Jake's Take: A Streak that Needs Breaking - 02/02/11
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks at Suns
"The Simpson's" make their television debut. The Giants beat the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI. Contact lenses become available for commercial distribution. "RoboCop" blows the minds of viewers everywhere. The Milwaukee Bucks' win in Phoenix.
What do all of these major historical events have in common? They all happened way back in 1987. For the mathematically-disinclined, that's 24 years ago. That's almost a quarter century. Approximately 42 percent of the world's current population wasn't even born when those events occurred. Needless to say, a lot has happened since the Bucks last exited the great state of Arizona with a victory in their pockets.
Milwaukee is 0-for-22 in Phoenix over the last 23.5 years, with the only respite coming when the Bucks didn't make the trip during the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. It hasn't been pretty either. The average score in those 22 contests favored the Suns 113.4-102.4 for an average margin of defeat of exactly 11 points per game. The biggest blowout came in 1992 when the Bucks fell 132-104 despite a team-leading 19 points from the immortal Frank Brickowski. That should tell you all you need to know about that team.
Milwaukee's last win in Phoenix came in a helter-skelter 115-107 victory that featured a combined 49 turnovers. John Lucas led the way with 24 points and 10 assists while Ricky Pierce chimed in with 22 off the pine. Walter Davis paced the Suns with 27 points while Larry Nance added 21.
Since then, the Bucks have had some very nice individual performances. Michael Redd scored 37 points in consecutive trips to Phoenix during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. Terry Cummings scored 36 points in 1989. Vin Baker pulled down 15 rebounds in 1997 and Eric Murdock dished out 17 assists in 1993, both team highs during the losing streak. Brad Lohaus once blocked two shots ... in one game! Unfortunately, neither of these efforts was enough to propel the team to victory.
The Bucks have made progress toward mercifully ending the losing in Phoenix, though. Three of the last four losses have come by single digits with last year's four-point loss marking the closest Milwaukee has come to defeating the Suns over the last 23 years.
Tonight may be the team's best chance at pulling out a win in recent memory. The Suns, at 22-24 on the year, are having arguably their worst season since 2003-04. They're one of the worst defensive teams in the league and aren't quite as offensively proficient as they've been in the past. So while Phoenix has been very unkind to the Bucks in the past, if Milwaukee's losing streak is to be halted, tonight might just be the night to do it.
- The Suns are at the bottom of the league's defensive rankings because they allow a lot open shots and easy opportunities. Never was that more evident that in the first quarter. Every Buck that played in the quarter had at least one wide open jumper, most had numerous open looks. Unfortunately they couldn't come close to cashing in. Johnnie Mac was one of many, I'm sure, that grew frustrated with Milwaukee's inability to hit a shot. Of the 18 shots the Bucks missed in the quarter, I'd be willing to bet that at least a dozen of them were easily makeable attempts.
- Milwaukee's lack of available height is really hurting the team right now. Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders -- Milwaukee's three tallest players --are all sidelined and Phoenix is taking advantage. The Suns have been outrebounded by an average of 4.6 boards per game this season, which is worst in the NBA. That hasn't been the case tonight as they have had their way inside, outrebounding the Bucks 25-18 in the first half.
On top of that, Milwaukee has been completely unable to get anything going inside on offense while Steve Nash is seemingly assisting on an easy lay-up every time down the floor. The Bucks have no offense going toward the hoop and no defense protecting the hoop. A lay-up heavy offense is going to beat a jumper-heavy offense nearly every time.
- Part of what makes Nash so successful is his ability to make any pass at any time and his willingness to do so. It's because of this that his teammates are so successful, and therefore, excited to play with him. Guys like Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley know that if they work hard and continually move on the offensive end, Nash will eventually find a way to get them the ball in good position to score. That off-the-ball movement also makes Nash's job easier because he constantly has options on the move. He makes offense fun and easy for his teammates, which is what I always thought a good point guard should do.
- These are the kind of games when Earl Boykins is at his most valuable. Boykins can make the greatest difference when the offense is bogged down and needs an infusion of energy. He's not as effective when the offense is being executed as it should and other players are hitting shots. I think, in an ideal situation, Boykins is more of a situational player than an every game player.
Closing It Out
And so it continues. Prior to becoming privy to player availability, I legitimately thought the Bucks were in good position to put this nagging losing streak to bed. Take away Andrew Bogut, Larry Sanders and Keyon Dooling, and that task becomes much more difficult than I'm sure the team would like it to be.
FSN showed a stat during the pregame show indicating Milwaukee has lost the second-most games to injury this season. It seems like the injuries will never end. Sure, John Salmons rejoined the active roster. On the same day, though, we learned Bogut, Sanders and Dooling would be out for at least this game and Gooden would be out 4 to 6 weeks. It's like taking one step forward and then three steps back. Just a vicious cycle.
That doesn't excuse how the available players performed tonight. It's understandable to shoot a season-low 31.1 percent against league-leading defensive teams like Boston or Chicago. It really shouldn't happen against one of the league's weakest defensive squads, though, regardless of who's suiting up. Way too many shooting efforts like 2-for-10 and 1-for-7. When no player on the roster shoots better than 50 percent on any amount of shots, it's not likely to end well.
There's some consolation that Milwaukee won both the third and fourth quarters. The Bucks' defense stepped up in the second half, limiting Phoenix's easy opportunities and forcing a flurry of turnovers, including an uncharacteristically-high nine from Nash. As has often been the case, though, it was too little too late.The Bucks have one more chance to earn a win on their final West Coast road trip when they take on Golden State Thursday night. It would be nice to get a win tomorrow so Milwaukee's recent three-game winning streak doesn't essentially get canceled out with a 0-3 showing out west.
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.