6th Fan Blogger: Bucks at Bulls
I've Gone Numb
It's official. The oftentimes demoralizing plight that accompanies a Milwaukee Bucks fan has finally caused me to go emotionally numb. The latest setback -- a devastating arm injury to team-leader Andrew Bogut -- was the nail in the coffin. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, if you will. It's Murphy's Law at its worst -- anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I feel like its one thing after another. There is literally nothing that could happen that would surprise me at this point.
Brandon Jennings could step out of bed tomorrow and shatter his leg like a coffee table that went head-to-head with Chris Farley. John Salmons could cut himself shaving and be sidelined for a month. Carlos Delfino could be trampled by a 250-pound power forward and suffer a cringe-inducing neck injury. Oh wait, that actually happened. Whether it's a draft pick that bombed, or an injury that crippled the team, I've become conditioned to hope for the best, but expect the worst.
When I first read of Bogut's diagnosis, I couldn't help but think of the Little Maharaja character in "Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom." Maharaja was the adolescent slave-driver who put his voodoo doll to full use, causing Indiana Jones immense harm with his well-placed pins. Except in this scenario, he's holding the Bucks franchise in his hand. He sticks a pin in the left hand, and Anthony Mason is signed. He pokes a pin in the right calf, and Ray Allen is traded. He stabs a pin in the heart, and Bogut is lost for the season. It's as though the basketball gods refuse to let the Bucks enjoy even the smallest modicum of success.
The saddest part is that this could not have happened to a better guy. Terrell Owens is one of the biggest jerks, to put it tactfully, the sports world has ever known, yet he's enjoyed a relatively injury-free career. Bogut gives season tickets to 100 of Milwaukee's biggest fans, a gesture surpassed by no other athlete, and he suffers a debilitating injury that prematurely ends his career season. It just doesn't seem fair.
I don't want to be all gloom and doom, but Bogut's injury is emblematic of the unfortunate events that have plagued this franchise for far too long. And really, I should've been prepared for this. Things were going far too well. The other shoe was bound to drop eventually, but every ounce of optimism in my body told me it wouldn't. But then it did, robbing me of all Bucks-related emotion. How can I possibly get excited about anything when, in the back of mind, I know that something horrible will come along and cut that excitement down to size?
To bring the "Indiana Jones" comparison full circle, I feel like I was awakened Sunday morning by Mola Ram hovering over me with outstretched hand. He then reached through my chest cavity, and pulled out my still-beating heart. I think the Bucks are more than capable of bouncing back. I just don't know if I am.
- The Bucks could not be catching Chicago at a worse time. The Bulls are at their healthiest for the first time in weeks with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all back in the starting lineup. Combine the return to full health with wins in six of their last eight and the Bulls are looking like a playoff team right now. I'm expecting a transition period for the Bucks as they learn to play without Bogut, making this contest even more difficult.
- Ersan Ilyasova has a schizophrenic thing going with his jumper. On one possession, it can look as pure as the driven snow. That rainbow jumper can make angels sing. On the next possession, though, he could very well shatter the backboard or miss the hoop completely. He certainly keeps everybody on the floor on their toes. When Forrest Gump's mother said, "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get," I think she was referring to Ersan's jumper.
- It's entirely possible that Deng has never missed a midrange jumper against the Bucks. That guy absolutely kills this team. During the 2006-07 season, Deng averaged 17.8 points per game on 52 percent shooting against Milwaukee. In 2007-08, 21 points per game on 59 percent. In 2008-09, he again averaged 21 points on 59 percent shooting. He hasn't been quite as good from the field this year, but he's still putting up 20 points and 14 boards a game. Deng is one gigantic thorn in Milwaukee's side.
- Stellar second-quarter defense from the Bucks. Absolutely phenomenal. Milwaukee held Chicago to just 3-for-17 shooting in the frame, limiting the Bulls to just two free throws in the last seven minutes of the half. This is the kind of defensive effort that will be necessary if the Bucks are going to make any noise in the postseason.
- Kurt Thomas put on a clinic on how to box out in the third quarter. Noah's narrow frame tried to get around Thomas, but it just wasn't happening. I don't know how many times I heard "butt in the gut" going to basketball camps as a kid, but Thomas' technique brought back memories of Bo Ryan's Platteville Pioneers camp when I was in seventh grade. I was haunted by "butt in the gut" for two full weeks following that camp.
- Flip Murray is another one of those guys, like Drew Gooden, who just can't seem to find a home despite a history of quality play. Murray, a Buck for all of 12 games in his rookie season, has played on eight teams in just eight seasons. He's never been a guy to shoot a high percentage, but he can provide instant offense at either guard position.
Closing It Out
Oh, the sweet, sweet nectar that is the playoffs. I just want to spread it all over my toast and eat it for breakfast. It would be so delectable. The Bucks may have rewritten the book on winning ugly, but I could care less. They put forth an awesome defensive effort tonight, holding Chicago just 47 points in the final three quarters. Delfino may give up three inches to Deng, but that's about all he gave up tonight, forcing him into a 6-of-17 shooting night and putting a stop to the big games Deng is prone to having against Milwaukee. The team, as a whole, did an amazing job on Rose, holding him to only 12 points, eight below his season average, and forcing him into six turnovers.
During the Sacramento game, I wrote about the extra motivation that comes with playing a former team. Salmons may have denied that he was playing with any additional incentive, but he could've fooled me. He attacked the rim throughout and made numerous big plays down the stretch. Thomas led a great effort on the boards for the Bucks, yanking down 14 caroms and playing great interior defense. There was talk during the offseason that Thomas would be bought out or traded to a contender. Thank goodness that didn't happen because I couldn't imagine the Bucks without him.
The cherry on top is that the win comes against the Bulls. Not only does the win secure a playoff berth and pull the Bucks even with Miami for the fifth seed, but it knocks Chicago back in the standings, increasing Milwaukee's chances of getting a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. There is no doubt in my mind that this team will never say die.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.