Game in Review: Milwaukee Bucks @ New Orleans Pelicans – January 23

Jan 23, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

In their road trip finale, the Milwaukee Bucks stumble once more as the oft-open New Orleans Pelicans shoot their way to easy win.

Starting Lineups – Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe

New Orleans Pelicans: Norris Cole, Tyreke Evans, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik

Saturday marked the first occasion in which the Milwaukee Bucks would find themselves matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans, and it would have seemed like they couldn’t have chosen a much better time to do so.

The Pelicans are in the middle of one of the most disappointing starts to the season thanks in most part to an unending rash of injuries to key contributors. Anthony Davis hasn’t seen his numbers regress greatly (besides a four percent drop in FG%), but he notably appears unable to carry enough weight to drag his team to consistent winning.

More from Bucks News

Closing the current set away from Milwaukee 3-1 would obviously have been an astounding result for the Bucks. Trying to put things back together after a tense loss on Friday to the Houston Rockets, would hopefully have led to a bit of urgency once regulation began for Milwaukee too. That’s not quite how things transpired though.

At the outset, it wasn’t really what Milwaukee was doing so much as what New Orleans wasn’t able to do on offense that allowed for an easing into the game early. From a schematic standpoint, Milwaukee had a formula defensively much like last night in which the focus was completely on Davis. The Bucks actively tried to deny his getting into the post and doubled immediately when he did have the ball in his hands. That, of course, left plenty of open shooters, but unlike last night (at least early on) the poor shooting from distance for NO didn’t hurt Milwaukee significantly.

Ryan Anderson could prove to undo that strategy, and a deep three courtesy of his shooting might’ve been an ill premonition. Generally, however, both teams struggled mightily to score from every spot on the floor, and an effort-filled-but-execution-lacking first quarter finished with MKE up, 23-22.

Speed appeared to be the idea on the minds of Pelicans everywhere in pushing the Bucks to a breakneck pace, and they were rewarded often with high levels of penetration. Milwaukee was able to keep up with transition play of their own, and a MCW and-1 pushed a small lead to greater heights with the Bucks up 41-34.

As time ticked away, Jabari Parker made his impact felt in a semi-serious way:

The Bucks decided with a few minutes left in the quarter to forget how to pass or dribble, and some turnovers resulted in uncontested baskets for NO. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Anthony Davis who truly hurt Milwaukee (six points) but Ryan Anderson (12 points) with his perimeter shooting and a buzzer beating dunk who led the way as the Bucks were behind, 52-51.

Without context:

Poor defense was once more on display starting the third, especially when Greg Monroe moved to assist in double-teaming Davis thus leaving his man completely uncontested under the basket to benefit from an easy pass. Khris Middleton started doing his best to flip his internal switch once more as he successfully began to put down some difficult jumpers. MCW added some interior scoring to help with the lifting, and the Bucks evened things up at 64 with a nine to two run.

At its core, tonight’s game was simply, as are most NBA games, a back-and-forth of runs. With the Pelicans cooling down and adjustments made on D, the Bucks kept fighting their way back into things. For whatever reason, Ryan Anderson, an NBA shooter notable in the main for his ability to, uhhh, shoot threes, found himself the beneficiary of Milwaukee’s scheme with annoying regularity, and he made his opportunities count with plenty of bombs (17-31 for NO from three for the game).

More outside shooting poured it on for New Orleans, and a technical foul on John Henson highlighted the closing seconds of the third with Milwaukee still behind, 74-84.

Above-mediocre defense positioned the Bucks to try to get into a rhythm to get into things once more, but it seemed like Greg Monroe was the only Buck with any touch at or near the rim. And, as has been a tradition nearly all year long, perimeter shooting really got hot for New Orleans as they stood at 52% from three about 4 minutes into the fourth.

That shooting continued at a scorching pace, and only a Middleton three stopped things from truly getting out of hand with 7:31 left. Anderson’s sixth three on the night looked like the dagger as it forced Milwaukee into a 17 point deficit, 83-100.

Essentially, from that point on it was zombie Bucks the rest of the way highlighted by Giannis fouling out after putting an “eh” nine point and four rebound night together. An interesting note: NO’s bench scored 57 points v. Milwaukee’s 16. That is to say, Milwaukee end up losing tonight, 99-116.

89. Final. 116. 69. 99

With this little losing streak going, it’ll be interesting to watch how Milwaukee responds Tuesday night as former coach Scott Skiles returns at the helm of the struggling Orlando Magic.