A glimpse into the Milwaukee Bucks without their Bigs isn’t pretty

Scott Skiles

AP Photo/Colin E Braley

What do Andrew Bogut, Corey Maggette, Carlos Delfino and Drew Gooden have in common? The answer: A DNP label next to their names for the Milwaukee Bucks 109-88 loss to the Utah Jazz.

While Delfino’s injury status was ambiguous until late last week, the temporary losses of Bogut, Maggette, and Gooden exposed the reality of what could happen should any of them go down for any extended period of time.

By Jake McCormick

The Jazz are as solid at home as any team in the NBA, and the last time the Bucks won in Utah was in 2000-01 when Milwaukee had a Big Three of their own. The Bucks are 3-17 at EnergySolutions Arena since 1990, and have now lost nine straight in probably the only hostile place in Utah.

The Bucks managed to keep the game within reach, hitting 10-23 three pointers and 26 of 34 free throws, until they went scoreless in the first four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. As the old adage goes, you’re not going to win many games when your opponents shoot 54.8%.

John Salmons was back to his terribly bad self, and I don’t mean that in the good 1970s way. Salmons played 30 minutes and shot a disastrous 1-11 from the field while continuing to live up to his reputation for ugly play before the February trading deadline.

Chris Douglas-Roberts

AP Photo/Colin E Braley

Only three Bucks finished the game in double figures, as Brandon Jennings led all scorers with 27 points (8-20 fg, 4-9 3fg, 7-9 ft), Ersan Ilyasova added 18 points (6-10 fg, 2-4 3pt, 4-4- ft), six rebounds, and three steals, and Chris Douglas-Roberts made a case for more playing time with 19 points (5-12 fg, 3-5 3fg, 6-9 ft), four rebounds, and energy that has been desperately needed off the bench.

Pessimist: 48-26 rebounding advantage for the Jazz
The lowest rebounding total in a single game in Bucks history was 23 in 2003 against the Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee minus Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden came within three boards of matching that total.

Bogut and Gooden have had their fair share of struggles this season, most notably at the line and from the field like every other Milwaukee player, but their absence inside left the top defensive team in the paint (34 points per game) without their biggest bodies.

As a result, the already dangerous duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap had their way in both colored areas, as did the rest of the Jazz, who dropped 54 points in the paint to Milwaukee’s 18 and outrebounded the Bucks 48-26.

Utah’s starting bigs are much better than most, but none of those statistics inspire much confidence in an Ilyasova-Jon BrockmanLuc Mbah a MouteJon Brockman front court rotation. In fact, it kind of makes you long for Erick Dampier, in the most reluctantly regretful way.

Optimist: 27 minutes, 9-18 fg, 4-7 3fg, 15 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1 apg, 1 to
Chris Douglas-Roberts played in only his second game of the season (accompanied by Kurt Rambis-patented protective glasses), but was a low dose of Novocain for Bucks fans eager to forget the reality of John Salmons’ uselessness.

Salmons’ lack of practice time at the beginning of the season was an easy excuse for his ineffectiveness, but Douglas-Roberts has not practiced since his eye injury on October 28 and has still managed to produce in his first two opportunities of the season.

CD-R displayed some surprising range early in the game, knocking down three triples and drawing a few fouls playing his strengths as a slasher. Coach Scott Skiles rewards production with increased minutes, and the solid start to CD-R’s career in Milwaukee could scale back Salmons’ floor time.

If that happens, it will be interesting to see how Salmons responds, and if the mild mannered scoring machine that carried the Bucks down the stretch last year proves he’s worth the long term deal he signed this offseason.

Realist: 10 threes and Brandon Jennings’ offensive explosion doesn’t equal a win
Two things have been loose lipped secrets so far this season when it comes to predicting wins for Milwaukee: As the three point shooting goes, so do the Bucks, and Milwaukee prefers to play up or down to their opponents, depending on the quality of competition (4 of 6 wins have come against teams with .500 records or above).

Ersan Ilyasova

AP Photo/Colin E Braley

But even shooting a 43.5% clip from the perimeter and a 34 to 16 free throw advantage, you’re not going to win many games giving up half a century’s worth of points in the paint and 16 offensive rebounds.

Brandon Jennings has carried much of the shooting load lately, scoring 25, 32 and 27 points on 42.8% and 41.6% from the perimeter, but the Bucks have still dropped six of their last seven games.

Milwaukee simply can’t afford to lose Bogut or Gooden for more than a few games at a time, because they’ll already have enough problems against elite teams over the next two months.

I’ve mentioned more than once that Milwaukee needed to get hot early, because their schedule up until December was D-League competition compared to what awaits them as the New Year approaches.

Right now, the defense has been suffering from the offense’s lack of production, the injury situation isn’t getting much better, and the schedule is going to be less forgiving than Carrie’s mother as the Bucks venture into 2011.

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