When Scott Skiles put Larry Sanders into the starting lineup, he essentially gambled twice — hoping that Sanders could avoid both personal fouls and technical fouls. In Sanders’ first start of the season, he couldn’t help his coach on either count, crumbling in the crucial moments of a 110-99 loss in San Antonio.
Sanders and the Bucks started out well early. He and Ekpe Udoh were contesting shots — forcing the Spurs into 11 consecutive misses to start the game. But less than five minutes into the game, Sanders picked up his second foul and had to leave the game prematurely.
Milwaukee plugged along without him. Patching together points from Ersan Ilyasova (17 first-half points), Marquis Daniels (12 through three quarters), and whatever they could scrap from the free throw line, the Bucks actually stayed even with the Spurs. At the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 78, but any semblance of competitiveness would soon vanish.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sanders blocked a layup by Nando de Colo. He deflected the original shot off the backboard. To control the hard carom, he deflected it off the glass once more, before corralling the rebound. The referee, though, erroneously called a goaltend.
Sanders, who previously picked up one technical, turned to Skiles for help, while pleading with the referee in his nicest ‘indoor voice’. It didn’t work, but he did at least avoid the second technical. Skiles played it rather, um, differently. He got the tech.
A lineup of Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, and de Colo undid the Bucks. On repeated offensive possessions, they drove and kicked the ball out the shooters, rotating the ball to the open man to absolute perfection — just as the rest of their teammates had done all night. This time, though, a few of the jumpers fell and the resulting deluge of points buried a Bucks team that could only muster five points in the first 5:59 of the fourth quarter.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings combined to hit 10-of-34 field goal attempts. Ellis did have seven rebounds, 11 assists, three steals, and ten made free throws on 11 attempts. But his shot is absurdly flat, and he went to it too often in the stretch of play that decided the game. He continues to far too many un-arched, line drive-type shots off the dribble which have little hope of going in. I vaguely recall disbelieving the fans from Oakland who warned their Milwaukee counterparts about these shanks.
Make no mistake about it: Larry Sanders is going to pick up fouls and make occasional mistakes. But twice in this game, he tried to dribble the ball through his legs in moments that completely did not call for it (as much as any play could actually call for Sanders to go through his legs).
The first came on a hot potato rebound sequence where a loose ball trickled Larry’s way near the foul line. He precariously, but successfully, managed to get the ball under control with a few Spurs starting to close in.
The second didn’t go nearly as well. Sanders tried the move again — head down, no less — and did manage to complete it. But stuck without a dribble, not really know what was going around him, he floated out a pass that would have reset the offense.
Tony Parker swiped the pass, sprinted down to convert 1) the layup, 2) the free throw attempt when Sanders fouled him, and 3) the technical foul attempt given when Sanders batted the ball out of the bottom of the net. The four-point play crushed the momentum and a modest lead the Bucks were slowly building.
A few tweets
Spurs have gotten decent minutes tonight from 3 players who have spent time in the D-League in past two weeks.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 6, 2012
Ersan’s jumper looking good tonight. Unfortunately, he’s taken defensive “rotation” to mean literally “spin in place”.
— Dan Sinclair (@dan_sinclair) December 6, 2012
This Moute trying to create his own offense stuff has really got to stop.
— Ian Segovia (@Ian_Segovia) December 6, 2012
This last tweet points to a trend worth watching. Luc Mbah a Moute now has faster, stronger strides to the basket than he has had in some time. He puts the ball on the deck and goes hard to the rim. This sounds like a good thing, but no, it isn’t.
While Luc has used the move this week to get some free throws, he is literally jumping in the air and throwing the ball at the rim. When defenders stop bailing him out with fouls, those attempts will be exposed in the light of day to be hideous. Coaches will scout him and defenses will adapt. The results will take an ugly turn for the worse.