for 13 points. He also grabbed a career-best 9 rebounds and dished 4 assists. The assists mostly came in garbage time, but there's really no sense in getting down on anything this kid is doing right now. Your nightly highlight:
- Brandan Wright was 9-10 from the field in 19 minutes. It was the first 19 minutes he had played all season. So no, Milwaukee's interior defense wasn't exactly stellar tonight. They stymied a number of drives to the basket but Dallas soon realized that dump-off passes for open shots at the rim were far more effective that layups over outstretched defenders.