Milwaukee Bucks finally close out a win against the Sixers

Drew Gooden

AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and the Milwaukee Bucks have had considerable problems this season closing out teams good and bad.

Saturday night’s 93-87 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers still featured the Bucks’ late game issues (0-6 in the final five minutes of regulation), with a twist ending where Milwaukee’s defense comes through with one of their best second halves of the season.

By Jake McCormick

An 89-88 loss to the Indiana Pacers unofficially cemented the Bucks as legit contenders for a top 10 NBA Lottery pick, and the Bucks have nothing but pride masquerading as a carrot at the end of the 2010-11 NBA season stick.

Evaluating each of the Bucks’ remaining six games through a “big picture” lens becomes fairly difficult when the question shifts from “What does this mean for the playoff push?” to “What does this mean for the lottery push?”

Milwaukee Bucks in-game observations:

Over their past three games, the Sixers averaged 27.3 and 24.3 points in the third and fourth quarter, respectively. Saturday night, Milwaukee held Philadelphia to 31 total second half regulation points, and made it possible for a 22 point third quarter to be a turning point in favor of the Bucks.

After failing to score in 48 minutes of regulation, Brandon Jennings unleashed all of his offensive firepower in overtime, hitting a three, a quick layup on an off-the-ball cut, and a floater to keep the Bucks two possessions ahead of the Sixers. Jennings also led the team with six free throws, reflecting his continued improvement as a scorer in paint traffic.

Drew Gooden has played four games since returning from a foot injury, and he’s wasted no time in showing what he can bring to the table. Gooden rarely sets up camp around the basket on offense, and is most effective on pick and pop plays that give him mid-range jump shooting opportunities. Gooden does everything well and nothing spectacular, but it’s still better than anything Bucks power forwards have done over the past two months.

John Salmons’ 19 points on mostly pull up jumpers (8-11 fg) is what you pay for with Salmons, but his eight assists were a pleasant surprise from a player not known for his savvy passing skills. Salmons addressed his role as a distributor after the game:

“I’ve been getting trapped a lot,” Salmons said. “Coming off pick and rolls, the big man is staying with me, forcing me to find an open man and it’s helping to open up the offense.”

Although Salmons was good Saturday, he is still a part of the Bucks’ least productive position. Bucks shooting guards have a combined 10.8 PER, which is far and away the worst on a team bountiful in bad offensive production. Coincidentally, Milwaukee faced a Sixers team that features former Bucks shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who’s improved sharpshooting would’ve been a major asset to Milwaukee had he not been traded for two reserves and a 2010 draft pick.

John Hammond has not lost out on many trades as the Bucks’ general manager, but getting rid of Meeks for nothing was undoubtedly his biggest mistake. Obviously there’s no way of knowing whether Meeks’ improvements as a player are the result of the Sixers or his own maturation (most likely both). But the Bucks are so starved for decent guard play that it magnifies the “What if?” questions about their move to get rid of a young shooter outplaying every current Bucks guard.

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  1. ricky a. pollo says

    Yeah right, Im a bucks fan from the philippines. Bucks can still make it though if it wins all its games and Indiana losses at least three of the last four games. Bucks seem alright, its just that injuries hit the team like a plague. Admit though that there are some winnable games that were given away. Still hoping thought. Cmon guys lets still fight fight fight

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