The Milwaukee Bucks season appears to be approaching an early crossroad. After an ordinary 4-6 start despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s adsurd level of play, the Bucks made a big splash acquiring Eric Bledsoe and appearing to right the ship, winning four straight. Since then the Bucks have been nothing short of awful, losing three of four and the lone win an ugly one, in overtime against Phoenix.
The Bucks defense continues to make opposition offenses look like world beaters, although Saturday night’s effort in Utah was perhaps the most embarrassing performance yet. The Utah Jazz, a bottom five offense in the league before facing Milwaukee and also without their All-NBA anchor, Rudy Gobert, cut the Bucks to ribbons. Averaging less then 100 points a game, the Jazz had racked up 95 through three quarters and finished with 121, predictably destroying the Bucks from the outside, making a franchise record 18 three pointers.
Utah forward Joe Ingles postgame commented on the fact that they knew what the Bucks were going to do defensively and this quote sadly sums up how the opposition view Milwaukee’s defense, now in it’s fourth year unchanged;
“When they’re blitzing pick-and-rolls, it’s easier to kind of manoeuvre and know where you want to go, so just a good job offensively executing.”
Woof. In other words, teams know exactly what the Bucks are going to do, when they are going to do it, and for the most part are pretty happy about it. I’m no NBA coach but I’m fairly certain Quin Snyder would have told his troops to simply move the ball at least three times and you’ll find yourself a wide open look. They did, and miraculously one of the leagues worst offenses all of a sudden looked like prime Spurs in moving the ball.
In the aftermath of the defeat, the now well publicized confrontation between Giannis and Coach Sweeney came to light, Giannis in the heat of the moment lashing out at Sweeney in a clear sign of frustrations starting to bubble over. The fact that incident occurred, in isolation, doesn’t concern me. Those two are known to be very close, in the heat of battle, things like that can happen, but when the situation as a whole is looked at in a broader light, it just has the feel of a situation that could get nasty.
1-1 on their west coast trip, the Bucks now head to Sacramento to visit the Kings, fresh off a victory at Oracle Arena. Now, it must be said, the Warriors were without MVP’s Steph Curry and Kevin Durant for the contest, but none the less, a win at Oracle is still impressive for a young Kings team still trying to find it’s identity.
The Kings are languishing down the bottom of the standings in the West, only ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, but they have a host of young impressive talent that have all shown flashes at certain times. De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willy Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere and Justin Jackson amongst others present Kings fans with more then enough reasons to feel positive about the future in Sacramento.
This game could further indicate change is desperately needed in Milwaukee. The Kings have the second worse offense in the league, averaging a measly 95.1 points per game and attempt the leagues lowest amount of three pointers at 21.1. If Milwaukee somehow manages to make the Kings offense look great, then I just don’t now how many more excuses can be made for this coaching staff. With Kidd and co now in year four, hovering around .500 and scraping into the playoffs is simply unacceptable.
The Bucks will again be with out Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic, still battling knee injuries so no doubt Kidd will continue to surprise us with his ever changing rotation. Two-way contracted guard Gary Payton II has started the last two games at the expense of Tony Snell. With Bledsoe entering the lineup and spacing appearing to be limited, its anyone’s guess as to why Payton II, a career 14% three point shooter would replace Snell, a career 38% three point shooter. Nonetheless, Kidd indicated at practice on Friday that it will likely stay that way for reasons unknown to most.
The Bucks have alternated wins and losses in road games against Sacramento since the 2010/11 season, unfortunately, if you believe in these types of streaks, the Bucks are due for a loss.
If the Bucks defense was going to look good against any team, on paper, it should be the Kings. Like most teams, they don’t appear to have a matchup for Giannis, he should be in for another huge night of stat stuffing brilliance.
A win is a win for sure, but this one would be hollow if it takes 120 points to get there. I don’t expect Kidd to change anything at this point, but if our defense is picked apart by Sacramento then you can expect the scrutiny on the coaching staff to ramp up even further. If that is even possible at this point.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus