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Milwaukee vs. Indiana: Ignore The Score As Pacers Pulverize Bucks

A horrendous night for Milwaukee only looks close due to its scrub squad mopping up late

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The score certainly doesn’t tell the whole story tonight, as the Milwaukee Bucks scrubs made this decimation by the Indiana Pacers look far closer than the 109-96 final score indicates. Milwaukee opened up the evening looking uninterested, trailing 37-16 after the first quarter while coughing up the ball eight times to the Pacers. The second quarter fared little better for Milwaukee, heading into halftime down 64-38 after shooting 33.3% compared to the Pacers’ piping hot 64.3%. Khris Middleton was the high man for Milwaukee with 15 points. The Bucks technically won the third quarter, outscoring the Pacers by three, but one would’ve been hard pressed to think that was the case as they still trailed 88-65 when the buzzer sounded. Milwaukee’s bench squad posted a valiant comeback to force Indiana’s starters back into the game, but it wouldn’t be enough.

Three Main Observations

Bad Offense

U-G-L-Y. If you were a big fan of the third quarter against the Raptors last Friday then tonight’s first quarter was certainly for you. While it wasn’t the 43-19 disparity, trailing by 21 after the first 12 minutes certainly didn’t bode well for Milwaukee’s chances. The thrust of their offense involved driving into brick walls of Indiana defenders repeatedly, forcing passes through minuscule openings and generally clanking shots whenever possible. Their 62.6 offensive rating after one was abysmal, they shot just 29.4% (5-18) and had eight turnovers. A 26-6 points in the paint advantage for Indiana showed how one-sided this was. I have more stats I could throw at you, but it’s getting depressing to continue recalling those minutes. At least they had an 80% assist percentage...on five baskets. The rest of the game was no better.

Really Bad Offense

Milwaukee was completely content to show no real interest for three quarters. I had trouble thinking of a player making any pass with purpose. Malcolm Brogdon looked like the only guy interested in playing as the first half wound down and 12 turnovers led to eight points for Indiana. What might’ve been craziest about Indiana’s ridiculous offensive performance in the first half was the fact they still had eight turnovers, but Milwaukee only turned that into eight points. This was about as wayward, disinterested and fleeting performance as I’ve seen from this Bucks team all year, particularly with Giannis scoring just seven points in the first half and attempting the least amount of field goals (eight) alongside Henson in the starting lineup. At some point, even if he’s just forcing the issue, Milwaukee needed their star to assert command and stem the hemorrhage.

Really, Really Bad Offense

The second part of that equation for Giannis’ reticence is Indiana’s defense, which looked like a packline goal line defense tonight in the paint. Anytime Giannis tried to make something happen down low Indiana threw defenders at him like gnats at a heat lamp. Part of that stemmed from a lack of creativity offensively for Milwaukee, their chief plan tonight being barreling forward like a pack of hungry hogs. Even the passes they did make to open men or on mismatches were off target, like Giannis to an open Bledsoe for a botched oop or Henson overthrowing Giannis posted up on a tinier defender. Indiana caught breaks with missed shots and offensively poor execution, but their defense did plenty to deter Milwaukee’s best player from getting to his spots. With Bledsoe taking on the brunt of the playmaking tonight too, Giannis looked as passive as I’ve seen him in some time.

Bonus Bucks Bits

Milwaukee’s offense featured a lot of difficult dishes to Henson early on again tonight. They were force-feeding the big for stretches in Washington Saturday night, and while his rim-running has been much improved, there’s little reason to keep feeding your fourth (or fifth) best player on the court the rock. Bledsoe tried to shovel in a pass in the paint and Myles Turner got two easy steals by applying pressure on high pass attempts to Henson. Just find something easy folks.

I continue to not get Khris Middleton at the four spot in small lineups. I understand Milwaukee’s power forward depth is garbage, but against the likes of an athletic four like Thaddeus Young, his off-the-dribble game isn’t nearly adept enough to take advantage. Not to mention the fact Young bullied him down low by just throwing his shoulder into Middleton’s unsuspecting chest. Even if D.J. Wilson plays just five minutes a half, is that truly so much worse? Apparently so in the coaching staff’s eyes.

If you were curious how forceful Milwaukee got with its first half offense, Eric Bledsoe once spent a possession trying to draw a foul on a 3-pointer while heaving it up off-kiltered in the air with one hand. It was not a foul and it caromed off the backboard. Welp.

Eric Bledsoe had an atrocious first half of passing. Every toss seemed to have the oomph of a tranquilized tortoise and the Pacers picked him off plenty of times. He was forcing the issue to no effect. While he had just two turnovers, he also chucked ill-advised shots and had a few passes luckily find their batted way back to Bucks players. My least favorite sequence of the second half was when he turned it over driving after taking a contested three the prior possession, followed by bungling a pass to Giannis in transition and topping it off with another three that clanked off.

Fourth Quarter Blowout Bucks Bits

  • If you were interested in how the Bucks’ fortunes went as the game wore on, Lance Stephenson picked up an iffy technical and Brogdon missed the subsequent free throw.
  • A little light in the darkness came in the fourth! Sterling Brown nailed a stepback 3-point jumper from the corner and hit two more late to end with 11 points.
  • Matthew Dellavedova attempted a behind-his-head alley oop that did not work.
  • Even a 20 point deficit in the fourth doesn’t warrant D.J. Wilson minutes apparently.
  • I have no idea why Nate McMillan thought it would be a good idea to put back in some starters with three minutes left as the Bucks still trailed by over 15. Victor Oladipo immediately almost hurt himself as they faced off against Milwaukee’s scrubs. Really silly.
  • Props to the Bucks’ scrubs for making this a game down the stretch.