State of the Bucks – 3/7/12
The Milwaukee Bucks wrapped up a dismal month of February and hope to find an opportunity to turn their fortunes around as the lockout-condensed season winds down in the final two months.
For a small stretch near the end of January and beginning of February, there was some optimism as the team took down some tough opponents and finally got over their road woes. That all turned around during a 6-game home losing streak that pushed them a bit further out of the playoff picture. Luckily the Eastern Conference hasn’t been overly competitive outside of the top 5-6 teams.
The Bucks have a 2-3 record and are shooting slightly below their season average of 42.3% since returning from the All-Star break. They took the two home games, but got roughed up on a gut-punching east coast road trip. They fought to the end against Boston but had their rally fall short. Against Atlanta, the opposite, as Milwaukee watched a tougher Atlanta team storm back and take the win at the end.
Finishing up the season series against Orlando, the Bucks were dominated by a hot shooting Magic squad. Matching up against Dwight Howard is never an easy task, but the fact is that the Bucks have been out-rebounded badly over a long stretch, and it doesn’t seem like a solution is in sight. They rank near the bottom in the league in team rebounds, and right at the top of rebounds allowed. It is by far the biggest downfall for the Bucks, and the one thing they miss Andrew Bogut for most.
The Bucks certainly can’t be accused of lacking aggression. They do put up a physical game, but they beat themselves up too often. Milwaukee doesn’t turn the ball over too much, but they struggle at times in the transition game and it hurts them against bigger, faster teams. Defensively, they match up well with most of the league, on paper. While team chemistry doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue as last season, it doesn’t nearly reach the level the team saw when they went to the playoffs two years ago. That team overachieved a bit, but they were constantly competitive.
Again, it’s nice for Milwaukee to be in the Eastern Conference. In the East, the Bucks are 3.5 games out of the 8th playoff spot, and they are 7.5 games away from avoiding the East’s top-two powerhouses in the first round. The Bucks would have nearly zero chance against either Chicago or Miami in a best of 7 series.
There are about 7 weeks left in the NBA regular season. It’s not unrealistic to see them overcoming a 3.5 game deficit in the standings. The alternative is a slump further down, which of course leads to offseason and draft talk. In the mean time, their schedule provides some opportunity; the winning percentage of their 28 remaining opponents is a manageable 44.9%. 16 of those games come at home, and the Bucks hold a stellar 2-game winning streak at the Bradley Center. They took care of business on Monday against Philadelphia, but tonight is a more complicated matchup with the NBA-leading Chicago Bulls. The Bucks must step on the gas and play a very strong, up-tempo game. At least staying competitive until the end could be a moral victory, but the Bucks know they have to go above and beyond the rest of the way.
Our Player of the Week award goes to Jennings. In 4 games since last week, he averaged 25 points on 43.2% shooting. He dished out 7.3 assists, a number that has slowing been climbing over the last few weeks. He court vision is something that you’ll rarely hear criticized. Limiting turnovers has been a strength of his this year, but he needs to continue to lead by example.
Player of the Week Count: