6th Fan Blogger: Bucks vs. Nets
Climbing Down from the Ledge
From Sunday morning through early Tuesday evening, I was standing atop a hypothetical ledge watching the cars speed by below. The Andrew Bogut injury left me all kinds of distraught, and I was ready to pack up my laptop and call it a season. But that's what I do. I overreact. Not so much with basic everyday life activities, but with the minutiae of the local sports teams. Doug Davis gives up three runs in his first inning of the season and the Brewers don't stand a chance of making the postseason. Ted Thompson signs exactly zero players during the offseason and there's no way the Packers can surpass the Vikings. Bogut has his elbow destroyed and the Bucks will be first-round fodder.
It's almost as if Scott Skiles, John Salmons and the rest of the Bucks played the role of grief counselor during my most recent breakdown. They climbed up to the roof, slowly approached me with outstretched arms, told me about all of the good things I'd be missing and ultimately coaxed me off the ledge. It's like John Hammond extended his hand to me and said, "Come join us in the playoffs. It'll be a good time." And not a moment to soon as even the slightest gust of wind might have sent me spiraling down into the darkest of sports abysses.
Don't get me wrong. I still think it will be incredibly difficult for the Bucks to get out of the first round without Bogut. But after last night's game, I feel a little bit better about Milwaukee's chances. I don't know if Kurt Thomas will be able to consistently put in the kind of 32 minutes he did against Chicago. If he can, the Bucks will be in much better shape. He may not block the obscene amount of shots that Bogut does, but he's a more-than-capable interior defender who will pull down his share of rebounds and, with the exception of last night, hit three or four midrange jumpers a game. Thomas certainly can't fully replace Bogut, but he can offer an admirable imitation.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to defense. The Bucks were a very low-percentage shooting team with Bogut. Take out Bogut's team-leading 52 percent shooting and Milwaukee becomes the worst shooting team in the NBA. That's not a distinction that's easy to overcome. They were able to finagle a win last night despite shooting just 36.4 percent from the floor and 24.1 percent from beyond the arc. I can't shake the feeling that we'll see eerily similar games from here on out.
But hey, if Milwaukee can continue to hold the opposition to just 74 points, it may not matter how bad it shoots. As long as the Bucks bring the mentality they brought against Chicago night-in and night-out, they'll stay competitive and possibly even advance into May. That should be more than enough to keep me on the ground floor.
- Playing in front of friends and family seems to have a polarizing effect on players. Some players get amped for their return home and take the opportunity to show their close ones all of the ways they've improved their games while away from home. Others shrink under the pressure of trying to impress those same people. Wauwatosa native Devin Harris has done a little bit of both. Tonight marks his first game in the Bradley Center this year, but past trips have been up and down. Harris has played the role of facilitator quite well, averaging 10 assists per game in his last three contests in the BC. His own offensive game hasn't fared quite as well, though, as he's shooting just 33 percent career in the BC, including a 3-for-14 showing last year.
- Sign of the Night: Jon McGlocklin Stole My Beer. I've heard rumors, and I think a little signage pretty much confirms it.
- It's amazing. No more than 10 minutes after I write about Harris' struggles at the BC, he goes off for three 3-pointers and 13 points in the first five minutes, finishing the quarter with 18 points. Never have I regretted a paragraph more. Defense starts with defending the opposing team's point guard. If you can stop the opposing point guard from scoring or getting easy shots for his teammates, you'll have a good chance of succeeding. Such was the case last night with Derrick Rose. Not so much in the first frame tonight as Harris and Keyon Dooling combined for 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four 3-pointers. And that's just one position in one quarter.
- I think it's time for Jerry Stackhouse to go back to his roots. During his first eight years in the league, he was constantly attacking the tin, averaging better than seven free throw attempts in six of his first eight years and topping out at 10.1 a game in the 2000-01 season. He's been settling for too many jumpers and they're just not falling at a consistent rate. He's never been a high-percentage shooter, but he has offset the low percentages with numerous forays into the lane and trips to the charity stripe, where he's an 82 percent career shooter.
- How about Thomas filling the lane on the break and finishing with an emphatic lay-up? I thought that was a loose gazelle on the floor momentarily.
- Harris is putting Manu Ginobili to shame tonight with his excessive flopping. Are we really supposed to believe that a forearm from the 170-pound Jennings is going to send him flying to the floor the way it has all night? I don't believe it and the rest of the BC doesn't believe it. Unfortunately, the people that count - the refs - seem to actually believe it.
- I don't know if this is factually correct, but Yi Jianlian has to be the first 7-footer in the history of the NBA to have 500 or more field goal attempts and shoot less than 40 percent in consecutive seasons. I find it hard to believe that there's a 7-footer who has accomplished that "feat" even once, let alone in back-to-back seasons. But man, could he post up that chair.
Closing It Out
Trap game ... avoided. A potential letdown and New Jersey's recent strong play - for them at least - had me a little worried coming into tonight. But it was a needless worry as the Bucks overcame a sluggish defensive start to pick up their third straight victory. Tonight's game followed a similar path as last night's as the Nets came out hot with 38 first-quarter points. As was the case last night, Milwaukee turned up the defensive pressure for the remainder of the game, holding New Jersey to just 51 points the rest of the way. It would be nice to see a strong defensive showing for all 48 minutes, but 36 minutes is pretty good, too.
Harris wasn't the only one to make me eat my words tonight as Stackhouse also made me look a tad bit foolish. After I suggested he abandon the jumper, Stackhouse went on to hit 6-of-9 from the floor with five of those six makes coming from midrange and beyond. Salmons eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the tenth time in the last 13 games, finishing with 22 points on an uber-efficient 10-of-13 shooting. Thomas and Dan Gadzuric were great filling in for Bogut, combining for 17 points, 18 rebounds and a couple of blocks. They also held New Jersey leading scorer Brook Lopez, who's supposedly good even though I've yet to see any visual evidence, to a meager five points with five turnovers.
It was good to see that the Bucks didn't take this game from granted, or simply start coasting now that a playoff berth is secure. I said in the opening that Milwaukee would likely have many games in which they shot in the 30-percent range, but that wasn't the case tonight as they shot 51.8 percent. Tonight marked just the second time this season the Bucks shot over 50 percent while holding the opposition to under 40 percent shooting. You've just got to love that.Work hard. Play hard. Type hard.
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.