OnBucksBasketball - Week 18
The eighteenth week of Bucks basketball opened with a bang as the team traveled to Philadelphia. At the trade deadline, the 76ers did all they could to trade off their valuable players in return for cap space and a chance at a high lottery pick. No doubt, they have succeeded in their quest to get a top selection by trotting out a terrible team of role players and expiring contracts. Milwaukee got off to a blazing start in this game, as Brandon Knight set the tone with the best dunk of his young career on a fast break over Thaddeus Young. Without the presence of a true shooter the last few weeks, the Bucks were pleased to see OJ Mayo get back in the gym practicing twice a day since his return. Milwaukee hit 12 of 20 three-point attempts, with seven coming from Mayo. Shooting 56% in the game was a season high for the Bucks, as they cruised to an easy 130-110 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
Next the deer hooved over to nearby Indianapolis for a rematch against a team they had played at home just five days earlier. Similar to last matchup, the Bucks stuck with the Pacers for most of the game and offered a true challenge to a title contending squad. Indiana started off strongly, taking a 17 point lead into the second quarter. However, Milwaukee fought back valiantly to bring the game to a 50-50 tie at halftime. Zaza Pachulia and newcomer Jeff Adrien found a way to slow Pacers center Roy Hibbert and if it weren’t for a few unfortunate bounces, the Bucks very well could have won this game in the final minutes. Ultimately, Indiana found the answer was to showcase the dynamic Lance Stephenson and the Bucks lost 110-100.
The week wrapped up with a meeting against Brooklyn inside the Bradley Center. The last time these two teams met, the Bucks were unable to deal with another top center in Brook Lopez. Though since the Nets lost the all-star big man to a foot injury for the season, they have not been the same team. With the absence of NBA great Kevin Garnett, coach Larry Drew thought it would be advantageous to double team Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce any time they got the ball in the post. Milwaukee was effective in their defensive strategy, but showed a complete inability to get off of the double team when the ball was swung around the perimeter. As a result, Marcus Thornton was able to exploit the lack of defense and scored a game high 25 points from primarily top of the key three point baskets.
The Bucks actually showed they can play together as a team this past week. With the recent additions of steady point guard Ramon Sessions and the physical Jeff Adrien, the team has had a noticeable lift on both ends of the floor. Finally it seems as if everybody on the squad has a better grasp of spacing and the hustle has been better without a doubt. Perhaps the best medicine for the chronically wasting Bucks was a shake up in their personnel. It has been a pleasure to not see Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour soaking up meaningless minutes and only giving half effort when on the floor. Instead, Milwaukee has shown a will and desire to compete with any team that they may face. This season may be all but wrapped up, but there lives a new drive that can help this team develop into the next phase of becoming a winning franchise again. If the Bucks keep giving effort and continue to mesh, there is no telling how good Milwaukee can be in years to come.
BUCK OF THE WEEK! Khris Middleton 53 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals
11 wins/47 losses