The Milwaukee Bucks season began with a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Tonight, it may have ended with a loss to the Washington Wizards.
By record, the Bobcats (7-54) and Wizards (16-46) are the worst and second-worst teams in the NBA. The loss puts them 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers and leaves them teetering out of the playoff race.
“We can’t say that this is the most disappointing loss of the season,” pondered Drew Gooden after the game, “because it shouldn’t have came down to this game.”
With the season on the line, Monta Ellis dipped, darted, and dashed his way to 31 points. The problem, though, is that counterpart shooting guard Jordan Crawford put in 32 for the Wizards. It was that kind of night for the Bucks.
In a metaphor for the entire 2011-12 campaign, the Bucks fell flat for most of the game and ran out of time trying to dig themselves out of the resulting hole. After a listless first half by both teams that left the Bucks ahead 62-60, the Wizards jumped out to a 13-4 run in the third quarter that ultimately provided the margin of victory. The spurt was triggered by John Wall’s penetration (10 assists), Jordan Crawford hitting his hit-or-miss jumper, and a pair of Kevin Seraphin jump hooks.
The Bucks rallied late behind Ellis, Brandon Jennings, and Drew Gooden (77 combined points), eventually shrinking the lead to three with just over a minute to play. The thwarted comeback started with a Gooden jumper followed by a bizarre steal where Washington’s James Singleton put a perimeter pass right into Monta for a steal and breakaway layup.
Shortly thereafter, Gooden made two baskets off his own scrambling offensive rebounds. But the Bucks couldn’t get stops, and even when Ellis and Jennings made long jumpers to cut the deficit to 112-109, Jordan Crawford drove one final stake through the Bucks’ season with a deep 26-foot three-pointer (of the variety that should have had Wizards’ fans saying, “no, no, no, YES!”)
Ersan Ilyasova had 13 points in the first quarter, but only one for the rest of the game. To make matters worse, he started dropping good passes in the second half (4 turnovers for the game) and he permitted Jan Vesely do the only two things Jan Vesely does well: rebound in space and attack the rim.
In fact, all the Wizards had a little too much leeway in the paint. Scott Skiles said it best,
“They deserved to win. They played harder than us. They played better than us. We tried to give ourselves an opportunity there late, but we just had tremendous difficulty all night long controlling the dribble penetration, and the guards made plays to their interior people and we had trouble getting a second reaction and a third reaction.”
MVP: Drew Gooden
The Bucks rolled over to the tune of 121 Wizard points, which says really everything that needs to be said about this game.
Nevertheless, Gooden did a tidy amount of work (21 points, 7/16 FG, game-high 12 rebounds). Hobbled in his previous trip to the Verizon Center, tonight was completely different for Drew and he won the inside battle with the newly-productive Kevin Seraphin (14 points, 6/12 FG, 5 rebounds).
Seraphin bumped his way to a few looks down low and showed off some polished turnaround moves. But Drew stood his ground and helped collect a few of the misses, too. On the night, the Bucks patched up their recent rebounding woes and won the battle of the glass, 48-41.
Throw in the fact that Gooden once again produced with the pass (6 assists) and hustled like heck for loose balls and offensive rebounds and he gets the MVP nod for the night.
But even though he worked and produced tonight, he can’t be the starting center next year. It doesn’t work.
LVP: Ekpe Udoh
With Larry Sanders ill and Washington pounding the ball inside, the Bucks sure could have used a solid game from Ekpe Udoh.
He didn’t give them one.
Normally a defensive savant, Udoh got gobbled up in the painted area by Nene (14 points, 7/12 FG, 4 rebounds in 18 minutes), despite the fact that it was Nene’s first game back following a bout with plantar fasciitis. Udoh has skill and exceptional reach, but he is neither tall nor thick. Ekpe masks those deficiencies as a magnificent help defender, but if the man he is guarding comes straight at him…well… he literally can’t help himself.
This should please you: A near-certain lottery pick.
And nothing else. Losing a crucial game to the second-worst team in the NBA just can’t happen.
Viva la lottery!
This should baffle you: Rotational shakeups
Beno Udrih and Carlos Delfino both missed the last game here two weeks ago. Tonight, Skiles went away from them by choice — giving heavy minutes to Ellis, Jennings, and Mike Dunleavy, plus using Shaun Livingston as his primary sub at guard.
Beno bolted the locker room quickly after the game. Given his steady play of late, his implied frustration is completely understandable.
This year, the Bucks have won many games on the backs of their bench guys. With altered rotations, that same bench never felt like the borderline dynamo it has been all season long.
Tweets of the Night:
@adammcginnis: JCraw & Monta is definitely a battle of Matadors on defense
Final verdict: Low
After the game, the Bucks locker room was mouse-whisper quiet. Remember the low-talker episode of Seinfeld? With another ray of hope gone, the Bucks’ dispirited low-talkers wistfully gave out their post-loss reflections.
If they still dream of a playoff berth, they will need to rise and speak up in Indiana tomorrow.