The Bucks stumbled to the halfway point of the NBA schedule with a 16-25 record, losing to the Grizzlies 94-81 Saturday night at the BC in a style Bucks fans have become accustomed to this season. Analyze the game, and it suffices pretty well as an encapsulation of the season.
1) Andrew Bogut, ailing all season with back issues, a mysterious virus and his recovering right paw, was less than superlative. He was outplayed by Marc Gasol, who recorded his first 20-10 game of the season (24 points, 16 rebs). This was the type of performance by Bogut that has made this season a trial for the Bucks, and the type of loss that may keep him off the 2011 All-Star team. Bogut had 14 pts, 9 rebs, 3 blks, 2 stls but wasn’t the center making competent decisions on the floor. That center was Gasol.
“It was an ugly basketball game for most of the night and they outplayed us. Gasol, he killed me tonight and he had a lot of easy baskets and post moves. Their bigs really played well.” –– Bogut after the game.
“Ugly basketball game” might have been a reference to the terrible refereeing. The whistle-blowers were bad, even by NBA standards. An inexplicable 2nd foul call on Bogut three minutes into the game shackled him for most of the first half. One highly questionable and two “how-much-does-the-zebra-have-on-this-one?” calls against the Bucks in the 3rd quarter changed the game and pushed the Griz out to a 59-46 lead. But this is supposed to be a microcosm game for the season. No referee beefs allowed, unless it’s to say that the Bucks have, at times, been a hard luck team.
2) Starting guard John Salmons, the Bucks second leading active scorer, missed his 2nd game due to a hip problem. The Bucks lead the NBA in starter games missed, even if you don’t count Drew Gooden as a legitimate starter. They played their 17th game without injured Brandon Jennings is recovering from surgery on a bone fracture in his left foot and may return this week. The Bucks are 6-11 without their point guard. They need him. Earl Boykins really likes to dribble around and dribble around and shoot.
3) The Bucks guards shot 12 out of 47 from the floor, 25.5 percent. Everybody else shot 22 of 43 – 51.2% – and were good enough to beat the Grizzlies. Is it too late to send Keyon Dooling back to free agency? Carlos Delfino played too much in his second game back from head injuries, and shot too much. Chris Douglas-Roberts started the game but was benched after the first quarter.
4) Ersan Ilyasova was yanked by Skiles in the third quarter and did not return to the game. Why? He was burned twice by shaky officiating on two possessions, one against Gasol after he and Bogut switched; the other on a shoulder-first move by Zach Randolph in the post. Add this Grizzlies loss to the long line of “Ersanity Factor” games, with this one emphasizing the illogic of Skiles’ yanks and how they hurt his team.
Ilyasova and Randolph were having a good battle, with Ilyasova playing 16 mins in the first half, some of it at center when Bogut got hit with foul trouble. The halftime score was 43-40 Grizzlies. The Bucks were behind, not because Randolph was having a game — he wasn’t. Gasol was. The Bucks guards were both shot-happy and bad. Ilyasova and Corey Maggette, along with Bogut, seemed to have matters under control in the 3rd but for the refs dictating the game. Skiles first pulled Ilyasova, then sat Maggette down. With his starting forwards on the bench, the Bucks quickly found themselves down by 18, 72-54.
When the Bucks by mid-4th quarter pulled to within four against the Grizzlies bench, it seemed the ideal time for Skiles go back to Bogut and his starting forwards. Most coaches would have, and trusted them to finish a win at home. But not Skiles, who left the reserves on the court too long and didn’t call Ilyasova off the bench at all.
Ilyasova’s critics will say that he’s inconsistent (code for “his shots don’t always go in the basket”), and this has justified Skiles’ short leash. Earlier in the season, Skiles was pulling Ersan after consecutive misses. Now it seems the coach will yank him even when he isn’t taking shots. Ersan on Saturday was three for five from the floor, six points, and had locked into his matchup against Randolph, which — if nothing else, was adding drama to the game that Skiles didn’t seem to appreciate.
Ersan, after the Grizzlies game, was tied for 18th with Dwyane Wade and David West in NBA defensive rating at 100.9 points allowed per 100 possessions played. They’re in a group of five Top 20 defenders rated between 100 to 1oo.9 that also includes Tyson Chandler (100.5) and Lebron James (1oo.8).
With the loss, the Bucks record fell to 6-16 in games where Skiles has played Ilyasova fewer than 24 minutes. Prior to Saturday’s loss, the most previous example of Skiles not playing Ilyasova in the 4th quarter was the Bucks’ lethargic loss in Houston. The Bucks are 10-9 when Ilyasova plays 24+ minutes.
5. The Packers kick it off against the Bears at 2 pm this afternoon, and NBA league pass is free this weekend. Time for me to stop worrying about the Bucks and Scott Skiles for at least a few hours.
The Atlanta Hawks bounced back in Charlotte from their 100-59 humiliation to CP3 and the Hornets Friday. Mike Bibby sparked the 3rd quarter offensive bust-out that made the difference in the game. Joe Johnson was sharp (32 points) after shooting 1 for 16 against N’Awlins. It was all very unspectacular and surprisingly ho-hum. With Al Horford out nursing an ankle sprain, the grind-out, Eastern Conference style of the game went more the way of the Hawks, and Charlotte didn’t put up much resistance after Bibby and Johnson’s offensive burst in the 3rd. A team can’t let the Hawks feel good about themselves for any length of time, or their jumpers begin to fall like rain from all over the gym. The ‘Cats understand this defensively, knowing both sides of the schizophrenic Hawks, and usually give the Hawks more trouble than they can handle in Carolina. If only the ‘Cats offense would cooperate.
Stephen Jackson was horrible for the fifth game in a row, digging a steep production crater on the Bobcats’ wing. It seems that ESPN’s Jackson to Dallas or Chicago trade campaigns are out to kill perceptions of Jackson as a reliable scorer. It’s not that the extra attention and interest in Jackson has caused a slump — these slumps of his are natural. The seven for 17 shooting guard who makes 2 of 6 threes looks good on paper, but he doesn’t shoot seven for 17 every game — the bad streaks are horrendous, as Jackson and the Bobcats know well.
The Knicks want two All-Stars, Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. Saturday in Oklahoma City, Felton played like he wanted it, too, and was out to create the highlight plays that could help get him to Los Angeles next month. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good for Felton’s teammates, who received all of one dime from their point guard in the second half. The highlight play never materialized as Felton, possession after possession late in the 4th and went one on one against Russell Westbrook. He hit one shot — a tough step-back, fallaway jumper with Westbrook in his face. The rest rimmed out, one drive drawing nothing but air. The Thunder inched closer until they had the ball and a tie, with six seconds left on the clock after the Felton’s final exercise in one-on-one futility. Kevin Durant calmly dropped a three-pointer from the far wing at the buzzer to win 101-98.
Kevin Durant (30 pts in the game) is an All-Star. Raymond Felton? Ten points, 5-for-16 shooting, seven assists … not an All-Star. Ray’s not doing anything differently this season except shooting more, making a lower percentage and playing in New York. If his assists are up (and they are with the Knicks), remember that last season he was a Bobcat. Felton’s 2011 teammates, Amar’e Stoudemire for example, know a thing or two about scoring off a pass.
The Knicks loss dropped their record to 22-21, just five games ahead of the 10th place Bucks in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks are in 6th and would play the Bulls if the playoffs started today. … There’s nothing odd or controversial about the Knicks fall to the .500 zone of NBA mediocrity. The Knicks schedule has begun to even out after they feasted on NBA patsies like the Raptors and Wizards. While the Bucks are 1-0 against the Wiz and haven’t played the Raptors, the Knicks are 5-0 against those Eastern Conference powerhouses.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“It’s not fun playing aggressive and really trying to apply some energy, and get penalized for it. A lot of guys are playing very, very physical toward me. I’m starting to get injured a lot. My shoulders, arms, hands are starting to get banged up a lot. It’s a little frustrating.”
— Amar’e Stoudemire, after the Spurs beat him up on their way to a 101-92 win in San Antonio Friday. Typical Amar’e. Sounds like what he said after Andrew Bogut and the Bucks blew the Knicks out in Milwaukee earlier this season. He accused Bogut of cracking him with an elbow under instructions from Scott Skiles to “retaliate” against him for pushing Bogut in the back on a breakaway last March and causing the momentum that caused the fall that mangled Bogut’s arm and finished his 2011 season. “What play is he talking about” Bogut wondered.
The Knicks loss to the Thunder the next night was their 6th straight.
Pacers vs. Nuggets: What a brawl a game against the Denver Nuggets is. The Pacers and Tyler Hansbrough — who shot a lot for a guy who’s averaging 7.2 pts a game — weren’t quite ready for it, though they worked hard to keep it relatively close even as Carmelo Anthony was raining six three pointers on them in the 3rd quarter
Ty-bro, by the way, had a career high 27 in this one, which they needed to keep the score close because Danny Granger didn’t show up, then left the game with a sprained ankle. I don’t think Danny’s going to the All-Star game this year. … The Ty-Bro show was by design, obviously. The Nuggets frontline is about the same 6’8″- 6’9″, same limited wingspan, and, like Ty-bro, they’re strong, only wider and closer to the floor. “Get that shit outta here,” Keyon Martin shouted as he blocked a Ty-bro post move in the 3rd quarter. But Ty-Bro kept coming at the Nuggets and had his midrange game on target.
Martin’s lost a few steps in recent years but he’s still full of intimidation and noise, if not much else. 25 mins — 4 pts, 4 rebs would have Bucks fans demanding that Skiles yank the power forward.
There wasn’t much the Pacers, who played the night before in Portland, could do in this Sunday night game but collect the ball out of the net while Carmelo and friends were having far too much fun on their home court. But down 15 at the end of the 3rd, the Pacers were still D-ing up with intensity, trying to stay in the game. But they couldn’t get any closer against J.R. Smith, Al Harrington and the Nuggets bench.
The Pacers are now 16-25, tied with the Bucks, who’ve beat their Central Division rivals twice this season. In many statistical measures, the Pacers and the Bucks come out fairly even — they’ve both been a bit unlucky, based on what they’re scoring and giving up. The Pacers defense is in the Top 10, while they play a pace quicker than the Bucks, but they’re still look like a team growing. The Bucks 16-25 comes with a roster-full of injury problems against the toughest schedule of any Eastern Conference team.
Only the Mavs have played a slightly tougher schedule than the Bucks, based on opponent record.