The Milwaukee Bucks Opening Night loss was good, bad, and ugly

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Corey Maggette

One down, 81 to go.

The Milwaukee Bucks opened their 2010-11 season with a new look against the New Orleans Hornets, but fell 95-91 in a game that showcased a good amount of positive differences from the 2009-10 team and some problems that are still a work in progress. Whether it is a win or loss, that’s pretty much all you can hope for out of Opening Night in the NBA.

By Jake McCormick

The Good
With 5:03 left in the first quarter and the Bucks down 17-10 to the Hornets, Corey Maggette made his official regular season debut in a Bucks uniform. By the end of the quarter Milwaukee was up 30-29, thanks largely to Maggette’s 10 points in five minutes, including 4-4 on free throws.

Corey Maggette finished the game with 16 points on 4-8 shooting (8-8 FT), with 7 rebounds, but that five minute stretch in the first quarter is, to put it in a Twitter hash tag, #whywegothim.

The Bucks finished the night with five players in double figures, including double-doubles from Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, and Andrew Bogut. Carlos Delfino led the Bucks with 19 points, including a 5-10 night from beyond the arc, and Jennings was effective driving to the basket, which is a progression in his game that needs to come along quickly in order to compensate for the team’s lack of a consistent three point threat.

Andrew BogutThe most encouraging of this group was the biggest question heading into the season, as Andrew Bogut seemed to get stronger as the game went on and fed off Gooden on a handful of possessions, free throws not withstanding (I’ll get to that later).

The Bad
Quite simply, the Milwaukee Bucks’ biggest asset in 2009 was their biggest weakness on Opening Night against the Hornets. This is news to me, but Chris Paul is Captain Amazing when he’s healthy, and Brandon Jennings does deserve some credit for playing him tough defensively for most of the night. Unfortunately, Paul pretty much did what he wanted with Jennings in his face, and also had no problem finding an open man when Jennings received help.

The Bucks’ chemistry issues were apparent defensively, although the trademark Scott Skiles hustle was there. They were just unable to stop Chris Paul and David West when it was absolutely necessary, and when they did, couldn’t pull away by more than five points before New Orleans tied the game or retook the lead.

Milwaukee also experienced problems with another huge strength from 2009: the bench. Take out Maggette’s 16 points, and the bench contributed six total points on 2-9 shooting. Ersan Ilyasova was especially inept, going 1-5 from the field and Keyon Dooling was apprehensive, to say the least.

The Ugly
The Hornets were also able to play Hack-an-Aussie, as center Andrew Bogut shot 10 free throws, sinking only three. He missed six of eight fourth quarter attempts, and became visibly frustrated as the clock ticked closer to zeros.

You probably don’t need me to tell you part of the reason why Bogut was struggling from the line (as he is only a career 59.8% shooter), and Bogut is smart enough to know that it needs to be addressed even though the team has other collective problems to worry about.

The only starter that was consistently ineffective, John Salmons, was obviously fatigued after not playing a single pre-season game, was rightfully angry after a no-call foul from behind the three point line with under a minute to play, and he had one less turnover than total points (four to five).

But optimistically, the Bucks would have been out of the game by the third quarter if John Salmons had shot 2-8 from the field last year, so the hard evidence is there that Milwaukee has many more scoring options than they did even at their peak in 2009-10.

The Milwaukee Bucks played uninspired for portions of the first half, but in typical Scott Skiles-led fashion, got their offense rolling enough to go back and forth with a team that was 24-17 at home in 2009-10, mostly without superstar point guard Chris Paul and the newly acquired Trevor Ariza.

But after just one game, the success in the low post offense, Corey Maggette’s foul-drawing superpower, and Brandon Jennings’ impression of Maggette are enough to verify that the upgrades we’ve been waiting five months to witness in meaningful games should only get better as the season wears on.

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