If you are a fan of basketball teams winning consecutive games in a row, then this Milwaukee Bucks season is simply not for you. It is the opposite of something that would be categorized as ''for you.'' They just have not found a way to do it yet. They had another chance in Utah tonight against the Jazz, but could not complete their comeback effort, falling short in the final few minutes, 96-87.
Uninspiring performances from most of the youngsters and depressing performances from three point land put the Bucks down in the second quarter and, though they tried with a wide variety of lineup looks, Milwaukee couldn't find the magic solution. The Jazz were led by a strong inside-out attack from Derrick Favors (21p/11r) and Gordon Hayward (22p/4r). The Bucks, well, didn't have much of an attack. Brandon Knight followed up his career high 37 point performance with a mere 8p/3a contribution on 3-12 shooting. Khris Middleton only chipped in with 2p/4r on 1-5 shooting in 20 minutes of play. O.J. Mayo...existed, I'm sure. I can't say for certain, because I can't confirm he actually played tonight. Gary Neal. My goodness, Gary Neal. I don't even have appropriate words for him.
Individual struggles aside, the Bucks set their season low in three point shooting, making 4 of 22 attempts, the last attempt being a last second heave from Giannis that happened to drop. There were definitely a lot of ugly parts to tonight's game, but being so nugatory in an area they were thought to be at least consistent in takes the cake.
On a more positive note, Larry Sanders had his best offensive performance of the year, putting up 16p/8r while "shooting" a perfect 7-7 from the field in 35 minutes of play. He also added his usual minimum of two blocks while disrupting many other shots, though he once again struggled to keep Favors out of the paint (Favors had a season-best 23/15 in Milwaukee last season). Question marks will arise as to whether Sanders can operate efficiently out of pick-and-roll sets with people other than Luke Ridnour (read: not the starting point guard) or how he'll pair with John Henson when he returns, but it's good to have Sanders playing more like the 2012/13 version of himself than the September 2013 version. At least that was something positive tonight.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a ho-hum 10p/7r/5a tonight, but had a little bit of difficulty navigating in the land of the giants, getting his shot blocked a couple times more than we're accustomed to and becoming visibly frustrated at points in the second quarter. Nevertheless, a full stat sheet from Giannis leads to happy-ish Bucks fans, with his career-best five assists the most notable number of the evening. I will not complain.
--Where in the world is Ekpe Udoh? Did he do something wrong to fall out of favor with the coaching staff? Is his knee acting up? Did he write something inappropriate on one of the bathroom stalls in the locker room? Where is Ekpe?
--I'm not trying to raise the scuttlebutt levels, but recent road broadcasts have been mentioning that O.J. Mayo has looked out of shape. I honestly don't know how much validity those claims have, but it may be something to keep an eye on going forward.
--Coach Drew said Middleton would still get his minutes despite being moved to a bench role, but has since averaged less than 20 minutes a game in favor or Luke Ridnour getting the starting nod. Perhaps this is an effort to put Ridnour on display in an audition of sorts for teams in need of a backup point guard, but limiting Middleton's minutes doesn't make much sense. For those scoring at home: Middleton averaged 21 ppg, 7 rpg and 3.5 apg on near 50/40/90 shooting splits in the four games before he was benched.