Jake's Take: Holding Down the Fort - 02/05/11

February 5, 2011
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]

Bucks vs Pistons

Bucks 78, Pistons 89
Gameday Recap
  • A Streak That Needs Breaking
  • How to be a Halftime Hero
  • Playing Through Pain
  • Record-holders in the Making
  • Going Back for Seconds
  • What Could Have Been
  • Make or Break Time
  • Bucks Beat Features
  • Holding Down the Fort
    When Brandon Jennings went down with a broken foot prior to Christmas, many assumed Milwaukee’s season would unravel without the guidance of its young point guard. That was a fair assumption, too. Jennings plays big minutes and neither Keyon Dooling nor Earl Boykins showed much prior to Jennings’ injury to instill a great deal confidence in their ability to the run the team.

    The 19 games that Jennings missed proved the doubters wrong, though, as Dooling and Boykins teamed up to handle the point guard duties more than admirably. First, let’s look at Milwaukee’s records before and after Jennings’ injury. The Bucks were 10-15 (.400) in the 25 games prior to Jennings going down. The Bucks went 8-11 (.421) in the 19 games after Jennings got injured, which featured a stretch of opponents that was arguably the most difficult Milwaukee will face this season.

    Next, let’s compare Dooling’s numbers as a starter to Luke Ridnour’s numbers as a starter in Minnesota this year. Dooling essentially replaced Ridnour as Milwaukee’s backup point guard this year, and received an unfair amount of slack during the season’s opening weeks.

    As a starter, Dooling has averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 assists per game in 31.6 minutes and boasts a stellar 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio that would rank him third in the NBA had he started every game. He shot 41.1 percent as a starter, including a 35.8 percent mark from deep. Ridnour has averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 assists in similar minutes, including a 2.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 46.7 percent shooting overall and 43.9 percent shooting from long range. While Ridnour’s numbers are slightly better than Dooling’s, it’s not enough to make a significant difference, especially considering Dooling is making half of what Ridnour is.

    Now, let’s look at combined point guard statistics. Prior to Jennings getting injured, Jennings and Dooling combined to average 22.8 points and 7.5 assists per game with a 2.45-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 33.5 percent three-point shooting and 37.1 percent shooting overall.

    While Jennings was sidelined, Dooling and Boykins combined to average 22.8 points and 9.1 assists per game with a 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 36.1 percent three-point shooting and 41.4 percent shooting overall. The point guard tandem of Dooling and Boykins produced as good or better numbers than the Jennings-Dooling duo across the board.

    This isn’t to say that Jennings should be demoted to third-string point guard. That’d be ridiculous. Jennings brings immeasurables like shot creation and the ability to carry an offense via insane individual scoring outputs. It does signify the Milwaukee offense is in capable hands if Jennings (knock on wood) were to go down again. The Bucks weathered an extremely difficult stretch of games through January, and a good portion of the credit should be directed toward Dooling and Boykins.

    In-game Musings

    • I have to admit I thought the Tracy McGrady-Detroit marriage was going to end in disaster, not unlike the Allen Iverson-Memphis relationship. I’ve been impressed with how T-Mac has swallowed his pride, gracefully accepted his redefined role and performed well in that role, especially considering Detroit’s steep fall from the league’s elite. He’s obviously not the player he once was, but he can still be a valuable contributor on a quality team. Watching him play the point tonight got me thinking that he might fit well as the point guard in LA’s triangle offense, similar to how Ron Harper operated in the early 2000s. T-Mac’s a smart player with excellent passing instincts who would probably be interested in a late-career championship run.
    • Jennings looks a little out of his element guarding Ben Gordon. He’s used to pressing a point guard full court and then guarding them as they initiate half-court offensive sets. That’s what he’s good at. He’s not accustomed to chasing a 6-foot-3 powerhouse shooting guard through a gauntlet of screens. The Pistons took advantage in the first quarter by continually running Gordon around screens and it resulted in two off-the-ball fouls on Jennings and four freebies for Gordon.
    • Something happened late in the first half that doesn’t happen nearly enough. Andrew Bogut pulled down a rebound — that’s not the unusual part — and quickly moved the ball down the floor with an outlet pass to Corey Maggette. Maggette aggressively pushed the ball upcourt, eventually hitting The Prince with a well-timed pass on the fast break. The Prince did the rest, converting the layup and drawing the foul. This is a sequence of events that are as common as a Sasquatch sighting. Too often the Bucks rebounder holds the ball too long after corralling it, or nobody makes themselves available to the rebounder own the court.
    • Bogut has developed a habit of personally prematurely ending an offensive possession by making little to no attempt at an offensive rebound. He’ll fight for the rebound if he’s under the hoop, but if he’s more than 10 feet away from  the rim, he’ll start toward the other end of the court immediately after the shot is taken. When that happens, it seems that an uncanny amount of caroms find their way to the exact location Bogut just vacated. Twice tonight he’s completely turned his back on a possession while his teammates have tracked down a loose ball. As Milwaukee’s best rebounder and biggest body, he needs to be more aggressive on the offensive glass.
    • The Bucks rebounded from a slow start from the field to light it up in the second quarter, converting 55.6 percent of their shots in the frame. Unfortunately that momentum didn’t carry over into the third quarter. Milwaukee hit just 5-of-20 in the quarter, failing to take advantage of numerous Detroit turnovers and almost equally as bad shooting. It was good to see the Bucks turn up the defensive intensity, but the offensive execution needs to catch up.
    • I’m a big fan of the Hardwood Classics, obviously, because they’re awesome. I think my favorite part of the new unis is the little deer head on the bottom left corner of the shorts. I’ve always thought it’s the little details that make or break something. The unis would be cool without the deer head, but the deer head takes the unis to a whole new level.

    Closing It Out
    If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Bucks need to play amazing defense to have any chance of winning. The exact opposite has happened the last four games and that’s why Milwaukee is currently riding a four-game losing streak. The Bucks allowed their opponent to hit at least 50 percent of their shots for the fourth straight game, dropping their record to 0-12 when that occurs. It hurts that much more when you consider each of the last four games have come against teams with losing records.

    The reason the Bucks have to play stellar defense? Their offensive can’t be relied upon to consistently give great efforts. Milwaukee scored just 31 points in the second half, hitting just 12-of-40 (30 percent) of its shots. Bogut and Maggette were the only players that provided any offense in the first half, but combined to make just 3-of-12 in the second half.

    I give Scott Skiles credit for pulling out all the stops to try and secure a victory. A slow start to the fourth quarter prompted Skiles to make nearly wholesale changes, inserting the previously-unplayed Earl Boykins, CDR and Larry Sanders in an effort to jumpstart the team. He also pulled the trigger on the Hack-a-Wallace, sending 30 percent free throw shooter Ben Wallace to the charity stripe four times. While Wallace’s high-arching air ball brought a much-needed dose of levity to the situation, neither strategy yielded the desired results.

    Tonight marked one of the healthiest rosters the Bucks have played with all season, with only Drew Gooden not suiting up. Unfortunately it did nothing to help the team. If anything, the lack of chemistry hurt the team. Barring any other injuries or trades, this is the team the Bucks will be sending out for the next month. If they want to build any kind of positive chemistry, it’s now or never.

    Until Tuesday…

    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.