Jake's Take: A Cure for What Ails Ye- 2/16/11

February 16, 2011
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]

Bucks vs Nuggets

Bucks 87, Nuggets 94
Gameday Recap
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Keeping the Faith
  • Holding Down the Fort
  • A Streak That Needs Breaking
  • How to be a Halftime Hero
  • Bucks Beat Features
  • I was perusing the World Wide Web the other day and came across a popular, yet often unreferenced, statistic I thought summed up two problems that have plagued the Bucks this season. Milwaukee is 29th in the NBA with just 100 total dunks on the season, only three ahead of last-place Houston and exactly half of tonight’s opponent Denver.

    Now what does this tell us? First, it tells us the Bucks lack the athleticism and aggressive mindset from the top of the roster to the bottom. They just don’t have that awe-inspiring athlete with an unquenchable thirst for highlight-reel dunks. Second, it tells us the Bucks are struggling to get easy looks at the hoop. If you’re a NBA player, you don’t necessarily need to be an elite athlete to dunk. Most of the time, you just need to be open. Unless your name is Big Baby Davis, of course.

    Sometimes all you need is a single transcendent athlete to be among the league leaders in team dunks. Orlando is a perfect example. Dwight Howard leads the league with 151 dunks, which constitutes nearly 60 percent of the Magic’s 254 total dunks, good for fourth in the NBA.

    Other times you need a collection of very good athletes, which is exemplified by Oklahoma City. The Thunder is second in the NBA with 288 total dunks, and holds that spot thanks to eight players with between 11 and 88 dunks. It’s a well-balanced dunk-a-thon in OKC.

    Unfortunately, the Bucks have neither. Andrew Bogut leads the Bucks with 45 dunks this year, which places him 106 behind Howard for 29th in the NBA. Only two Bucks, Bogut and rookie Larry Sanders, have double-digit dunks this year. There’s simply nobody on the Milwaukee roster that’s a threat to throw one down at any given time.

    Does a high quantity of dunks inevitably translate to team and offensive success? No, not necessarily. If that were the case, the Clippers and their league-leading 324 dunks wouldn’t be 15 games under .500 and the Wizards and their 220 dunks wouldn’t be 26th in offensive efficiency. Teams can get by just fine with a proficient offense.

    Boston (49.4 percent) and San Antonio (47.3 percent) are first and fourth in the NBA in team shooting percentage, respectively, yet are 24th and 28th in total dunks. The Celtics are Spurs are veteran teams that rely on precise and efficient offensive sets to obtain good looks from all over the court. Kevin Garnett (73.9 percent at the rim) and Tim Duncan (68.8 percent at the rim) may only have 58 dunks between them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dropping in easy finger roll after easy finger roll. This is evident by the above-average shooting percentages at the rim for both teams.

    Personally, I would take an offense that’s a well-oiled machine over a team full of Olympic-level athletes. A team can win at a high rate with few super-letes if the offense consistently produces open looks. A collection of decathletes won’t necessarily yield win after win, though. Ideally, the Bucks would find a happy-medium where the players were more athletic and the offense more efficient. A mixture such as this would get the Milwaukee offense caught up with the defense and make the Bucks a much more dangerous team. The Bucks offense has a fever, and the only prescription is more dunking.

    In-game Musings

    • There is no shortage of monitors at the ESPN table tonight. I count at least a half dozen monitors for the tandem of Jon Barry and Dave Pasch and a pair of statisticians/producers. It doesn’t look there’s an inch to spare either for anything else on that table. One other ESPN note: Not being that familiar with Pasch, it looks like he’s pulling double duty tonight, calling the play-by-play and performing the duties normally reserved for sideline reporters. The man is showing some great hustle and, I hope, getting paid time-and-a-half.
    • It’s hard to tell how much John Salmons’ hip affected him before missing eight games in late January, but he’s looked like a new player since his return. He shook off a little rust in his first three games back off the bench, but has looked close to the player we remember from last year upon his reinsertion into the starting five. His overall numbers still aren’t where they were a year ago, but his energy level is, which should eventually lead to improved numbers. As is, he’s averaging 14.8 points, five assists and 1.2 steals over the five outings preceding tonight and has 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting through one half of play tonight. It took longer than most would like, but Salmons is looking more and more like the player that guided the Bucks to the playoffs a year ago.
    • I’ve been calling for Larry Sanders to get rewarded for his full-court hustle all season and it finally happened halfway through the second quarter. And it happened not once, but twice over consecutive possessions. The first came on a Bogut steal, half-court bounce pass ahead to Early Boykins and wrap around dime to the trailing Sanders. The second started with a Bogut block and finished with Sanders filling the right lane and finishing with the softest of soft finger rolls. The possessions were a testament not only to Sanders’ hustle, but also to how defense begets offense.
    • ESPN’s David Thorpe came out with his rankings of the top 20 first- and second-year players in the league today. Brandon Jennings came in at No. 18, directly behind San Antonio’s Gary Neal and directly in front of Golden State’s Reggie Williams. Thorpe uses the distinction that Jennings would be higher if he hadn’t gotten injured earlier this year, which to me seems like a weak justification for that positioning. I doubt Jennings will ever read the article, but if he does, he has to use that insulting slight as motivation.
    • Carmelo Anthony’s showing what the season-long circus surrounding his availability has been all about. Anthony may never be the single entity that leads a team to a NBA championship, but the man can put the ball in the hoop with the greatest of ease. I’ve thought for the past three seasons that he’s the league’s single best scorer in a close battle with Kevin Durant. He can score in any way imaginable and he does so with the fluidity of a dolphin negotiating the Pacific Ocean. In the post or on the perimeter. Facing up or with his back to the basket. Going left or going right. On the break or in the half court. Either way, Anthony will find a way to score.

    Closing It Out
    It’s not often a team gets numerous golden opportunities to help pick up a much-needed win over a quality opponent. The Bucks were fortunate enough to have multiple chances at downing Denver, but were unable to capitalize when the opportunities presented themselves. One specific serious of events stands out in mind.

    It started at the 5:58 mark of the deciding fourth quarter. The Prince corralled a loose ball and had a gimme layup with no Nugget in proximity, but overshot it. Anthony responded with a four-footer on the other end that resulted in a four-point swing in favor of Denver. Bogut clanged a short hook on the next trip down and Chauncey Billups followed with a jumper. What could’ve been a seven-point Milwaukee lead was instead a one-point Denver lead. Throw in a blown 3-on-1 fast break two minutes later and the Bucks squandered six easy points.

    Those events were all part of another fourth-quarter burnout. Two days after one of their best fourth quarters of the season, the Bucks shot just 6-of-22 in the final frame and that was all the Nuggets needed to break the tie through three quarters. Part of tonight’s letdown could be attributed to a thin bench that forced Bogut, Salmons and the Prince into 42 or more minutes of action.

    Salmons seemed especially affected by the long night, but he had good reason to be as he carried the Bucks for much of the game. Salmons finished the night with season-high 33 points on 13-of-23 and evoked memories of seasons past. Corey Maggette and Carlos Delfino joined Salmons in double figures with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Bogut went just 1-for-7 from the field, but controlled the paint defensively to the tune of 20 rebounds (19 defensive) and five blocks.

    I’d be lying if I said a nifty little two-game winning streak wouldn’t have been nice heading into the All-Star break. The brief vacation ahead of them will hopefully do some good with players letting their bodies and minds recover from what has been a trying first half. Let’s hope they return from the break with a renewed sense of urgency that will propel them to the postseason.

    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.