Erik Thorne

OnBucksBasketball - Week 12

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” The 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks have exemplified this common phrase through the first half of this season. Not only have they gotten off to many poor starts, but they haven’t finished even when they had a chance to win. The Bucks have shown an ability to fight back from slow beginnings, yet it seems they use up all their energy to fight back. When the last five minutes of the game arrives, Milwaukee simply doesn’t have the conditioning to finish. In large part, the team does not have the physicality to compete for tough rebounds at the end of games and this has spelled doom.

In the past few years, 25 year old forward Ersan Ilyasova has excelled against two teams in particular; the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors. In the first game this week, Ilyasova would again find success scoring 29 points as the team traveled to Canada for their final meeting. Though the Bucks shot a mediocre 43%, the team looked all out of sorts and was down by 31 points in the final quarter. The lack of toughness has concerned coach Larry Drew, “…from Day one. You have to bring a physical approach to this game. If your opponent sees that you shy away from physicality, they'll turn it up even more”.

After a terrible defensive performance the game before, the Bucks returned home to the Bradley Center determined to turn up the pressure on the visiting Grizzlies. In recent years, Memphis has trademarked themselves as a team that isn’t shy about being rough and tumble. Milwaukee came out with an attitude and finally played like they were sick of being pushed around. The Grizzlies feature the best duo of big men in the league in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but due to recent injuries the two played only 30 minutes combined and weren’t much of a factor. After a frenzied comeback in the fourth quarter, the Bucks gained possession of the ball and found themselves only down three points with under 8 seconds left. However, the first three options to take the tying basket could not get open so it up was up to center Larry Sanders to take the last shot. Although it was a decent look, he would miss on his fifth career attempt from long range and the home team would lose 82-77.

Texas has never been a kind state to the visiting Bucks. It would take an extraordinary effort on both ends of the floor for Milwaukee to come out with a win facing two of the top western conference teams in Houston and San Antonio. The first game of the back to back once again showcased the fact that the Bucks are suffering most from a lack of chemistry and toughness. The Rockets grabbed 13 offensive rebounds which produced 22 second-chance points. “We had a little more girth out there”, explained Houston coach Kevin McHale. What may have hurt the Bucks most of all was 20 team turnovers that resulted in 26 points. Combined, these 48 points were the difference between a win and loss.

The next night, the Bucks headed down the long and lonesome road to San Antonio for a matchup between the league’s best and worst records. Hoping a spark would be lit, the Bucks decided to let guard Gary Neal start against his former team. After only shooting 1-8 for two points in the game, it became apparent that Neal is no longer a viable option for playing time. After the 110-82 loss, Neal said he wanted to have an impact on the game, “but unfortunately today (he) wasn't able to have one.” It must have been nice for Gary to be able to come off the bench and have no pressure to have an impact the past three years in San Antonio. Any contribution he had was a bonus to his team, but now when he is counted on to score he doesn’t, can’t or won’t. With any luck, Milwaukee will be able to ship Mr. Neal, his attitude and contract for something that can benefit the club. Until then, look for him at the end of the Bucks bench.

This is new territory for Bucks fans, as even the franchise worst 20 win season in 1993-94 didn’t play this terribly. That team twenty years ago was far less talented than the current team, yet this year’s club just does not possess the chemistry to win. It’s easy to point to injuries and a mostly new roster, but at almost midway the season they should have found a way to put a few more wins together. For now, the best medicine for Milwaukee will be to keep playing their young guns in Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokoumnpo, and John Henson. After all, to make a diamond, pressure and time have to be put to the stone. It can’t get much worse.

Buck of the Week!  Brandon Knight  90 points, 13 assists and 14 rebounds

7 wins/33 losses