Milwaukee Bucks reach season breaking point in loss to Detroit Pistons

Richard Hamilton

AP Photo/Jim Prisching

No good, quality basketball has come from a Milwaukee Bucks/Detroit Pistons game over the past year, and Saturday night’s 89-78 Pistons victory was the ugliest yet. Everything about this game felt different than a usual poor shooting performance from the Bucks, mostly because of the team’s accompanying half-hearted defensive effort.

By Jake McCormick

The Bucks have lost plenty of games this season stemming from bad shooting, and the post-game press conferences have all had a “this can’t go on forever” and “we’ve had a lot of injuries” theme. But this particular loss had a noticeable effect on coach Scott Skiles and center Andrew Bogut, both of which expressed frustration and exhaustion with the team’s recurring problems.

That mood could send the team towards the Cleveland/Sacramento territory of bad, or catapult them to realize their full potential and save face with a .500 season.

Notable Milwaukee Bucks performances:

Corey Maggette (15 pts, 7-12 fg, 3 rbs, 3 asts, 2 stls) is the Bucks’ flavor of the week jump shooter, going 5-10 from outside the paint and hitting the only three he attempted. Maggette was also crucial to the transition game, despite not making it to the line for just the second time this season.

Andrew Bogut (18 pts, 8-15 fg, 9 rbs, 3 blks) led the team in scoring through a combination of running hooks and post drop steps, despite a nagging knee injury. Bogut was hampered enough that he opted for boxing out over attempting to block Detroit’s drives and post-ups.

Earl Boykins (6 pts, 2-5 fg), Chris Douglas-Roberts (8 pts, 3-4 fg), and Larry Sanders (0-2 fg, 2 rbs) made their game debuts at the 8:49 mark in the fourth quarter. Douglas-Roberts played well enough to question why he was only considered as a last-ditch effort off the bench.

In-game observations:

  • Milwaukee allowed Detroit to shoot 59.5% from the field in the first half, including 53.8% (14-26) on jump shots outside the paint. The Bucks have had to rely on defense to compensate for their abysmal offense, so when a below average team is hitting shots at a 60% clip, things aren’t going to end well.
  • With a combined 27 points on 10-34 shot attempts, the third quarter was possibly the worst segmented 12 minutes of NBA basketball this season. That title was won when the Pistons and Bucks combined for as many turnovers (10) as made shots. You’d think the worst quarter of an ugly game would have a “fun bad” moment or two, but the third was just bad bad.
  • At the 8:49 mark in the fourth quarter with the Bucks down 72-62, Skiles yanked the game-long ineffectiveness of Ersan Ilyasova (3-11 fg, 9 rbs), Carlos Delfino (8 pts, 2-11 fg), John Salmons (6 pts, 2-6 fg), Luc Mbah a Moute (4 pts, 1-1 fg, 5 rbs), and Keyon Dooling (3 pts, 1-5 fg). Three of the five replacements were seeing their first basketball of the night at a crucial point in the fourth quarter, which says a lot for the regular rotation.

Pessimist: Dissention within the Bucks ranks

By now we’ve all come to expect sub-40% shooting out of the Milwaukee Bucks (21 this year in 49 games, to be exact), but equally horrendous defense has just recently caught on. In the Bucks’ four game losing streak, they’ve yet to hold an opponent under 50% shooting. Andrew Bogut addressed this formula (bad shooting, bad defense) for an NBA Lottery appearance:

“Reading the scouting report. Guy’s tendencies. If a guy is going with his left hand, he’s going left, he is going to go left. So we are having those breakdowns,” Bogut said. “We are just not playing smart basketball. Maybe yeah we are playing hard, but we are not reading the scouting reports, we are not playing smart basketball.”

Bogut also claimed responsibility for the team not being prepared as well, but it was clear from these and other post-game comments that there are some first-time Bucks taking a lackadaisical approach to game preparation. This was a definite low point in a season of career lows for Milwaukee, and that sense hung over the entire team and its coach after the game.

Optimist: Transition is a good thing

A Green Bay Packers logo on the Bradley Center jumbo-tron was the most Bucks fans had to cheer about all night, but Milwaukee’s transition game was better than it has been all season. The Bucks converted on 8/9 fast break opportunities for 19 points that easily eclipsed their season average of 8.9 per game.

Corey Maggette finished nicely on a couple transitions, and had an added passing dimension to his game. Brandon Jennings’ (4 pts, 2-7 fg, 5 asts) best plays on a forgettable night were passes on fast breaks, and the Bucks were fairly successful pushing the tempo while everything else was falling apart.

Realist: Win or lose, the Bucks love streaking

The Bucks have put together three sets of three game winning streaks throughout this season (November 9-13, December 8-13, and January 26-29). Following each, Milwaukee put together losing streaks of five, three, and four games, respectively.

The Detroit Pistons, by all statistical accounts, are a worse team than the Milwaukee Bucks. They rank 6th in points, 21st in shooting percentage, 30th in rebounds, 26th in assists, and 16th in points against per game, yet Detroit managed to best Milwaukee in all of these categories Saturday night.

The Bucks are reaching a point in the season where injury and chemistry problems morph into nothing more than excuses for a bad team. This is certainly not the season anyone in Milwaukee expected from the Bucks, regardless of how the team rises from their latest losing streak.

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