The Bucks gave their fans a maddening glimpse of last season’s offense tonight in a 91-86 loss in Denver. After taking a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, Milwaukee could only summon 12 points in the final frame on 5-for-22 shooting. The root causes had a familiar ring to them: nonexistent ball movement, jump shots forced into the teeth of the defense, and overall poor marksmanship.
For all their woes, the Bucks still led the game midway through the final quarter. With Denver playing their third game in three nights — without Nene, no less — this was a winnable game for the Bucks. They failed to capitalize.
Missed opportunities on offense allowed the Nuggets into their transition game. Denver outscored the Bucks 24-10 in fast break points, and many of those chances came late in the game, as the Nuggets used easy buckets to fuel their comeback.
One of those fast breaks helped ice the game. Trailing by 1, Andrew Bogut missed a baseline shot and Danilo Gallinari grabbed the last of his 10 rebounds with 20 seconds left. Ersan Ilyasova should have fouled intentionally (and right away), but when he failed to do so, the confused Bucks defense allowed Arron Afflalo to hit a streaking Ty Lawson for a wide-open layup.
Then, on the subsequent inbounds play, this happened:
For the record, that is Brandon Jennings ignoring the chance to get Carlos Delfino an open look to tie the game. Instead, he forced up his own jumper with Ty Lawson contesting closely. Not surprisingly, it missed the mark.
Stephen Jackson led the Bucks with 17 points (on 18 shots), and Delfino topped the team in rebounds with 9. The Nuggets outrebounded the Bucks, 49-38, and also got to the line for 27 free throw attempts (compared to the Bucks paltry 11).
Visitors to the Pepsi Center typically pay heed to the thinner air found in the high altitude of Denver, since the thin air is believed to fatigue athletes who aren’t conditioned to playing in it.
Delfino, Jennings, and Jackson played 42, 37, and 36 minutes, respectively, while Jennings played the second half in its entirety. While some of it can be tied to shot selection, Jennings was 3/6 FG in the first half and 2/10 in the second. Tired legs make crooked shots. Bogut played 32 minutes, but looked tired late — especially when the Nuggets went small and put Al Harrington at center in the fourth.
Beno Udrih left with an apparent left shoulder injury in the third period, while Luc Mbah a Moute returned to action with 6 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes of action. Jon Leuer turned in another solid performance with 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.
The Bucks won’t have to dwell on this loss for long. They play in Utah tomorrow night.