American Pie: Band Camp. The Bad Girls Club. Drexel vs. Towson.
These are all things that were easier on the eyes, heart, and mind than the Chicago Bulls 113-90 slaughter of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Beneath the throbbing din of M-V-P chants every time Derrick Rose (26 pts, 11-24 FG, 3-7 3FG, 13 asts, 7 rbs) touched the basketball, the Bulls played with a purpose. From the start, the Bulls set flawless screens, made effortless passes, and rained a barrage of three pointers on the haplessly overmatched Bucks.
Chicago jumped out to a 14-5 lead after the tip, including 13 points off Derrick Rose’s fingers (3-3 3FG), and gradually extended the margin to 24 by halftime, connecting on 9 first half threes and assisting on 19 of 28 baskets.
Brandon Jennings (8 pts, 4-10 FG, 5 asts) had more fouls (four) than points until the fourth quarter, and scored his first basket at the 6:07 third quarter mark. Drew Gooden was aggressive on offense (24 pts, 7-13 FG, 10-10 FT, 3 rbs) and a screen door on defense for the normally inept Joakim Noah.
Overall, the Bucks shot 39.8% from the field, connected on just 1-12 three point attempts, and got completely worked on the boards (53-39). It’s probably best for everyone that Milwaukee has the next two days off, as any more chances for a repeat of the past two nights would likely send an already apathetic fan base into the depths of nihilism.
MVP: Tobias Harris
For the second bad loss in a row, Tobias Harris (19 pts, 8-14 FG, 2 rbs) made garbage time fun. Harris had a couple athletic dunks, and flashed a jumper in need of some buffing. Despite the situation that set up increased playing time for Harris, any in-game experience is good for his development as an NBA player.
“Tobias is going to be able to score the ball, still on the other end he’s got an awful long way to go,” coach Scott Skiles said. “Like a lot of rookies when he gets into the game and gets the ball, he’s going to shoot into double teams and things like that, but that’s typical. He’s got bounce around the basket. … Tobias is going to be a very good player.”
It’s much easier to teach a player solid defense than a set of offensive skills (see: Luc Mbah a Moute), so it’s encouraging to hear Skiles praise the 19-year-old’s scoring ability while acknowledging his room for growth as a defender.
LVP: Brandon Jennings
The much-anticipated Brandon Jennings/Derrick Rose matchup came up roses for the Bulls. Jennings was apprehensive at the start, and unable to create a shot for himself or anyone else until the game was well out of reach. Jennings has been stellar in his third season, but continues to have trouble taking on bigger, physical point guards like Derrick Rose.
Saturday night was a reminder that, while Jennings is embracing a bigger, more effective role on the Bucks, he still has quite a lot of room for maturation. It would also help if he had the Bulls’ supporting cast and Rose’s penetration ability, but that’s a dream for another day.
This should delight you: No Bucks basketball for two days
The Bucks return to the Bradley Center on Tuesday to take on the Phoenix Suns. Until then, take some time for personal reflection to clear your head. This weekend really was not good for the Bucks or their suddenly hope-filled fan base.
This should concern you: The paint…again
Milwaukee was out-rebounded 53-39, and had some major issues finishing shots in the paint (42 points on 21-49 shots). In contrast, Chicago was efficient with their close-up opportunities (50 points on 25-39 shots), including quite a few athletic dunks from unlikely sources (Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng).
The release of Darington Hobson and continued benching of Stephen Jackson has kept rumors swirling around the Bucks’ impending acquisition of a viable big man. Since that hasn’t happened yet, we’re left with the goofy contributions of Drew Gooden and a crater-sized hole in the middle.
Final Verdict: More confusing than a Christopher Nolan movie, and not nearly as fun
After a week and a half of climbing the mountain back to respectability, the Bucks lost their footing and slid down to the base camp three games below .500. Milwaukee missed shots they had previously made, took shots they had previously passed, and couldn’t defend after holding some of the NBA’s top offenses below 100 points.
We are a third of the way through the NBA season, and we still don’t know the real Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps they are as inconsistent and sporadic as their first 23 games have shown. Perhaps this is just a bump in the road and a real center is the tar that fixes that pothole. Perhaps they’ve already peaked and are destined for the middle of the NBA Lottery.
We just don’t know, and unfortunately, that’s the most unsettling position to be in at this point in the season.