Jake's Take: It Takes a Thief - 03/28/11
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks at Bobcats
It Takes a Thief
In the court of law, the punishment for theft is wide ranging depending on the severity, with anywhere from less than a year to 20 years on the table. On the court of basketball, the only punishment for the offender is some additional ticks in the box score and a potential easy deuce at the rim. Carlos Delfino is quickly and quietly becoming a repeat offender in one of the most felonious of wrongdoings.
He was never much of a thief prior to this year, averaging more than one steal a game just once in his first five seasons. He was a model citizen who kept his hands out of the cookie jar. He started to show a tendency for on-court misdemeanors last year, though, when he averaged 1.1 steals per game. This year Delfino has taken his penchant for thievery to another level.
Delfino tallied at least one steal in each of the season’s first seven games, averaging 1.5 thefts per game over that span. His cat-like speed and reflexes took some time to return following his concussion, but he’s been terrorizing opposing offenses over the last month. Delfino is averaging 2.1 steals in March, including seven outings in which he’s tallied three or more swipes. Delfino is becoming to steals what Andrew Bogut is to blocks.
Delfino is currently 11th in the NBA with 1.63 steals per game and second among small forwards, trailing only Rudy Gay. He’s managing to routinely pilfer the opposition while staying out of the watchful eye of the referees. Among rotation players, Delfino trails only Ronnie Brewer, Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd with 1.07 steals for every personal foul committed.
So how is Delfino doing this? He’s certainly not the fleetest of foot, so it’s not that. And he’s not taking an abundance of unnecessary risks. I’m going to chalk it up to overall wiliness and guile with a dash of covertness sprinkled in. Delfino plays the angles well, has quick hands and is typically in the right position defensively.
It has been this kind of defensive tenacity that has allowed the Bucks to turn their opponents over an average of 15 times per game, good for seventh in the league. It’s that kind of tenacity they’ll need to continue to show from here on out. Delfino may be in the midst of one of the best offensive stretches of his career, but his defense has been just as important. Sometimes crime really does pay.
- It’s almost as if John Salmons bit the bullet and committed those two early fouls so Scott Skiles would have no excuse not to put Michael Redd in the game. A few quick thoughts on Redd’s first nine minutes in a long, long time. His first shot attempt was vintage Redd. He posted up on the block, backed down his defender, spun left toward the baseline and put up a leaning one-hander. Redd’s first assist showed the potential that he’s always had as the ball handler in a pick-and-roll situation. Bogut set the pick and Redd went left toward the middle. He rose up for the jumper and then dumped off to the rolling Bogut for an easy deuce. Redd could always run that play when he really wanted to. The defense has to respect his jumper, which opens up the roll.
- My eyes immediately lit up when I saw Charlotte was running Tyrus Thomas out at center. Thomas is a good weak-side defender, but there’s no way he should stick with Bogut. And he didn’t, not by a longshot. Bogut used his considerable size advantage, an aggressive demeanor and some nice setups from his teammates to score 18 of Milwaukee’s 26 first-quarter points. He hit 9 of his 11 shots and neither of those was from farther out than nine feet, and even that might be stretching it.
- Redd may have been the one that was sidelined for the last 15 months, but it was Drew Gooden who looked rusty. He had a great opportunity for a tip-in for his first attempt, but elected to try and dunk it instead, back-rimming it in the process. Gooden got a couple of open looks from the perimeter as well, but shorted all three attempts. He looked like he didn’t quite have the lift he’s accustomed to, which will hopefully come as gets more playing time.
- Milwaukee’s offense hasn’t had this kind of ball control all season. The Bucks dished out 13 assists in the first half while turning the ball over just one time. They improved those numbers to 19 and two after three quarters. With just 13.5 turnovers per game, the Bucks are already among the league’s best in taking care of the ball, but they’re taking it to a different level tonight.
- Consider me a member of the D.J. White fan club. He’s in that Carl Landry/Paul Millsap mode, except a little bit thicker. I always liked him at Indiana and thought he had the skills to at least be a rotation player. White was never able to crack the rotation in Oklahoma City, but has seen some success since joining the Bobcats. He’s averaged a respectable 9.2 points and 5.2 boards in 20.3 minutes per game in March. He’s got a nice touch from 15 feet and is big enough to mix it up down low.
Closing It Out
I feel like a simple Ctrl + C, followed by a Ctrl + V, is really all that’s required right now. But not quite. Tonight’s finish was like many others that came before it, but with a few grains of salt in the open wound. The Bucks had so many opportunities to win this game, but the hoop just wasn’t having it.
Bogut and Brandon Jennings each had point blank layups inexplicably rim out. Then, Boris Diaw made perhaps the worst inbounds pass ever (cue Bill Walton), giving the Bucks three additional opportunities to win the game including an insane tip attempt from Delfino. Jennings had two chances on the final possession to win the game, but couldn’t get the shot to fall. It was disappointing Jennings couldn’t play the role of hero, but I take solace in Jennings’ reaction afterward. He was legitimately upset, and that tells me that he still cares, which goes a long way with me.
That last sequence of events was part of another late-game stretch that saw the Bucks struggle to score. Two Delfino free throws with 3:51 remaining marked Milwaukee’s only points in the game’s final five minutes. Meanwhile, the Bobcats, who were without both of their point guards, were able to score seven points in that stretch, including two clutch Gerald Henderson 21-footers fading to his left.
Bogut and Jennings looked like the cornerstones they need to be for most of the game. Bogut carried the Bucks in the first half with 20 points and finished with 26 on 13-of-19 shooting to go along with nine boards and a pair of blocks. Jennings carried the torch in the second half with 20 of his 26 points, including a stretch of eight straight Milwaukee points early in the stanza.
It’s not just how the Bucks lost tonight that’s so disheartening. It’s who they lost to. Charlotte is in the same position as Milwaukee trying to chase down Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot. This was a game the Bucks absolutely needed. Instead, they fall two games behind the Bobcats and three games behind the Pacers. It’s not an insurmountable deficit, but it won’t be easy to overcome. Getting a win in Toronto on Wednesday will be a step in the right direction.
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.