By Jake McCormick
In elections, a small sample size of voters leads to accurate early projections. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for early scoring runs in NBA games.
If the first six minutes of the Milwaukee Bucks 90-76 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers had decided the game, Milwaukee would’ve won by triple digits. But in the next 42 minutes, the Blazers methodically outshot, out-rebounded, and out-hustled the Bucks, dropping last season’s Cinderella favorite to 1-3 as they head to Boston on Wednesday.
For more in-depth analysis of the loss, click here.
“We played OK offensively in the first three or four minutes of the game in large part because they looked like they had played last night and were kind of a step slow for a few minutes,” coach Scott Skiles said. “But defensively even during that period, they were getting good shots, they just didn’t make them. We were concerned even when we were ahead that our approach was going to come back and bite us, and it did.”
“Fast-paced” and “up-tempo” typically aren’t used to describe the tendencies of Scott Skiles’ offense, but the Milwaukee Bucks flashed some of their speed and athleticism in the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers on their way to a 14-2 run to start the game. The Bucks went on to shoot 55% from the floor for the quarter while playing aggressive defense that forced Blazers point guard Andre Miller and center Marcus Camby to show why they shouldn’t be taking shots more than five feet from the basket. Milwaukee also scored 12 of their 27 first quarter points in the paint, seven of which game from center Andrew Bogut.
Highlight: Carlos Delfino spread his hot shooting all over the floor, scoring 11 points during the Milwaukee Bucks’ 14-2 run. Delfino went 4-5 from the field (2-3 on threes) and nabbed three rebounds in the process. Del3no was the biggest beneficiary from the up tempo offense, and flashed what Scott Skiles has called his “hidden athleticism” when driving into heavy traffic.
The Bucks cooled off in the second quarter about as fast as they heated up in the first, but you probably didn’t need me to tell you the Milwaukee Bucks’ offensive streaks quarter-to-quarter are as consistent as Brandon Jennings‘ jumper. In the second quarter bizarro world, the Blazers shot 55% while the Bucks managed to only hit 33% of their shots, most of which were in the paint (13 of 18 total shots) while getting outscored 26-18. Portland whittled away at the lead despite Brandon Roy‘s view from the bench, and his return at the 4:53 mark didn’t make things any better for the Bucks, who were giving up open shots along the perimeter while only putting up one three pointer all quarter.
Highlight: Portland Trail Blazers sixth man and Marquette University alum Wesley Matthews looked right at home in the Bradley Center shooting 20-25 foot jumpers against a sagging defense, adding nine points on 4-6 shooting in 7 minutes and eliciting cheers from pocket sections of the crowd. Matthews combined with forward Dante Cunningham for 15 points without star guard Brandon Roy on the floor, which played right into the Blazers’ hands.
Whatever energy the Bucks had left over from their torried first quarter was all but drained by the third, as the Trail Blazers were able to extend their 47-45 halftime lead to 72-62 while plunging Milwaukee’s shooting percentage since the first quarter to below 30%. Bucks defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was given the assignment of covering Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who proceeded to use his size and length to just shoot over the Prince. John Salmons and Corey Maggette also combined to go 0-10 on the quarter (6-26 overall on the night), and Portland scored 14 of their 26 points in the paint.
Highlight: LaMarcus Aldridge gets the ball under the basket and is immediate double teamed. He kicks it out to Brandon Roy, who cuts hard to the basket and is smothered quickly, at which point he kicks it out again to a waiting Wesley Matthews on the wing for a wide open three. I became fairly familiar with that play, and its variations, throughout the third quarter, as the Blazers had at least one of those three options open with regularity.
Missed passes, out of bounds infractions, and wildly errant shots were just a handful of the fourth quarter problems that inevitably had Scott Skiles looking for Excedrin Extra Strength after the game. With the Bucks down 16 and six minutes left to play, Skiles pulled his entire regular rotation and implemented a lineup of Earl Boykins, Keyon Dooling, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, and Larry Sanders. It is good to see that even with a talented roster on paper, Skiles still is not afraid to rattle the team’s collective cage just to prove that status doesn’t trump production.
Highlight: I would probably say the clock reading zeros, because the majority of the quarter played out like a good Three Stooges episode.
All in all, this game was a definite throwback to the worst games of 2009-10, including the losses at home to the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. But it’s hard to believe that a team this talented with one of the better NBA coaches will completely fall off the wayside this early in the season, so take this game for what it was (a terrible loss, in the words of Andrew Bogut) and get ready for the next one. That’s the attitude the players and coaches will carry into Boston.
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