The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Clippers in Los Angeles tonight, 92-86. The game featured so many similarities to prior Bucks games this season that it could barely be distinguished from other frustrating nights this season.
The similarities included:
1) Losing on the road
The Bucks are 0-5 away from the Bradley Center this season and still have a game remaining on this trip before returning home. With any luck, the Bucks can snag a road win or two in January so that they are not out of the playoff hunt before the schedule turns friendlier.
2) Landing on their face in the third quarter after a promising first half
Every member of their starting front court shot 1/5 FG in the first half, and yet, when the second period ended, the Bucks still found themselves up by a bucket, 40-38. The 10 turnovers they created helped immensely in that regard. Heck, they even had the best lob in Lob City tonight — a long heave to a streaking Ilyasova.
But the third quarter bit the Bucks in the butt again, just like it did in Charlotte, Utah, and Sacramento. Stephen Jackson took 8 shots, made 2, and while he chucked, any semblance of a cohesive offense vanished.
3) Fouling, fouling, fouling
On this road trip, Milwaukee has come up short in free throw attempts by margins of 27-11, 28-16, and 30-21. Tonight was no different, as the Clippers took 40 free throws to the Bucks 27. The Bucks also made matters worse by hacking the Clippers into the bonus early and often.
The Bucks actually did a decent job minimizing the impact of the Clippers in the paint, especially without a reliable inside defensive presence. (Drew Gooden played his derriere off, but looks to be suffering from either his old foot problems or a new leg injury.) But the Bucks don’t have enough firepower to outscore opponents who win the free throw battle. They will have to find a way to eliminate the needless fouls.
4) Stephen Jackson taking and missing a significant number of shots
In an odd bit of symmetry, Stephen Jackson began last night’s LA game my misfiring the same iso, turnaround fallaway that he missed in Sacramento to lose Thursday night’s game — a bad omen, to be sure. It’s neither a high percentage attempt nor an shot that gets a team offense in rhythm.
Jackson scored 18 points last night on 4/18 shooting from the field. Jackson shot around 40% from the field last season, and no one expected him to do much better when added to an already poor shooting Bucks squad. But at some point, the atrocious shooting starts to get a bit ridiculous. Stephen’s best shooting night of the season was a 4 of 10 showing against a bad Sacramento Kings defense. 40% may be (barely) palatable as an average, but it isn’t acceptable as a maximum. Neither is a 4 rebound, 2 assist performance in 45 minutes for a player who dominates the ball.
Though the case against him is rather damning, Jackson’s defense, appropriately enough, is that Jackson plays sound defense. Last night, though, S-Jax spent far too much time barking at the refs after his missed shots instead of getting back to slow down the Clipper attack.
Get well soon, Beno and Mike Jr. Your presence is sorely missed.
4) Brandon Jennings playing too many minutes
Jennings played 44 minutes last night and he currently leads the league in minutes per game (39.4). In three games this season — all losses — Jennings has played the entire second half. The addition of Udrih and Livingston was, in theory, a move to solve the backup point guard position. In practice, though, it isn’t working that way.
Two problems arise from the overuse of Brandon. First, he needs to have fresh legs down the stretch, especially if he is going to be their primary offensive weapon (and also, apparently, the only player on the Bucks who remembers how to foul intentionally when down in the final seconds of a game) . His shot selection has improved and, with the exception of the Utah and Denver games, he has proven to be a more efficient player. If he is less fatigued, he’ll have a better change of finishing successfully at the rim
The other problem is risk of injury. Bucks fans need no reminders of how badly it sucks to lose key players.
Now, less than 20 hours after finishing up in LA, the Bucks tip off against Phoenix in an attempt to salvage a single game of the road trip.