Before today's matinee between the Bucks and Knicks at Madison Square Garden, we had ample evidence that the Bucks aren't particularly good at evening basketball. Now we have reason to believe it's a similar story in the morning, too.
Tipping off just after noon central time, the Bucks' second visit to Madison Square Garden went about as well as their first visit on opening night: not well. Milwaukee's defense hemorrhaged open looks (55% shooting by the Knicks, 8/20 threes) while its offense could never get enough going from the perimeter to make any sustained runs, as New York was never seriously challenged in cruising to a 115-94 victory, their sixth win in a row.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with a casual 23 points on 8/16 shooting in 32 minutes while J.R. Smith added 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists, but rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. was arguably the biggest headache for Milwaukee with 20 points (8/12 fg) in 25 minutes, as the Knicks' bench effectively put the game away with a 19-6 run early in the second quarter
The Bucks were led in scoring by their three-man guard rotation of Nate Wolters (15 pts on 5/7 shooting), Ramon Sessions (14 pts on 4/9 shooting) and Brandon Knight (14 pts on 5/13 shooting), but the trio struggled to create for anyone else (just eight combined assists) and the Knicks' bigger guards consistently took advantage of them in attacking the hoop. Jeff Adrien was the only other Buck to reach double-digits, while Ersan Ilyasova (3/10 fg, 8 pts, 3 rebs) was seemingly MIA outside of instances in which he was getting bullied down low by Amare Stoudemire (15 pts, 6/13 fg, 6 rebs).
The Knicks took control early with 57% shooting from the field and 5/12 threes in the first half, as the Bucks alternated defending poorly in both man and their always-terrible zone. How bad was it?
Bucks' 1st-half stats: 113.5 ORtg, 162.2 DRtg. Par for the course.— Dan Sinclair (@dan_sinclair) March 15, 2014
Also, for reference, the Bucks are 29th in defensive rebound rate at 71.3%, so 38%...yeah, not good. The Bucks' work on the offensive glass (15 off boards) spared them an even uglier loss, but otherwise the only silver lining from the day will be the Bucks moving one loss closer to a top lottery pick.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo's box score line wasn't notably bad (7 pts, 2/5 fg, 1/1 threes, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk), but the numbers belied an extremely frustrating afternoon. Giannis blew an open dunk in the first half and dropped another pass that he should have taken straight up for a dunk moments later, while his rotations and work fighting through screens also left plenty to be desired. A silly foul on J.R. Smith's three point attempt earned him a trip to the bench midway through the second, but thankfully the second half offered a bit more reason for optimism.
Giannis finally got on the board with a tip-slam in the third and added a bail-out, off-balance three for his only other field goal. He should have had a couple more in the fourth, but he blew another transition layup and saw a nifty reverse layup rim out before gathering the putback and drawing a foul.
- John Henson (3/5 fg, did two very promising things in the first half: he showed no hesitation in going to an immediate righty hook for his first shot, and he followed it up with a thunderous lefty slam minutes later. "Thunderous" is an adjective we've used all too rarely with Henson, so let's savor that one, OK? Also, now that Henson is showing a pulse again, I'll reiterate how silly it is that he's coming off the bench behind Zaza Pachulia. I don't care if Henson is a bit of a flake or not--this isn't how you develop a young roster.
- A slow pace masked what was actually an efficient scoring night from Milwaukee (111.9 pts/100); still, the struggles of Ilyasova and Khris Middleton (3/10 fg, 0/3 triples) from the perimeter made it very difficult for the Bucks to mount any kind of run, and--assuming Larry Drew is trying to win games--you have to wonder if it really makes sense to continue scratching O.J. Mayo for that very reason. Aside from Knight's occasionally outbursts from deep, the Bucks' current three-guard rotation can't consistently beat you from outside, which is difficult to hide consistently unless other guys are hitting shots.