The Bucks continued their preseason slide with a 104-95 loss to the Raptors at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Milwaukee actually led after three quarters, 77-74, but failed to score down the stretch. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis put up matching 1-for-6 shooting performances in the fourth quarter, and the Bucks as a team made just 2 of 11 three-point shots in the fourth quarter. The cold shooting late put a damper on what had been a relatively productive offensive night; Ellis himself actually led all scorers with 26 points (on 24 shots).
For large stretches of the game, Monta Ellis was the best player on the floor. In the final five minutes of the first quarter, Ellis had 11 points (on 5/6 shooting), 2 rebounds, and 3 assists, including a pair of sharp feeds to Ersan Ilyasova.
Ellis passes, he really does, willingly and often. The big Monta myth is that he doesn’t share the ball — and it’s not true. Sure, there are stretches where the offense runs through him on every play, but that’s not a bad thing, especially when he is on point with his passes.
Speaking of his role in the offense, much of Monta’s work in the half-court offense is a lot like Mike Dunleavy‘s role, as described in this Bucksketball piece.
Like Dunleavy, it appears that Ellis finds a comfort zone coming off the pindown screen on the left-hand side (i.e., when he comes around in a counterclockwise motion.)
Also like Dunleavy, Monta isn’t a point guard, but he functions as a second distributor on the floor, someone who can take pressure of the primary playmaker.
The problem isn’t Monta’s passing, it’s his defense. Some of the defensive errors are confounding.
On one play, Monta guarded Landry Fields on the weak side. Monta locked in watching the ball and Fields cut in behind him to catch a wide-open pass at the rim.
On another, an errant gamble-swipe (which he tries far too often) pulled Ellis out of position, giving DeMar DeRozan an easy path to the rim for a dunk.
Brandon Jennings was terrific as a passer (10 assists), but not so much as a shooter (3/15 FG, 0/6 3-pt. FG). When passing, he seems to have a comfort level with Ellis and Ilyasova that he doesn’t share with his other teammates.
His ball-pressuring defense was sound. A good chunk of the 14 first-half Toronto turnovers were attributable, at least in part, to Jennings’ hustle, including an inbounds steal immediately after his own made three-point shot.
Jennings didn’t get to the free throw line at all, but he was knocked to the ground under the basket a few times. He tried, but he just didn’t get the calls.
But the Bucks win this game if Brandon makes half (or close to half) of his shots. And a question arises: Will Brandon and Monta develop to the point where they can both flourish as scorers in the same game? Are there enough shots for that to work as part of a larger offensive plan?
Tobias and Mike
Tobias Harris only made one of his seven shots, but his impact — both good and bad — could be felt in other areas.
He bobbled the opening tip out of bounds.
On one defensive possession, he helped out Ilyasova by switching on a screen. But when Ersan recovered, it took Harris far too long to recognize the recovery, leaving Tobias’ original defensive assignment completely open for a jump shot.
On another play, DeRozan tried to drive into Tobias to create contact. Didn’t work. He bounced backward (while Harris barely budged) and missed his shot.
Harris needs to apply the same tenacity that he uses on the offensive glass to the defensive glass.
Dunleavy was terrific (8/12 FG, 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists). He appears quite ready to start the season.
Samuel Dalembert was terrific again (save for a goaltend and one disastrous, side-spinning jump shot). He is by far the Bucks’ best rebounder. He grabbed 11 boards tonight. Opponents have to commit serious effort to keeping him boxed out; he commands attention.
He also blocks shots: two tonight, plus a whole slew of shots altered.
The Bucks need more from their other bigs though. Ekpe Udoh looks a tad heavier and slower than last season. Perhaps he was bulking up to play center? It’s not girth worth having, however, unless he starts to rebound better (2 rebounds in 18 minutes). As a team, the Bucks were outrebounded 49-40, and much of that differential lies at the feet of the Bucks’ reserve bigs.
Drew Gooden was also a non-factor: Zero rebounds in nine minutes. 1/5 FG shooting (and the one was due to a slick assist into the paint from Jennings). Absentee defense.
Joel Przybilla cant do much on a basketball court. But he does box out and sets the largest picks on the team. He can’t roll to the hoop off those picks, unfortunately, but the screens he sets still should be valuable, as they create a mismatch switch for the ballhandler.
Speaking of which, the Raptors created a lot of looks for their point guards with centers in pick-and-roll action out beyond the three-point line. The Bucks bigs — Dalembert, Udoh, Przybilla –sagged way off. Toronto’s point guards punished the Bucks as a result, making four of their eight three-point shots in a largely uncontested fashion.