Milwaukee Bucks analysis: A pessimist, optimist, and realist walk into a bar…

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Brandon Jennings, Aaron Rodgers

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Here are the best and worst things to come out of the Milwaukee Bucks 91-81 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night:

Pessimist: Blown Saves

The Bucks are one of the worst teams in the NBA at closing out quarters, and Saturday night against the Nets was no different. Milwaukee was outscored by a total of 30-12 in the last three minutes of each quarter, allowing New Jersey to build momentum heading into the following quarter. To put that into perspective, the Nets scored 37% of their points in 12 minutes.

After the game, center Andrew Bogut acknowledged the team’s deficiencies in letting teams stick around too long. Even mediocre teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Phoenix Suns (all upcoming opponents) are capable of carrying end-of-quarter scoring bursts into the next quarter.

Optimist: Brandon Jennings takes his first step back to a starting role

Saturday night was as close, celebrity-wise, to a Los Angeles Lakers game as you’ll get in Wisconsin. With Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun sitting courtside together, and receiving a couple standing ovations, it was fitting that Brandon Jennings (0-3, 2 pts, 1 ast) made his return to the court after a 19-game absence.

Jennings was the first recipient of a standing ovation in his debut at the 4:32 mark in the first quarter, and played a total of 11 minutes. Jennings had one good drive that drew contact and a foul (he sank both free throws), and received a healthy ankle diagnosis after the game.

All you can hope for in a player’s first game back from a long-term injury are a good post-game prognosis and a few flashes of normalcy in a sea of rust. Brandon Jennings return sparked the fan base, and gives the consistently injured Bucks a boost in energy and confidence.

Realist: From Jersey back, back to Cali, Cali

If Milwaukee is going to make any serious run at the playoffs, it starts with beating teams they’re expected to beat. The Nets and Toronto Raptors are two of those teams, and most of the Bucks’ remaining schedule comprises of similar NBA Lottery candidates.

The upcoming West Coast road trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco won’t feature legitimate playoff contenders, but they are all better than the Nets, Raptors, Washington Wizards, and Cleveland Cavaliers (all last or second to last in their respective divisions).

Milwaukee is beating teams they are supposed to beat, and setting themselves apart from the lower rung of the NBA. The Bucks haven’t exactly turned the corner, so to speak, but they are facing in the right direction.

Follow Jake McCormick on Twitter.

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