It’s nothing personal, the Milwaukee Bucks were an embarrassment against the Kings

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Carlos Delfino, Donte Greene

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

A record setting embarrassment against the Boston Celtics on the road is one thing. A back breaking defeat (on two days rest) at home to an NBA doormat on the verge of re-locating and playing without the face of their franchise is something else entirely.

There’s very few positive things to take away from the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 97-90 soul-crushing loss to the Anaheim Royals Sacramento Kings Wednesday night. As Wayne Larrivee, the voice of the Green Bay Packers, said four times this NFL season: “There is your playoff dagger.”

By Jake McCormick

The Sacramento Kings don’t do too many things right, especially when star point guard Tyreke Evans is sidelined with the same foot injury as Drew Gooden (enjoy that comparison because it’ll never happen again). But what they do well was on full display against a Bucks team in desperate need of a gimme win in friendly confines against supposedly inferior competition.

“We just didn’t have the type of intensity and focus you’d like to see, we were kind of passive,” coach Scott Skiles said. “It hurts for sure.”

The Kings biggest strengths are their offensive board crashing (13.1 per game, second in the NBA), overall rebounding (43.4 per game, fourth in the NBA), and ability to hit shots in the painted area (44.7 points per game, fifth in the NBA).

It was only fitting that the Bucks’ last dying hope was crushed by a Jason Thompson (5 pts, 9 rbs) offensive rebound that extended the Kings’ lead to four points with 17.6 seconds to play.

Sacramento surpassed each of those averages Wednesday night, winning the rebounding 47-32 (17-9 offensive) and points in the paint (54-34, including 40 points at the rim) battles with a little help from a deflated Bucks defense.

Kings point guard Beno Udrih (25 pts, 8-16 fg, 9-11 ft, 6 asts, 6 rbs), who might as well have been Tyreke Evans, and shooting guard Marcus Thornton (27 pts, 9-19 fg, 7-8 ft, 6 rbs, 4 asts) had no problems driving through lanes to the hoop that were wider than Kramer’s Sponsor-a-Highway changes on Seinfeld.

Sure, there were some decent points for Milwaukee, such as Carlos Delfino‘s 22 first half points and Andrew Bogut’s ascension into Bucks history as the third Milwaukee player to ever record 600 blocks. But any loss that looks, sounds, and feels like a playoff buster is one that rarely produces any lasting positives.

Milwaukee Bucks starting lineup:

Brandon Jennings, Beno Udrih

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Carlos Delfino (30 pts, 12-20 fg, 5-9 3fg) followed up a career game with a career game, and just for fun decided to do it again Wednesday by matching Sunday’s efforts. Delfino scored most of his 22 first half points off easy drives through the Kings’ traffic cone defense, but didn’t sink another basket until 9:16 in the fourth quarter. He carried the team for the third game in a row, which unfortunately conjures up thoughts of missed possibilities earlier in the season.

Andrew Bogut (15 pts, 7-13 fg, 9 rbs, 4 asts) is rarely one to make boneheaded mistakes at crucial times (discounting missed free throws, of course). But his moving screen foul with 43 seconds to play and the Bucks down 92-90 was a definite low point for his embattled season. Bogut did a decent job backing down the softer Samuel Dalembert (11 pts, 5-10 fg, 12 rbs, 2 blks) and childish DeMarcus Cousins (13 pts, 6-11 fg, 9 rbs), and converting on a few lefty hooks, but his production wasn’t sustained for more than a couple minutes at a time.

Over his past 10 games, Luc Mbah a Moute (11 pts, 4-6 fg, 4 rbs) has become half as good offensively as he is defensively (trust me, that’s a big compliment). Mbah a Moute averaged 10.9 points while shooting 49.4%, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and led the team in free throw attempts and makes (29-37) over that span. He was active early on, mostly with his newfound ability to turn opponents’ defensive disrespect into offense on backdoor cuts to the hole.

In their last three games, Brandon Jennings (6 pts, 2-7 fg, 6 asts, 4 rbs) and John Salmons (8 pts, 3-14 fg, 4 rbs) combined to produce 40.8% of the Bucks’ total offensive production, averaging a total of 40.7 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds per game. Wednesday night, the duo regressed severely to a combined 14 points on 5-21 shooting (1-5 on treys), 9 assists, and 8 rebounds in 33 minutes apiece.

Pessimist: The dagger

Sitting in his locker with a his left hand draped over his forehead, John Salmons called the loss, his play, and the Bucks’ current playoff picture a “shame.” Games against team’s residing in the NBA wine cellar are ripe for the picking by teams with playoff hopes.

But for whatever reason, unexplainable (at least in public) by Salmons or coach Scott Skiles, the Bucks came out strong before a three quarter decrescendo of 24, 18, then 16 points. They’ve been that way nearly all season, and losing to the Kings in the 70th game of an NBA playoff race belies any individual performances or milestones in the big picture.

Optimist: This wasn’t the Packers losing to the Lions

Unlike Green Bay, the Bucks don’t have much of a case for using the “backs against the wall” cliche. The team has been cornered for most of the season, and just when things start looking better (like the last week) they’ve shrunk against the wall of meeting expectations.

At this point, picking out big picture positives doesn’t seem very appropriate.

Realist: Still want the Bucks to make the NBA playoffs?

Anyone still hoping the Bucks can make a last call push towards the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs? If so, get ready to convert to the Church of the NBA Lottery after perusing Milwaukee’s final 12 games.

The Bucks close out the 2010-11 season with twice as many road games (eight) as tilts in the Bradley Center (four), including four back-to-backs. Two of the four home games are against Eastern Conference playoff teams still playing with a purpose (Chicago, Philadelphia), and six road games feature equally hungry competition (New York, Charlotte, Indiana, Orlando, Miami, Oklahoma City).

Milwaukee now sits three games back of the Pacers for the final playoff spot in the East, and Indiana has the luxury of playing seven of their last 10 games at Conseco Fieldhouse.

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