Erik Thorne

OnBucksBasketball - Week 22

The great experiment continued in Los Angeles for the final game of a well-fought west coast trip against the Clippers. Even though these two teams may be on opposite ends of the NBA success spectrum, this was a closely contested battle down to the final minutes. Point guard Ramon Sessions continued to beat expectations by leading Milwaukee with 44 minutes played this night. Ultimately, the combination of all-league players Blake Griffin and Chris Paul proved to be too much for the visitor to contend with. At the end of the fourth quarter, Paul set up Griffin on a fast break dunk, followed by a three point dagger by sixth man specialist Jamal Crawford. This sealed the 106-98 victory for Clippers and a 0-5 road trip for the Bucks.

Milwaukee returned home for a matchup against a team in a similar situation versus the Lakers. Without the services of Kobe Bryant, the Bucks looked to sweep the season series against struggling Los Angeles. The last time these two teams met on New Year’s Eve, Milwaukee was on a mission and embarrassed their opponent on the way to an easy victory. This time, the Bucks led by as many as 12 points late and survived a late rally to win 108-105. Brandon Knight put the team on his back this night, scoring a game high 30 points by implementing the pick-and-roll offense with great success.

Miami visited the Bradley Center on a Saturday night to a nearly full house for their only visit of the year. In the past, the Heat has had fits with the Bucks at times and has come to expect a level of competitiveness against the deer. However, this is a different team than in past years and doesn’t possess the same ability to score in surging spurts. LeBron James may be the best player on planet Earth, but he only needed to do light work in this contest as he finished with only 13 points in 30 minutes. Milwaukee just couldn’t get it going on the offensive end, as they only scored 29 points in the first half. Miami took control of the game early and their veterans played a prominent role in their 88-67 victory over the home team.

The week rounded out with a trip versus a team that appears to be on life support in Detroit. Without a doubt, the Bucks came out on top in the offseason trade of Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. The embattled Pistons have struggled since the very start of this season, as they were never able to develop any kind of court chemistry between free agent signee Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Jennings. Milwaukee got off to a great start, shooting 56% in the first half and looked poised to collect their 15th victory of the year. Comically, the normally erratic Smith was able to hit a handful of long range shots and scored 15 points in the fourth quarter. This outburst paired with complete domination in the paint by the Pistons, led to a 116-111 win against visiting Milwaukee.

As the 2013-14 season winds down for the Bucks, it will be interesting to see how these final weeks of a dreadful season culminate. It seems like Milwaukee is starting to play well with a starting backcourt of combo guards Knight and Sessions. The duo has had success running off screens and swinging the ball around the perimeter for an open three point shot or layup. One thing that is a bit disconcerting is the lack of playing time for sophomore big man John Henson. This week he lost his starting job to NBA journeyman Jeff Adrien and that is not good news in his development. Will the Bucks look to deal Henson in the offseason? And if so, the kind of talent/draft picks Milwaukee could acquire for the former Tarheel could be interesting to track. Hopefully, he will play hard in the final eight games and show the Bucks front office exactly what he is worth.

BUCK OF THE WEEK!   Brandon Knight 77 points, 18 assists, 16 rebounds

14 wins/60 losses