Rarely would you call facing a 7’3” defender on an inbounds pass an advantage for the offense, but having Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert guarding Luc Mbah a Moute just may have won Wednesday night’s game for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“That could’ve been a blessing,” coach Scott Skiles said. “One of the things that’s happen to us when we work on it in practice is that sometimes we throw it short, and you want to throw it long. So the fact that (Hibbert) was on (Mbah a Moute), he could’ve put some extra loft on it.”
By Jake McCormick
Mbah a Moute’s inbounds pass to the back end of the rim, tipped in by a cutting Andrew Bogut with .5 second left to give the Milwaukee Bucks a 97-95 win, was the kind of play that is practiced regularly but almost never called in a game situation.
Point guard Brandon Jennings, who promptly leaped onto Bogut’s back like Yoda while the rest of the team mobbed the big Aussie, was also crucial to the play thanks to his unlikely screen of the 6’11” 250 lbs Jeff Foster.
“More important than my tip was the pass,” Bogut said. “If that ball is off one centimeter or two centimeters off to one side or it’s short or it’s long, it’s very hard to get a clean tip at it, and obviously Brandon Jennings’ screen, for a little guy, he got into Jeff Foster and got me open.”
“Even though the guys have been pretty frustrated and gotten a little discouraged, they’ve still kept their defensive effort pretty tight,” Skiles said. “The fact that they’re still out there battling, you have to believe at some point that the 15 footers, and the lay ups, and the pick and pop shots are going to go in at a more normal percentage.”
Milwaukee started the game with an inside-out philosophy, scoring four of their first six baskets within five feet of the rim, totaling 12 second chance points despite missing six of their 10 opportunities, and ripping down 20 rebounds (12 offensive). Although they shot as low as 27% on the quarter and finished with 37.9% to Indiana’s 47.8%, the 10-1 advantage in free throw buckets tilted things enough to give the Bucks an uncharacteristic 33 points to start the game.
Conventional wisdom caught up to the Bucks, if only for the first five minutes of the second quarter, when Milwaukee only managed to score eight points. However, a well executed Ersan Ilyasova top of the key pass to Andrew Bogut for an ally-oop highlighted a 10-2 run over the next three minutes. Milwaukee actually shot a higher percentage in the second quarter (44.4%) than the first thanks to NBA quality ball movement (six assists on eight baskets).
The Pacers entered the game taking most of their shots from beyond the three point line (29.4% of total attempts), and boasting a top five ranked defense against shots taken 10 feet or less from the rim. I only mention these relatively obscure statistics because the third quarter looked much more like the Indiana team that has some people calling them this year’s Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers shot 52.9% from the field, including 4-7 on threes, and held the Bucks to 1-9 shooting in the paint and an overall 28.6% from the field.
See the introduction for more relevant information.
Pessimist: 36% fg
Even with the unlikely finish, the Bucks’ offense was still anemic for much of the game, and was heavily reliant on sinking 32 of 40 free throw attempts. One continually apparent issue that has yet to be resolved or improved is their inability to consistently execute a pick and roll.
According to Synergy Sports, the Bucks are 24th in the NBA in the ball handler’s shooting percentage (37.1%) and 25th in the roll player’s shooting percentage (43.4%), and it usually looks like whoever is receiving the pick doesn’t even consider the roll man as an option.
Quite often against the Pacers, Brandon Jennings or John Salmons would have a window of one or two seconds after Andrew Bogut rolled off his pick, but for one reason or another he would set up shop on a block and wait for a more traditional pass into the post.
Optimist: The Ersanator
With 49.9 seconds left and the game tied at 93-93, Ersan Ilyasova fought through two Pacers defenders under the hoop, ripped down the offensive rebound, got fouled, and drained both free throws. It was a defining play for the Bucks’ most crucial bench player in the game.
Ilyasova’s season-best 21 points and 10 rebounds were constant lifts when Milwaukee needed it the most, and for at least one night it looked like the scrappy stretch four had found his confidence to just play his game. The challenge now is of the Turkish Thunder to replicate that performance on a more consistent basis.
Realist: On to Game 22
Skiles said the end-of-game tip-in play has been practiced at least 100 times, and was actually used once in the Milwaukee Bucks’ preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (Larry Sanders missed a dunk by a few inches, but like Bogut said, the pass has to be perfect).
Andrew Bogut said after the game that a win in this fashion is more uplifting and emotional than one that would’ve come in overtime, and the team now has to prove they can improve the offensive problems that were apparently in the first 47.59.5 minutes of the game.
“We’re searching for a win right now,” Jennings said. “So we’ll take whatever we can get, but now we have another team coming in on Friday and we have to get a win.”
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