Prior to Saturday night’s home game against the Clippers, the Bucks were riding high on a four-game winning streak and sitting atop the Central Division. Now, following a 26-point trashing at the hands of Lob City, they will have to sit on a demoralizing loss and stare up at the Bulls in the standings.
“We could compete really hard against that team and still come up short, but to not really show up is very disappointing,” Scott Skiles said in his postgame press conference on FS Wisconsin.
Disappointing, indeed. The Clippers looked far more athletic, talented and determined throughout the contest, en route to their ninth straight victory – the longest winning streak in franchise history since they called Buffalo home. Meanwhile, the loss snapped Milwaukee’s current hopes and dreams of attaining such a feat. The Bucks were one-fifth of the way to tying their franchise record in consecutive wins; The “Big O” and co. won 20 games in a row during their championship 1970-71 season, which is third-longest streak in NBA history.
As for the actual game, the Bucks were simply outhustled and outmatched all night. The Clippers jumped out to an early 13-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Milwaukee shot just 26.2 percent in the first half, while Los Angeles entered intermission hitting over half their attempts and leading by a comfortable 20 points. The second half featured more of the same, as the Clippers eventually opened up a 29-point lead in the fourth quarter. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t have to play any of his starters more than 28 minutes.
The Clippers dominated just about every aspect of the game. They scored 23 more fast break points and 38 more points in the paint than the Bucks, while also collecting nine more rebounds. Los Angeles’ half-court offense was equally as impressive as their transition game. They converted 44 shots on 33 assists and shot 53.7 percent from the field. Conversely, Milwaukee’s offense was stagnant against a smothering, relentless defensive attack. The Bucks finished with 36.1 percent shooting on just 15 assists.
Chris Paul and Willie Green — yes, that Willie Green — well outplayed Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who combined to shoot 25.9 percent (7-27) from the floor. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dominated the paint, each collecting a double-double, and it made no difference who the Bucks threw there way. In particular, Larry Sanders, who’s been under the weather and played just 17 minutes, looked overwhelmed against the bulkier Jordan, while Ersan Ilyasova lacked the athleticism to stay in front of Griffin.
The Bucks’ bench isn’t healthy enough to bail them out on a nightly basis, which we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the past. With a shortage of top-tier talent and consistency from their starters, the Bucks often need a strong bench performance to play catch-up against the opposition’s inferior reserves. The bench’s two key cogs, Beno Udrih and Mike Dunleavy, are still nursing injuries and it’s unknown how long they will be out. Udrih was originally supposed to miss one to two weeks with an ankle sprain, but he’s yet to appear in a game this month. Dunleavy hasn’t suited up since Dec. 3 against the Hornets due to a right knee bone bruise. Another bench member, Tobias Harris – whose head was peeking out of the doghouse, because of the aforementioned injuries – got a laceration on his right elbow against the Cavaliers and won’t be available until at least Friday.
Granted, Milwaukee can still get by against lesser opponents without a well-stocked bench – as shown during their four-game winning streak – but the Clippers are a whole different beast.
Led by the energetic Matt Barnes, Los Angeles’ reserves outscored the Bucks bench 53-32. Barnes scored 21 points on ten shots, while even Lamar Odom — who came into the game averaging 2.7 points on 32.9 percent shooting — joined the fun with 10 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot. Odom made both of his three-point attempts, which doubled his season total. It was that kind of game. He was shooting 9.1 percent (2-22) on threes prior to Saturday night.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned injuries have thrust Doron Lamb, who’s been battling illness, into mandatory minutes. Lamb — the only available wing on the bench — played 27 minutes and finished the game 3-11 from the field, 0-2 behind the three-point line, and 2-6 on free throws. At one point, he had missed 16 straight field goal attempts:
Last three games for Doron Lamb: 0-16 FG, 1-6 FT.
— K L Chouinard (@AnaheimAmigos) December 16, 2012
It’s been a struggle all season for the second-round pick. While he’s been playing respectable perimeter defense, he’s looked increasingly uncomfortable on the offensive end. He’s struggling with shooting and decision-making as the primary ball handler, which were supposed to be his definitive strengths coming out of Kentucky. Bucks fans often criticize Skiles for not playing the young players enough — and that criticism could have some merit — but Lamb’s current situation might lend credence to the coach’s evaluation of players. There was a really interesting Skiles quote on this very subject in a recent article by Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball:
“One thing I don’t think people give enough thought to is, people say, ‘That guy should play. That guy should play. That young guy should play,’” Skiles said. “Then all of a sudden, a guy will have a breakout year and people will say, ‘SEE! He should have been playing!’ What about, maybe he’s having a breakout year because he didn’t get to play and maybe he learned some lessons? Not impossible. That’s occurred.”
It appears Lamb could use some of those lessons in a more limited role or while observing on the bench. Once everyone is healthy, the Bucks could also opt to send the rookie down to the D-League to specifically work on a few aspects of his game, as they did with Larry Sanders a couple seasons ago.
Lamb is now shooting 33.8 percent from the field (26-77), 20 percent (3-15) from beyond the arc, and 46.1 percent from the free throw line (6-13).
Final Box Score for the Bucks:
Surprisingly, the Bucks ended up shooting more free throws than the star-studded Clippers (25-24), so there’s that.
During the game, I noted on Twitter that Marquis Daniels was shooting threes with unprecedented success. He entered the game shooting 35 percent (7-20) from beyond the arc. Daniels ended up connecting on two of four attempts against the Clippers, which raises his percentage for the season up to an impressive 37.5. He’s attempting over two three-pointers per 36 minutes, doubling his career average. Yet, he hasn’t shot the three ball north of 30 percent since his rookie year in 2003, and his career average is 23.3 percent.
Thus, I speculated that a “harsh regression” was inevitable for Daniels.
— Marquis Daniels (@Marquis_Daniels) December 16, 2012
Well played, Marquis. Well played.
Joel Przybilla entered the game with seven minutes remaining and wasted no time picking up his second technical foul of the season. He’s averaging a technical every 28.5 minutes on the court. For helpful reference, Rasheed Wallace is averaging a technical every 73 minutes. Ball don’t lie.
The Bucks will stay at home to face the division rival Indiana Pacers Tuesday night.
This is the first time all year the #Bucks have played the back end of a back-to-back where their opponent isn’t.
— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) December 16, 2012
The previous tweet is noteworthy, because the Bucks came out completely flat against the Clippers and will encounter similar circumstances next week. They are going fly to Memphis following Tuesday’s game and face the fresh-legged Grizzlies, who are currently fourth in the West at 15-6, Wednesday night.
As you can probably remember, the last matchup didn’t go so well for the Bucks.
Oh, and this one’s on ESPN – Milwaukee’s only non-NBA TV nationally televised game on the schedule.