Jake's Take: Knowing Your Role
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs. Heat
I've never been a fan of the designated hitter in baseball. I've always thought that if you hit, you should be in the field. The designated hitter was conceived to bring more offense to the game and dollars to the box office. There's no place for the designated hitter. A team can survive without a designated hitter.
My feelings differ when it comes to designated specialists in the NBA. Unlike baseball, NBA teams can't survive - or at least thrive - without certain players being designated for certain assignments. It's called being a role player, and no team in the NBA has more designated [insert responsibility] than the Miami Heat. I don't believe I've ever seen one team rely so heavily on three players to create all of the offense. The only teams I can think of who may challenge that distinction are Jordan's Bulls and the Lakers of the late 90s-early 2000s.
The Bulls offense came almost exclusively courtesy of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, with a little Toni Kukoc thrown in during the second three-peat. If anyone else scored it was the result of a Jordan/Pippen assist, offensive rebound or garbage time hoop. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers weren't a whole lot different with the dueling superstars initiating much of the offense.
The Heat may be a trio instead of a duo, but the drop-off after those three is much more severe. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh account for 64 percent of the team's points, 60 percent of its shots, 80 percent of its free throws, and 67 percent of its assists and turnovers. These three are doing the scoring, the shooting, the passing and the ball handling, which means everybody else needs to handle their respective roles if the team wants to win.
Udonis Haslem, before he was lost for the season, was the designated rebounder and low-post defender. James Jones, who has taken 85 percent of his shots from behind the three-point line, is the designated long-range bomber, at least until Mike Miller returns. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the designated stretch big man. Eddie House is the designated wild card, Charlie Kelly-style. Juwan Howard is the designated crafty veteran who imparts his infinite wisdom on the team's naïve young'ens. Joel Anthony is the designated Canadian. Jamaal Magloire is the designated self-blinding big man and backup Canadian. They all have their designated specialties.
The difference between the aforementioned Chicago and Los Angeles teams and the current version of the Miami Heat is the role players on the Bulls and Lakers performed their designated responsibilities with much greater efficiency. The Bulls and Lakers had players like Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant, Rick Fox and Robert Horry. The Heat has no such players, and that could very well end up being its undoing. Don't get me wrong; Anthony and Magloire are both excellent Canadians and House can cut the breaks like no other. Unfortunately for Miami, those very useful life skills aren't so useful on the court.
Over the summer, I wrote that the Bucks made the right decision to build a team instead of a trio. The Heat may eventually prove me wrong, but I maintain that a team with quality 12-some trumps one with a quality trio, no matter who may construct that threesome.
- Maybe I've never paid proper attention, but Ilgauskas looks unusually skinny. Has he always been this thin? He's borderline scrawny. Maybe his weight is just very uniformly distributed through his 7-foot-3 frame. Either way, the Z-man needs a few Double Downs.
- I'm all about Larry Sanders being aggressive offensively, but that aggression needs to channel that aggressiveness a little better. He's got a nice touch on his jumper, but those jumpers should come off pick and pops, not fadeaways over Erick Dampier. He should be aggressive running the break and crashing the offensive glass, but he should curtail the aggressiveness in post-up situations. Eventually the post-up game will come, but for now, let's keep it at the Cousins Center.
- So rumor has it that Milwaukee native and former NBAer Latrell Sprewell is sitting courtside tonight. Oh yeah, that reminds me. I was helping a buddy housesit one time, and the house was on the same block as Sprewell's. We were walking the dog on this brisk fall Friday evening and mozied on by Sprewell's house. Out of the corner of our eyes, we noticed Sprewell in full video game mode — complete with head set — trash talking what I can only assume was the game of his life. He totally flipped all of my preconceived notions about professional basketball players. I would've expected a night on the town, but no, Latrell just wanted to chill and participate in some high-intensity online gaming.
- I had this perception when CDR joined the Bucks that he was very much an offensive-minded guy. I thought He wanted to score, and score, and score some more. He's rectified that misconception pretty quickly. CDR hasn't put up earth-shattering numbers so far, but every shot he's taken has been in the flow of the offense. He hasn't forced the issue at all. He's taking what's available and he's making the most of it.
- The third-quarter alley oop from Brandon Jennings to Sanders is what dreams are made of. When the Bucks drafted Sanders, I immediately envisioned this exact scenario playing out hundreds of times over the next 10 years. The alley wasn't the best, but Sanders more than up for it with the oop, grabbing the ball from on high and flushing it down. Moments later Sanders ran the floor and converted a missed lay-up, leading to a midcourt shimmy and pump fake. This is the kind of childlike exuberance that I love to see Sanders play with. His fist pumps and high steps are a little corny, but that's why I love them. He's not flashing a mean mug for the camera, or showing off his hideous underbite. He's just out there enjoying the game he loves.
Closing It Out
It's a way-too-familiar tale of good defense overwhelmed by poor shooting. I wouldn't say anyone on Miami had a game that we'll remember for a lifetime. Wade led the way with 25 points, but he shot under 50 percent and turned the ball over six times. James and Bosh joined Wade at less than 50 percent shooting as Milwaukee held the trio to just 45.2 percent shooting. Surprisingly, it was Carlos Arroyo who killed the Bucks, morphing into a John Paxson/Derek Fisher hybrid and dropping a season-high 18 points.
The Milwaukee offense failed to do its part tonight, though, converting just 35 percent of its shots. A case can be made that the Bucks bench outplayed the starting five. The starters shot just 32.7 percent for the game, while the bench shot a not-much-better 39.1 percent. The bench was led by a vintage effort from Corey Maggette. Maggette did what only Maggette can do, drawing ridiculous-looking fouls while converting at the rim, finishing with a team-high 20 points.
A win obviously would've been nice, but this game could've been much worse. Miami stormed out of the gate, but the Bucks were able to stay within striking distance for most of the game, coming as close as three points late in the fourth. The Heat had won its previous four contests by 19 points per game, so a 10-point loss that was much closer than that really isn't too bad. It's a still a loss, though.
Splitting with Orlando and Miami in the first two games of this four-game home stand is nothing to sneeze at. Most teams would take that and smile. My smile will be much bigger if the Bucks can finish off this home stand with wins over Houston and Indiana. It can most definitely be done, and I'm thinking it will be.
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.