Sometimes gritting and grinding isn’t enough, especially when half your starters are missing.
The Bucks were short two and a half men Wednesday and it showed. Missing starters Luc Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova, and with Monta Ellis hobbled by a left wrist/hand injury, the Bucks fell in Atlanta, 98-90. The Bucks trailed by 18 points entering the final period and Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders led a push to cut the lead to four points, but the Hawks managed to squeak away with the win. Jennings missed a free throw that would have cut the lead to three, a miss that hurt even more when Jeff Teague threw a pass straight out of bounds in the final minute.
Then Jennings missed a long three-point attempt and the Hawks sealed the win at the free throw line.
Marquis Daniels and Samuel Dalembert started for Milwaukee, and consciously or unconsciously, Sanders took an aggressive approach to offense in the revamped lineup to mixed results. Despite an disjointed assortment of ugly low-post moves, Sanders finished the first quarter with seven points and ten rebounds because he relentlessly chased his misses off the glass. The Bucks collected eight offensive rebounds in the first quarter over a smallish Atlanta frontline whose rebounding greatly improved in the second half.
Al Horford scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Atlanta. He did a fair amount of damage — mostly from the top of the key — scoring off pick-and-pops or the mismatches that resulted from those plays.
Ellis struggled with his shot for the entire game, making just two of his 14 shots. It seemed to be less of a return to his pre-All-Star ways (or a regression to the mean) and more of an issue of not having touch while playing less than 24 hours after hurting his hand in the fourth quarter against Portland. He only took six shots outside the paint against Atlanta and kept trying to probe his way into the backline of the Hawks’ defense.
(Of course, if this injury is significant, then the Bucks should really regret not turning a 27-point halftime lead into a blowout. By all rights, Monta should have been on the bench long before he hurt his hand Tuesday.)
Jennings led the Bucks with 21 points and J.J. Redick scored an efficient 18. Both scored well in the Bucks’ late push; Jennings, in particular, figured out a way to beat Teague to the right side for layups late in the game. (Of course, he finished those with his right hand, but luckily for Brandon, Teague wasn’t big enough to challenge them.
Things started to go badly for the Bucks after they jumped out to a 35-27 lead early in the second quarter. Monta drove down the lane and got clobbered by Josh Smith as he tried to finish with his left hand. With no whistle, the Hawks countered quickly with a Teague corner three-pointer. Steals on the next two Bucks possessions enabled Atlanta to get in transition, tying the game on an alley-oop to Horford and a Kyle Korver three-pointer.
The Hawks outscored Milwaukee by a 28-15 margin on the fast break.
Teague and Korver combined to make seven of their 11 three-point shots, and Teague finished with a game-high 28 points.
Atlanta remains a terrible place to see an NBA game.
He looks like a big twelve-year-old.
— Atlanta television color commentator and former star Dominique Wilkins on the Bucks’ John Henson.
Here’s what the Bucks need from Brandon Jennings on offense: three-pointers, layups, and assists. Take a pass on the rest of it. Sure, a big burden fell on Jennings with Ellis ailing and Ilyasova out, but take a gander at this shot chart (screengrab from ESPN.com).
Jennings made 1-of-6 of his two-point shots away from the rim, which with recent history noted, isn’t in any way an aberration.