Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe once again held up their end of the bargain. The Bucks' defense once again made sure it didn't matter.
Despite the best efforts of Monroe (22 points and 11 rebs) and Middleton (22 points, 7 rebs, 5 ast, 5 to) to keep things close through three quarters, the Bucks' porous defense once again proved too much to overcome in New Orleans on Saturday, as the Pelicans buried 17 threes and outscored Milwaukee 26-8 on turnovers to power New Orleans to a 116-99 home win. Ryan Anderson tormented the Bucks' scattered defense with 23 points on 6/11 shooting, while Anthony Davis was contained for much of the night but still managed 22 points (8/17 fg) to go with seven boards, five assists and four blocks. Anderson and fellow super-sub Jrue Holiday (13 points, 9 ast) led New Orleans to a 54-16 edge in bench scoring, as the Pelicans pulled away early in the fourth quarter with Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo (10 points, 6 rebs, 4 to) resting.
Monroe went to work with eight quick points against Alexis Ajinca early in the second, but Anderson responded with two threes before Monroe gave the Bucks a 51-50 halftime lead. Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams (19 points, 9/12 fg, 5 ast, 4 to) combined to score the first 20 Bucks points as things remained mostly close through the third, and the Bucks drew to within 84-78 early in the final stanza. But the Pelicans' depth and perimeter shooting then put the game away, as Holiday, Toney Douglas, Anderson, and Tyreke Evans all hit threes in an 18-5 run to blow the game wide open.
With their four-game road trip now in the books (2-2), the Bucks return home with a critical matchup against the Magic on Tuesday night.
- Steve, Eric and I recorded a bunch of podcasts on Thursday night, and one of our initial talking points was that the Bucks' recent success has not been a result of the defense turning things around. Unfortunately that was hammered home over the weekend, as the Bucks' defensive ratings ballooned to 110 in Houston and 123 in New Orleans.
- I wasn't able to watch the game live, but I was following along on my phone on Saturday night and couldn't help but notice that Giannis and Jabari's shot totals basically didn't move at all in the second half. Both ultimately finished with 10 points, but Giannis had an especially frustrating second half with just 1/2 from the foul line and zero official shot attempts before fouling out.
- Jabari provided the Bucks' biggest highlight by powering over Anderson for a dunk late in the first half, but he was a similarly peripheral figure for most of the game, finishing 3/7 from the field, 4/4 from the line with five rebounds, three assists, a block and two turnovers. He missed his only two shot attempts in the second half before adding four free throws with the game out of reach.
- Jerryd Bayless might have been the Bucks' MVP in November, but as the season has worn on reality has begun to set in a bit. After a 1/5 night in Houston, he was just 1/6 with a game-worst -19 in New Orleans, and generally looks to be bogging down the Bucks' offense when forced to lead the offense (which is fairly often given the team's current injury situation).
- Because they shoot so few threes, the Bucks are one of the few teams in the league capable of shooting 53% from the field and losing by 17 points. Though they shot a modest 46% overall, the Pellies shot a scoring 17/31 on threes (55%), bettering the Bucks' previous opponent season-high of 15 made threes that Houston tied on Friday. It's been an Achilles heel all season, and for now there's no sign that the Bucks have figured anything out.