Erik Thorne

OnBucksBasketball - Week 20

The Bucks love to play basketball on Mondays. After winning on consecutive Mondays the last two weeks, Milwaukee looked to keep the momentum going against the wayward Magic. The home team did not disappoint the Bradley Center faithful, as the Bucks focused on playing an up-tempo game with a smaller lineup. Brandon Knight continued his strong individual play of late with 24 points in the game. The point guard’s ability to play with high energy can be contagious and was key in the 105-98 victory.

The next night Milwaukee headed up to the Twin Cities for a non-conference clash in the Target Center. The Bucks were able to carry some of the momentum over from their win the night before by getting off to a blazing shooting start. The visitors made their first 12 shot attempts, racing out to an early 11 point advantage. The gamed tightened back up in the second half thanks to Timberwolves star Kevin Love getting more involved as the Bucks continued to miss shots from long range. One bright spot was a career high 10 assists for veteran Zaza Pachulia, which has become a nice bonus to his team. The Bucks fail again to win consecutive games again, losing 112-101.

Game two of three game road trip took the Bucks down to Atlanta for Larry Drew’s first game back since taking over as head coach for Milwaukee. The Bucks again were able to get off to a good start, controlling the game for the first three quarters. Drew used excellent strategy by placing the defensively pestering Knight on three point ace Kyle Korver. The plan worked well, until with just a few minutes left in the game, Korver found himself open after his own miss and drained the second attempt to take the lead. Ersan Ilyasova, who requested a trade just three weeks ago, said " (we’re) playing much better. We're finally in the right path as far as building chemistry for next season.”

Milwaukee traveled to New York for a rare Saturday afternoon game in Gotham. The Knicks have been heating up of late, winning five in a row heading into the contest. The recent signing of basketball’s zen master Phil Jackson to the front office seems to have given the team a lift, even though their star Carmelo Anthony may be interested in leaving for a contending squad. The Bucks were sleep walking in this game defensively and were never even a factor in terms of getting a win. Larry Drew expressed that there were no positives taken from the game, probably other than that the game was over and it was time to focus on the next one.

The Bucks returned back home for their fifth game in seven days for another rare Sunday matinee against the Bobcats. Coming off of such a lackluster performance the day before against the Knicks, Milwaukee made it a point to turn up the pressure defensively. The Bucks got off to a good start, taking another lead into halftime, but were again unable to finish off their opponent. “The fourth quarter you have to show some heart”, said Knight after their fourth consecutive loss. In the end, Milwaukee was unable to stop stud big man Al Jefferson in the post as he abused the slight bodies defending him. Even everyone’s favorite anti-hero Gary Neal got in on the action by scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half. The Bobcats completed their sweep of Milwaukee this year, beating the home team 101-92.

For as difficult a season it has been to digest for Bucks fans, there have been a few bright spots along the way. First, you have to love the development and contributions that rookies Giannis Antetokoumnpo and Nate Wolters have made so far this season. Without their presence, it’s scary to think how much darker this season could have been.

Second, you have to be impressed with the ability of Brandon Knight showing up every game with intensity, energy and talent. Many were unsure how the point guard would fit in with the Bucks as Brandon Jennings replacement, but it’s hard not to like what he has done for this rebuilding franchise.

Lastly, this team seems to be finding an ability to play as a team in recent weeks. This comes at a terrific time as they are gaining great experience in these remaining games while also being very excited about the addition of a high lottery pick in a loaded upcoming NBA draft. Things may not be peachy for the Bucks right now, but it could be a heck of a lot worse.

BUCK OF THE WEEK!   Brandon Knight 100 points, 19 rebounds, 23 assists

13 wins/54 losses