The Losing Edge: Milwaukee Bucks 119, Washington Wizards 118


Somewhere between a flurry of lost dribbles, floating air balls, incidental rebounds, and more flailing limbs than a Lady Gaga concert, the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards played an NBA-sanctioned basketball game.

The Bucks emerged with a less than convincing, last second 119-118 victory in which they built a 22 point first half lead, got outscored 65-52 in the final two quarters, and needed an Ersan Ilyasova tip-in with 3 seconds remaining to beat the NBA’s penultimate team.

Watching this game conjured up memories of the South Park boys throwing baseball games (The Losing Edge). In other words, it felt more like a race to the bottom rather than a race to the top.

Milwaukee played at a lightning quick pace all night, finishing with 21 transition points (9-11 FG), scoring 33 points off second chance opportunities. Bucks point guards (Brandon Jennings, Beno Udrih) combined to dish out 19 of the team’s 30 assists, committing just two turnovers in the process.

That still didn’t contain the NBA’s second worst offense, spearheaded by John Wall, who racked up 15 assists, mostly off drive and kicks to an open wing on the weak side. For the most part, the Bucks played well enough to win, but “well enough” is not a description fit for games against teams playing for nothing but their dignity and a top 3 pick.

MVP: Mike Dunleavy

The Wizards were triple dog daring Mike Dunleavy to take open jumpers all night, and Dunleavy made them pay with his best game as a Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 16 of his 28 points in the second quarter, and added 10 while playing the entire fourth.

Dunleavy is at his best taking spot-up jumpers (1.13 PPP, according to Synergy Sports), and he got plenty of opportunities to do so against the lazy Wizards’ defense (8 of his 9 baskets were long range jumpers, all assisted).

LVP: Brandon Jennings

Ultimately, 10 assists are 10 assists. However, that number can be positive, misleading and frustrating all at once.

Positive in that it shows Jennings was sharing the ball, and teammates were hitting their shots. Misleading because Jennings compiled 8 assists in the first half. Frustrating because John Wall converted his game-winning shot when it was absolutely necessary. Jennings missed the mark on his reaching lay-in attempt.

Whatever Brandon Jennings is, he needs to figure it out soon if the Bucks want to plan anything beyond an end of year pizza party on April 27.

This should delight you: Brandon Jennings

It seems a little about the positives of a squeaked out win against a team that likely would have problems in the Euro League. Jennings often acquires assists in short bursts, reflective of his scoring-based skill set. However, Jennings was a part of the lead-building process, and in a round-about way, contributed to Ilyasova’s game-winner by skipping a shot off the backboard and rim.

The Bucks play at a frantic pace when Jennings is running the point, and the heavy pressure often pays off (Jennings scores a personal-best 1.01 PPP in transition). That was the case for most of the first half, at least until Washington solved a piece of the riddle and started knocking down jumpers.

This should enrage you: About that third quarter…

Milwaukee still hasn’t gotten the “third quarters matter” memo. The Wizards drained six threes, raised their field goal percentage by 6%, and outscored the Bucks 36-25 in the third.

The Bucks really had no answer to Jordan Crawford, Mo Evans, and Trevor Booker. This is probably the first, and last, time you’ve ever read that sentence. All three players effectively pick-axed at the lead through the second half, but ultimately became Jordan Crawford, Mo Evans, and Trevor Booker in crunch time.

“We have to play better defense if we think we’re going to beat Boston, or beat Atlanta, or beat Orlando,” Scott Skiles said. “Nothing against Washington, but that’s just what we have to do. And we did for a nice 16-minute stretch in the first half. We were pretty sharp, then all of a sudden, we weren’t.”

Final verdict:It really shouldn’t be this hard

Washington has the NBA’s second worst record, its second worst offense, its 6th worst defense, and JaVale McGee. John Wall came within two dimes of the team’s 29th-ranked assist totals. There’s really no excuse for giving up 118 points at home to the Washington Wizards, especially when you’re a Scott Skiles-coached team.

That fact is no secret for the Milwaukee Bucks, their coach included.

“There are nights where you play really hard and really well, and you get beat,” Scott Skiles said. “But you know when you went home, you played hard, you played well. There are other nights where you play hard, you play well for part of the game, another part of the game you don’t, and you still win.”