Unexpectedly early in the second half of a listless 100-92 loss — 2 minutes and 23 seconds in, to be exact — Bucks coach Jim Boylan had seen enough. He sat Brandon Jennings down. Boylan kept him on the bench for the remainder of the second half too.
Jennings finished the game with zero points for the first time in his NBA career. He also fumed from the bench, directing some unkind words toward Boylan after taking a seat.
Was it his direction of a directionless offense that triggered the move? Or his inability to fight over screens and stay in front of Jrue Holiday? Or perhaps most likely, some combination of the two?
Whatever the cause, the move worked initially. After Jrue Holiday made his two free throws from Jennings’ foul, the 76ers had a 12-point lead. From that point, with Monta Ellis on the ball, the Bucks initiated a 33-14 run over the next 11 minutes. The Bucks and Ellis started running the high pick-and-roll with Larry Sanders setting the screen and rolling hard toward the basket. Milwaukee tore up 76ers for a time, with the pair combining for 19 points in the third quarter.
Shifting into attack mode gave Philadelphia concerns defensively that they clearly didn’t have in the first quarter. When Milwaukee started the game with a Jennings/Ellis/Marquis Daniels/Ersan Ilyasova/Sanders quintet, the offense sputtered around aimlessly. The best looks the Bucks could generate were jump shots by their worst shooters: Daniels and Sanders. Not surprisingly, the 76ers surged to a first-quarter, double-digit lead.
The Bucks used the high pick-and-roll to catch up in the game, but they weren’t the first to use it successfully in this game. While Jennings hesitated to probe the 76ers defense in the first half, Philadelphia exploited Thaddeus Young‘s matchup with Ilyasova. Young scored 12 first-half points on 6-of-8 shooting as the 76ers consistently fed him passes to open space off the pick-and-roll.
If Jennings felt he had been singled out unfairly by Boylan, he was probably correct in one regard. Jennings had little to do with the eight offensive rebounds that the 76ers (especially Young and Spencer Hawes) turned into 12 second-chance points in the first half.
Monta Ellis had another solid game, and the Bucks fared better with the ball in his control. But on his way to playing the entire second half, Monta started to falter under apparent fatigue midway through the fourth. He made a pass that was easily deflected and turned into a fast break. He lost a dribble out of bounds. On one defensive sequence, he made the typical ‘Ellis double team': he turned his back on his own man and watched the ball enter the low post. But he didn’t made a move toward it, nor did he glance at his own man. He essentially played ten seconds of defense without moving from his spot — just turning and looking — until the 76ers kicked the ball out for a three-pointer over the top of his absent defense.
It’s hard to fault Ellis, because with Jennings tethered to a seat, the Bucks had no one to replace him for a breather and he was clearly spent. His foibles helped the 76ers earn some easy points as well a lead they wouldn’t give back.
One last thought: Marquis Daniels does nothing at all for the Bucks offense. Teams don’t respect his jump shot — the 76ers certainly didn’t — and the only thing keeping his man from camping directly under the hoop is the NBA’s defensive three-second rule. Even Daniels’ defense isn’t enough to make this clip extremely disappointing. Speaking of the Harris trade, the Bucks played much better with J.J.Redick taking Jennings’ spot, but part of the Bucks struggles on offense tied into Redick making just two of his 12 shots.
The Bucks host Jennings’ hometown team, the L.A. Lakers, tonight at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Let the drama unfold.