Jake's Take: Come Back To Us Carlos - 11/27/10
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs Bobcats
Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you lose it. In the case of the Milwaukee Bucks, that "it" is Carlos Delfino.
Coming into this season, Delfino wouldn't likely have been in most people's list top five most important Bucks. Guys like Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden probably would've ranked higher on the totem pole of importance. All five of these guys are more well-known around the league and have a higher overall profile. That's evidence to the difficult task that is evaluating NBA talent. It's so tricky determining an individual player's talent on a team-by-team basis. One team's treasure may be another's trash.
I think Delfino, in his absence, is proving to be a treasure chest full of gold for the Bucks. It's becoming abundantly clear to me that Delfino boasts a skill set that is of vital importance to a team like the Bucks. His passing, rebounding, ball-handling and defensive skills are all necessary to make this Milwaukee team run as smoothly as possible. Delfino's most-important skill, above all else, is his ability to hit from beyond the three-point arc.
Delfino has never been considered an elite NBA shooter. Nor has he ever been considered a below-average shooter. Delfino falls somewhere in between, as evidenced by his 36 percent career mark from long range. He was starting to show signs of moving into that next tier of shooters, though. His long-distance stroke was in fine form through the season's first six games and he was quickly becoming Milwaukee's best threat from three-point range.
But then Delfino suffered what was originally diagnosed as a neck strain. My initial reaction was, "He'll be fine and back in no time." A few days later word came down that Delfino was experiencing concussion-like symptoms. That reaction went more like, "Cuss! Cuss cuss, cuss cuss, cuss cuss cuss!" Having seen what can happen following seemingly mild concussions - like the one suffered by former Brewer Corey Koskie - my worries were exponentially multiplied.
Those worries were for good reason, too. At first, it looked like the Bucks would survive just fine without Delfino as they scored at least 107 points in three of their first four games without him. It's been a completely different script for the other five games Delfino has missed, though.
The Bucks have averaged just 81.8 points per game in those contests. A big part of Milwaukee's decreased offensive output has been its inability to hit from deep. Delfino hit five three-pointers in two of his first six games. In the eight games he has missed, the Bucks as a team have hit more than five three-pointers just three times. In its last four games, Milwaukee has hit a paltry 17 percent of its long-range attempts.
Even if Delfino isn't hitting from deep, he at least presents the threat, and sometimes that's all that's needed. The Oklahoma City game represents a prime example of what the mere threat can do for an offense. Whenever Jennings drove to his right, either Thabo Sefolosha or James Harden would slide down off The Prince to cut off Jennings' penetration. They could do this because The Prince, for all his defensive awesomeness, is simply not a threat to hit from the deep corner. Having Delfino in the corner keeps the defense honest and gives Jennings more space to operate. If the defense does slide down, Jennings can just kick it out to Delfino.
Delfino may not put up the game's gaudiest numbers, but that doesn't necessarily make him any less valuable than any other player on this team. He provides a skill that this team desperately needs, so his return to the court can't come soon enough. Come back to us Carlos. The team needs you.
- When I walked into the BC an hour before tip-off, Stephen Jackson's name was not up on the scoreboard with the rest of Charlotte's starting unit. His absence pleased me greatly as the Bucks could use any help they can get right now. Jackson's name was eventually announced when the starting lineups were blared over the arena loudspeakers, leaving me somewhat dejected. Jackson quickly rectified the situation by getting ejected within the first four minutes of the game following some choice words directed toward one unfortunate official. One could almost consider the scoreboard to be prophetic. I know I do.
- Ersan Ilyasova put in a full first quarter tonight in place of the hobbled Drew Gooden. Turkish Thunder tallied five points, three boards and an uncharacteristic five assists. Most importantly, he tallied three more pump fakeouts, victimizing Jackson, Boris Diaw and Dominic McGuire. Not a bad first frame at all. If he can maintain that pace, Ilyasova will finish with 20 points, 12 boards, 20 dimes and 12 pump fakeouts. This will happen.
- I was blown away by former first overall draft pick Kwame Brown's in-person size. He is a behemoth. He's listed at 6-foot-11, 270 pounds, but he absolutely dwarfed Larry Sanders. I think he suffers from the same affliction that former Viqueen quarterback Daunte Culpepper does. Brown may be a supremely imposing figure physically, but he's the not-so-proud owner of unusually small hands.
- I don't know what kind of scouting dossier the Bobcats have on Jennings, but I'm pretty sure he's proved more than capable of hitting a jumper when left open. Charlotte didn't seem too aware of this in the first half. Jennings had numerous wide-open looks in the first and second quarters, and he made the Bobcats pay by hitting 4-of-5 from long range. Jennings had time to take a knee, cook a bowl of Ramen noodles and knock out the New York Times crossword puzzle.
- This has been a problem for the Bucks throughout the season, but it was especially bad during one stretch in the second quarter. The Bobcats had five and-1 opportunities, converting four, in the last eight minutes of the second quarter. These free points were made possible by Milwaukee's ineffective use of hard fouls. These are baskets can be prevented by giving good, hard fouls, but the Bucks are instead offering up bad, soft fouls.
- There may be parts to CDR's game that are rusty, but one part that's not is his jumper. It actually looks better than ever. CDR hit each of his first three attempts and they were all from at least 20 feet out. He's not known for his jumper, but he might soon be if he keeps this up.
Closing It Out
I was far from brimming with confidence coming into tonight's game, and that confidence took an unexpected hit when word came down that Maggette and Gooden were joining Bogut and Delfino in street clothes. Credit needs to be given to the Bucks who were in uniform as they led the Bucks to a much-needed win, one that came with three starters and a 6th man on the pine. Milwaukee played its best game in a long time, and while the game was way too close for comfort down the stretch, I'll take a win any way it comes to me.
There were a lot of things to like about this game. First and foremost was the vastly improved ball movement. The Bucks assisted on a season-high 25 baskets with Jennings and Salmons finishing with seven assists each. Milwaukee also shot well from behind the arc, finishing just one made three-pointer behind its season-best 11. The Bucks defended the long ball even better, forcing Charlotte into 2-of-16 shooting from deep, including a very important miss from D.J. Augustin in the final moments.
After all of that, the Bucks were still lucky to come away with a win. Their shooting percentage dropped from 67 percent at halftime all the way down to 46 percent by the time the game concluded. If not for Gerald Wallace getting injured in the final minute, which allowed Milwaukee to choose Brown as the free-throw shooter, this game may have gone into overtime.
Making the Bucks even luckier was Larry Brown's questionable decision to send a lineup of Augustin, Diaw, McGuire, Shaun Livingston and Tyrus Thomas out there while down three points in the final possession. Somehow Milwaukee allowed the only decent three-point shooter in the bunch, Augustin, to get the final look.
Lucky or not, the Bucks snapped a too-long losing streak and they did so with numerous key players unavailable. This win was especially important considering Milwaukee's next opponents are Utah, Denver, Orlando and Miami. They'll need any kind of momentum they can get.
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.