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Archive for the ‘Recap’ Category

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts I’ll be writing while looking back at some key games from the Bucks’ 2009-2010 season. Today I’m revisiting March 20th’s game, a 102-97 victory over the Nuggets in Denver. There was a whole lot stacked against Milwaukee: Denver was 30-5 at home coming in and had won 7 straight at the Pepsi Center; the Bucks were coming off a double-overtime game in Sacramento and didn’t get into Denver until 3 am; Denver was 14-1 at home against teams playing game two of a back-to-back.

Despite these somewhat superficial disadvantages, the Bucks shocked the Nuggets and secured their “signature road win” (apparently it was a mid-February college game). Surprisingly, they did it with very little production from both Jennings (9 pts, 4 asts) and Bogut (2 pts, 3 rebs). What’s more, they did it in spite of 29 points each from Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony.

So how did the Bucks pull off this upset against one of the top teams in the West on tired legs and with no help from two of their key players? Let’s check out some of the numbers:

MIL STAT Game MIL Avg. Net DEN Avg. DEN Net
ORtg 109.7 104.9 +4.8 111.8 -7.5
DRtg 104.3 103.1 +1.2 107.5 +2.2
Poss. 93 91.7 +(1) 94.8 -(2)

The first thing that jumps out has to be Milwaukee’s defensive effort, holding Denver almost 8 points under their average ORtg. Denver was the 3rd most efficient offensive team last year and they snagged 20 offensive rebounds in this game, so how did Milwaukee handcuff them so effectively?

Milwaukee made Denver waste a lot of shots. Billups and Anthony combined for 58 of Denver’s points, but they were completely inefficient in doing so. Melo’s 42.3 TS% was just awful, and coupled with a 48.1 USG, he was using up a good chunk of Denver’s possessions bricking shots. Billups went 5-for-17. The evil J.R. Smith showed up and went 5-of-16 for good measure.

Milwaukee also kept the Nuggets from moving the ball with any efficacy. Denver’s season AR of 19.28 wasn’t stellar, but the 11.5 mark they put up in this game is nasty. Even Billups struggled with distribution, finishing with only 3 assists and a 10.5 AR.

Defense alone wasn’t going to beat the Nuggets at home, though. With Jennings struggling to score and Bogut struggling to stay on the court, who would carry the load? Who else but John Salmons, who turned in an efficient 26 points on 16 shots and went 9-for-9 from the line. Carlos Delfino also contributed 21 points, including 4 three-pointers, and Ilyasova brought the quintessential “workhorse” performance, a 14/10 with 2 blocks.

The difference had to be the shooting. Denver shot 36.8% from the floor, while the Bucks shot a passable 46% with 9 3’s. Denver went completely cold in the final few minutes, scoring 3 points in the final 1:46 after fighting to within 1 point. Combined with the solid defensive performance, Milwaukee did just enough with the ball to upset the Nuggets in their hometown.

Still, we can’t ignore some of the bad stuff. Poor individual performances aside, the Bucks’ rebounding was pretty poor. You just can’t give up 20 offensive rebounds to an efficient offensive team and expect to win consistently. Drew Gooden should bring a stronger presence on the boards, since the Bucks lacked a consistent rebounder at the 4.

Another issue was the number of foul shots Denver earned. Billups alone drained 17 of Denver’s 30 made free throws. While this did wonders for my fantasy team, the Bucks were consistently outscored at the stripe last year, and it needs to be addressed. Bogut’s foul trouble certainly messed with the defensive game plan in this game, but adjustments could have done more to compensate. Even if the problem persists this year, Milwaukee now has a potential equalizer in Corey Maggette.

Kind of a wacky game, so it’s hard to say, “here are the parts we should emulate,” but it shows the importance of disrupting an efficient offense. The Bucks accomplished this by slowing down a high-paced Denver attack and forcing lots of missed shots. With defensive execution like this and a more consistent offense, the Bucks can look forward to many more signature road wins.

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It’s refreshing to be able to look back on a stretch a games where your team went 1-4 and call it a success. Such is Summer League, which wrapped up in Las Vegas yesterday. The Bucks grabbed their first win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (playing without J.J. Hickson), a 80-66 blowout courtesy of the Bucks’ frontcourt domination. Larry Sanders and Deron Washington led with 17 points each, and Sanders threw in 3 blocks for good measure, including an impressive transition rejection of Jerome Dyson.

Here’s a few things we know after Summer League 2010, and a few things we’re still wondering about:

  • We know Larry Sanders will cause some mayhem on the defensive end of the floor. Sanders finishes SL with 3.2 blocks per game and 1.4 steals per game. He clearly knows how to use his height and length to frustrate opponents. Continued work with Milwaukee coaching staff, especially coach Skiles, will help him apply this raw ability to the Bucks’ game plan with great efficiency. Having Andrew Bogut at his back is nothing but a huge plus, as Bogut’s own defensive abilities around the basket will complement Sanders’ athletic defensive moves.
  • We’re still wondering about Sanders’ role on offense. And we’re not even wondering about that very much, but I’m trying to establish a patter here. Sanders’ speed in transition has me salivating already. Consider Brandon Jennings’ basketball DNA: ultraquick, experienced (as much as a player his age can be) PG with a self-described “pass-first” mentality. If there is anything Mr. 55 needs, it’s an athletic forward who enjoys running the court and stuffing balls through the rim. A Sanders – Jennings fast break combo is certain to be a little crazy in the early season, but it’s got me crazy-excited.
  • We know Tiny Gallon has massive hands with which to snag copious boards. Gallon finished second on the Bucks’ SL squad with 7.4 RPG in under 20 minutes a game. He’s a big guy who should be right at home in the low post. He definitely doesn’t move as well as some of the Bucks other forward options, but he’s got a nice outside shot. Unfortunately, we also know that his conditioning is going to limit his effectiveness in any NBA game. Get into an up-tempo style and Tiny’s gonna have a hard time getting off the bench.
  • We’re still wondering who our backup point-guard will be. The Bucks didn’t address the position in the draft and the SL team didn’t provide many options. Dominic James finished game 4 with 6 assists, the most by any Bucks player in Vegas. Turnovers were a constant issue and outside shooting was lacking from the guard position. James himself refused to take a few open shots, instead driving to the basket in traffic, reminding Marquette fans of his over-dribbling in college. I’m still curious to see what Darington Hobson can do. He’s got SF size, but handles the ball quite well. It’s a stretch to stick him in at PG anywhere on the depth chart, but the possibilities are there. The good news is there are still tons of cheap options on the free agent market. The bad news? There’s a reason they’re cheap.
  • We know not everyone who performed well in Summer League will get their real shot. The Bucks went big in free agency this year, adding Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, along with their resigning Salmons to a long-term deal. While it would be surprising to see Sanders left off the roster, players like Deron Washington and Sean Williams might not find the bench big enough, let alone any playing time up for grabs. The frontcourt is just too packed when you factor in Luc, Ersan, Delfino, and recent addition Darnell Jackson.

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So the Bucks are 0-3, and it’s not really a surprise. Guard play has been pretty awful through three games, and Summer League is notoriously difficult on young big men getting used to the style and pace of play. So when your first-round pick is a lanky power forward with an undeveloped offensive game, and your top-scoring guard is DeMarcus Nelson (bounced between D-League and European teams), you’re probably not setting yourself up for much success.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t already been some success stories. It’s already apparent that Larry Sanders has a wealth of talent, especially on the defensive interior. His 9.7 RPG ties him for fourth in SL (second among true rookies), ahead of experienced players like Jordan Hill (bustzilla, I won’t deny it) and my pre-draft crush – Patrick Patterson. Deron Washington has made 6-of-10 3-point shots (albeit from the forward position), and Sean Williams hasn’t smashed anybody’s computer or cell phone yet.

It would be encouraging to find some unheralded ball-handler among the draft-day discarded, but in a year that was beaten into our skulls as down on talent, it might not be anything to count on. Still, Wesley Matthews – basically the posterboy for undrafted rookie success stories last season – only averaged 10.3 points in 18 minutes a game during last year’s Summer League, with almost no ancillary stats (Yaroslev Korolev, you can still make it!).

That being said, guard play was probably the least of Milwaukee’s problems last year. Jennings’s shooting woes aside, the backcourt was strong, particularly after the Salmons acquisition. Assuming the usual shooting improvements that come with a year of NBA experience, a backcourt rotation including Jennings, Salmons, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and 4-5 weeks of Michael Redd (before he gets his leg chopped off by a rogue ninja) is seemingly lacking only a clear backup point guard. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dominic James wind up with a spot, if only because of how popular he is around Milwaukee.

If all the Bucks find from this Summer League is that Sanders is ready to compete as a role/energy/bench guy from Opening Day, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. It’s enough to still be excited about the near future.

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