Milwaukee Bucks Weekend: Still not taking lesser opponents seriously, despite having become one

The Bucks came into this season with a certain swagger, a pinache that comes with a brash, electric young point guard who had won in his rookie year, with the return of an All-NBA center, with new additions to an improving, young core, and with high expectations.  They expected to power teams out of the gym.

It hasn’t happened very often, partly because the swagger still hadn’t been earned, the All-NBA center was playing with a dead right arm, and there was a game or two, or three or more, despite the mounting losses, in which the Bucks seemed to be taking their “lesser opponents” lightly.

In the heat of a race for the last, ignoble playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks on Wednesday night did it again in a dreadful, uninspired and unanticipated 97-90 loss at home to the Sacramento Kings.

After the game, the electrifying, brash, poor-shooting young point guard, Brandon Jennings, looked at the upcoming weekend against the Knicks in New York on Friday and the Bulls in Milwaukee on Saturday, and assured that there would be no energy shortage.

“I think when we play teams that are higher than us, we show up better.  Playing against a team like Sacramento is kind of difficult because they have nothing to lose. Those are games you’ve got to come in there mentally tough.   When you know you’re playing against the Knicks and Chicago Bulls, you kind of get up for those games.”  LINK HERE to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.

The Bucks are 28-42 and three games behind the Pacers, two on the loss side.  Yet, as crazy as it sounds, they really don’t take many of their opponents as seriously as they should.

Melo say “RELAX”

The Knicks don’t have to win, and maybe that’s part of the reason why they’ve struggled since the last time they played the Bucks in New York — Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups‘ Feb. 23 debut, a hard fought 114-108 victory for the new Knicks.

Fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth in the East — what’s the difference to the Knicks?  They’ve proven no match for the Bulls, Celtics, Heat or Magic, locks for the top four spots.  Carmelo apparently realizes this, and wants his teammates to “relax and have fun” during this time of transition.

Making the new chemistry even more challenging for the Knicks — their brutal 18-game March schedule is taking its toll.  “Fatigue,” not “fun” was the word of the day after the Knicks lost to Orlando in NY Wednesday.

The Bucks have to win, but still don’t feel an urgency to play well against teams like the Sacramento Kings.   It adds an interesting dichotomy to tonight’s Bucks-Knicks game in New York, the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season.

The Bucks won two of the first three games.

In the Feb. 23 game, Knicks fans were treated to a gutsy, Chauncey Billups classic, as the veteran point guard did all the little things that Jennings didn’t, ran a clinic on how to close quarters, hit his usual quota of clutch shots and controlled the game.  Carmelo shot … and shot … and shot … 25 times, making just 10 as the Bucks, led by John Salmons (27 pts) on a rare good shooting night this season, nearly spoiled ‘Melo’s big debut … until Billups (and hot-shooting Toney Douglas) saved the day.

Since that game, the Bucks have been the better team, winning 6 of 13 while the Knicks record is 6-10 and they are losers of four straight.  Included in those ten losses are two to the Pacers March 13 and 15 that gave Indiana life in their quest for the playoffs.

It seems that Carmelo’s struggles to mesh with his new teammates and the ball-wheeling Mike D’Antoni system in New York are inexorably linked to the Bucks playoffs hopes.  It should also be noted that Carmelo’s last game as a Nugget was played in Milwaukee, a nationally televised slugfest Feb. 16 that ended with the Nuggets on top, 94-87.

The Bucks beat the Knicks in Milwaukee Sunday, 110-95, with Carlos Delfino shooting the lights out (30 pts, 8-11 on threes) and Salmons turning in his second straight efficient scoring night (22 pts).

Indeed, the Bucks are part of New York’s woes of late, just as the Knicks troubles have hurt the Bucks playoff chances.

And, yes, the Bucks need to win tonight’s rematch in New York much more than the Knicks do.

*********************

Michael Redd is not expected to play in New York.  He at first said he wanted to play “Friday or Saturday” but before the Kings game coach Scott Skiles said the soonest Redd would be active was Saturday.

“That’s (Saturday) what we’re shooting for now. We’ll see. It’s the same type of situation. When they determine he’s ready to go, we’ll activate him and we’ll see.”

Of course, Skiles said the same thing about big forward Drew Gooden, who was activated before the Kings game but was left sitting on the bench.

22 thoughts on “Milwaukee Bucks Weekend: Still not taking lesser opponents seriously, despite having become one

  1. Kevin

    Also, I just saw that Philly has 40 games missed to injury or suspension compared to 266 for Milwaukee. They also stole Jodie Meeks from us. So it’s almost surprising they only have 8 or 9 more wins.
    Mike Fratello is a much better coach, don’t know why he was’t offered the job instead.

  2. J.D. Mo. Post author

    That’s a great question. And why is it that the majority of the time that Skiles calls a time out and draws up a play, it results in a 24 second violation?

    One theme I’ve also picked up on this season is how badly the Bucks finish quarters — we’ve often lost 6-10 pts per game just managing the clock poorly or simply not running what I like to call “routine” or “easy offense” plays at the end of quarters.

    We just played a great defensive game against Philly and beat them in OT. That was at home but it’s readily apparent how evenly matched the Bucks and Sixers are these days. So why is our record not more comparable to the Sixers, who lost a bunch of close games early in the season? There are things that the Bucks don’t do, that the coach doesn’t do, that could get them the three or four points they need to win some of these games.

    I’m moving into the “blame Skiles” crowd on this season — not for the poor record but for the fact that we’re not going to be playing the Bulls in Round One of the playoffs.

  3. Kevin

    Not any more, Pacers magic number is 3, 2 if they have the tiebreaker, to eliminate Milwaukee. Why wasn’t Gooden inbounding the ball? This was the way it had to happen.

  4. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Indiana could easily lose four of their last six, and possibly 5 of them. The Bucks have to win tonight and against Philly on Saturday, then go out and win four of their last six. The playoffs, it’s a shame to fall short in the East, and still hard to believe the Bucks are in this position.

  5. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Bogut will not likely play tonight in Indiana. Seems he missed the shootaround today with an “illness” that he’s come down with on the road. The Bucks have claimed Bogues picked up an infection earlier this season when he was scratched by an opposing player sometime in December. The result has been a season-long mononucleosis type thing that won’t go away and recurs when it feels like keeping the Bucks from any hope of the playoffs.

  6. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Jennings again smoked Augustin, this time in the second half. The Cats game was one the Bucks should have won by 17 or so … needing a finish never should have been an issue. I thought watching the Bucks lose to the Kings was difficult, but that was brutal. The season on the line, no center for the Bobcats, Tyrus Thomas playing hurt (he wasn”t even supposed to play), and we’ve got clowns like Drew Gooden out there shooting 20 footers. Unwatchable.

    No, I’m not placing the blame for the loss on Gooden. But when you’ve got the opposition heavily outmanned at the rim, take it there. Bogut and Mbah a Moute scored 37 points on their 32 combined possessions — that’s excellent.

    These “shooters” assembled by Hammond and Skiles — they shot 7 for 33, so incredibly awful — all of them — Gooden, Delfino, Salmons, Dooling, Redd. This ball movement offense of Skiles’ worked in Chicago but it is wearing thin. What I wouldn’t give to simply see Ilyasova on the court making a smart off the ball cut to the rim.

  7. Kevin

    What a finish. Hapless at the rim and getting beat on the same play on consecutive possessions. I can’t wait for this season to be over.

  8. Kevin

    Salmons tried to go to the rim late in the but had no where to go There is just too much one man action or too many passes. Not to mention guys being wore out. There’s a little difference in the Bulls and Knicks on defense. Delfino did a good job getting to the line. But the game shouldn’t have gotten that close.
    One of the last Celtic losses was against the Bobcats. So both games are up in the air. I think Jennings should light up Augustin.
    King was unbearable to listen to during the Bulls comeback, makes Red Kerr seem pleasant.

  9. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Garret Temple’s a Bobcat!! Captain Jack and crew are playing without a front line — Bogut and Mbah a Moute should have a field day in the paint, and the Bucks will control the glass tonight.

    Indiana hosts Boston – let’s hope the Celtics play with urgency … they really can’t afford to lose any more games at this point, least of all this one against the Pacers.

  10. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Didn’t have the sound on the game where I was at, but one of the earlier games against the Bulls, I watched with Stacey King doing the commentary. He knows the Bucks well, and likes to point out the Bucks shot selection decisions, the inability to even find a good shot at times. The Bucks fell into the “settling for jumpers” problem again, where we really needed Salmons and Jennings to take it to the hoop more than they did. Those last three minutes were excruciating to watch, but you’ve gotta tip your hat to Derrick Rose — he took over the game, and couldn’t miss when it counted.

  11. Kevin

    With our guys tired, Luc was firing up jumpers and Stacey King was all over that. The Sacramento loss looks worse now. Hopefully, Charlotte is due for a loss.

  12. J.D. Mo. Post author

    15 point lead in the 3rd quarter, down the drain. Maggette on the bench watching it swirl around and go down.

    Skiles and staff can’t get these guys ready to play in a game? He insists he won’t play them if things are going well. But after the Bucks built the lead and you knew the Bulls were going to come charging back, that was the time.
    Gooden must be in horrible physical conditioning.

    The refusal to play Maggette has officially become an issue.

  13. Kevin

    Bogut and Jennings are the identity of this team. The other players are not as capable of leading the offense. Hopefully, Brandon is back in form after last night and Bogut doesn’t have another lapse.

  14. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The memory of KT’s 22-point outburst against Bogut in January seems to have overwhelmed that game a month ago.
    The Bucks had a chance in both those games, though shot so poorly in the second half of the February game that they didn’t give themselves much hope.

    Bogut’s line vs. Chicago: 6 points on 24% shooting, 16.7 rebs, 2.7 blocks and 2 assists. 0 steals, 0.7 turnovers.
    Bogues is due to make some shots against the Bulls, and the Bucks are due to play four quarters against them. This one may be the game of the year.

  15. Kevin

    KT didn’t even play in that last game. But it’ll be Brockman and Sanders and dial a prayer.

  16. J.D. Mo. Post author

    And Asik – not to forget about him. I think we’ll see Drew Gooden tomorrow night.

  17. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Skiles likes playing Earl against Rose, just to mess with his concept of physics during the game, it seems.
    Against Boozer and Deng and Josh Gibson, Gooden is useless, and Skiles will have to play Mbah a Moute a lot. That should leave something for Maggette in relief of Delfino at the three. We keep saying that, though, and Skiles refuses to play him.
    Gooden might be a good option when Kurt Thomas is in the game. Skiles can’t let KT beat up on Bogut again; allowing that has only hurt the Bucks cause in the first three games.

  18. Kevin

    DRose may be MVP, but that forward combination of Boozer and Deng is what makes these guys a handful. Not to mention all those Bulls fans in Bradley.
    At least give Maggette and Boykins major minutes, our starters have to be exhausted.

  19. J.D. Mo. Post author

    56.5 percent effective shooting tonight.

    Maggette played 2:24, so that’s encouraging!?
    With every starter but Luc playing 38 mins or more, Skiles wiil finally have to relent and get these guys some rest. Tonight it was a two-man bench: Dooling and Sanders.
    I also have a feeling that if Redd suits up at the BC, Skiles will bring him in behind Salmons.
    What’s interesting is that the Bulls can’t possibly know what Skiles is going to do, and can’t possibly know how Redd is going to play.
    We could say similar things about Gooden, though I think they have a much better concept of what Gooden likes to do when he’s got the ball.
    No, it’s not the kind of edge that Kyle Korver brings off the bench, but the Bucks will need every advantage they can find against the Bulls. Can’t let the Bulls sweep us this season.

  20. Kevin

    It’s always darkest before the dawn, Kings thump Pacers and Bucks win at NY. No surprise. If cats have nine lives, the Bucks have ten.
    Need some of our guys back against the Bulls, obviously.
    Jon McGlocklin needs to lecture these guys. The old Bucks knew what to do with the patsies.

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