The Bucks recent string of good form was put to the test and unfortunately failed miserably against the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics Monday night. Milwaukee were comprehensively beaten for the second time in a row in the season series, 100-111, in a game that felt lucky to even be that close.
All the positivity as a result of the recent games change in defensive scheme was out the window early as the Bucks reverted back to the type of defense we all know and hate. The Bucks came out ice cold from the field and were all at see on the other end, blitzing Kyrie Irving in pick and roll situations, once again allowing simple ball movement to cut them to pieces. Rookie Jayson Taytum particularly enjoyed the wide open looks he was getting, knocking down three triples en route to a 13 point first quarter.
Milwaukee found themselves down 13 at the half, barely staying afloat. From that point onwards, Giannis attempted to single handedly carry the Bucks back into the game, playing the second half all the way through to the 5:29 mark of the fourth quarter. By that point Giannis had 38 points, had thrown his body in absolutely everything, attacking the rim on almost every posession and yet the Bucks were still down by 10 points.
The Bucks bench continued to be anaemic on offense outside of Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon scored 10 points but other then that, Jason Terry provided the only points from the second unit with a tough, contested mid range jump shot in the second quarter. With Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic still out with knee injuries the Bucks are missing 12.6 points per game from the second unit that also lost Greg Monroe in the Eric Bledsoe trade earlier in the season.
As an unfortunate result of this, both Giannis and Middleton are ranked in the top five for minutes played per game, the workload on both well above where you’d like it to be, particularly with Giannis who we know is suffering from some lingering knee soreness.
After well and truly seeing first hand that going back to the blitzing, trapping everything, defensesive scheme won’t work, it will be a point of huge interest heading into tonights game against the suddenly slumping Pistons.
The hot starting Pistons come into this contest on a three game losing streak, all on the road and now face the Bucks with the season series split at 1-1. Detroit have slipped to be the 13th ranked defense and 14th ranked offense as their slide to the middle of the pack has taken shape. Despite this, they figure to give the Bucks trouble with a mix of rebounding and outside shooting, a deadly combination for Milwaukee. The Pistons rank 5th in the league for three point percentage and pose a serious threat to the Bucks if Milwaukee stick with their old scheme. Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson and Avery Bradley all are knocking down over 38% of their triples and will be hoping to capitalise on the Bucks defensive errors.
Andre Drummond is reeling in 15 boards a night for Detroit. John Henson and Thon Maker will have their work cut out for them in nullifying the big mans impact. Monday night, Milwaukee, the dead last ranked rebounding team in the NBA received no help from their center rotation with Henson and Maker only contributing 4 rebounds in 29 minutes. Overall the Celtics out rebounded the Bucks by an embarrassing margin. 45-28.
The Bucks big three, (mostly due to Giannis’s 40 points) totalled 77 points. In the last four games Giannis, Bledsoe and Middleton have been averaging 73 points a night, which equates to 69.8 percent of the Bucks overall score. That is a huge percentage and you would like to see those three receive more help, but outside of Brogdon there doesn’t appear to be anyone capable of getting the ball in the hoop.
As the season wears on, the Bucks will desperately need help for this trio and Giannis in particular. Mirza and Dellavedova will return, but Maker needs to find a way to influence games. Averaging only 4.5 points on 4 shots a game, he is having very little impact on the floor. With two-way player Joel Bolomboy nearing the end of his designated time on the NBA roster, Maker is the Bucks only real back up option at center to Henson going forward. He will, deserved or not, play major rotation minutes with the Bucks and can not continue to have zero impact on the floor.
The Bucks are just 1.5 games back of Detroit in the standings and the result of this game could prove crucial later in the season with tiebreak implications a possibility. In the series split, the home team has taken out the victory so far, so protecting home court is of utmost importance. The Bucks are 6-4 at home and need to continue to improve that record and make the Bradley Center a place opposition teams hate coming to visit. After hitting a road block in Boston, bouncing back with a win here against a division rival will go along way to returning the good vibes surrounding the team.
I commented that a win against Boston would signify the Bucks were coming and a loss would leave them middle of the pack. That’s certainly the case with how easily the Celtics handled Milwaukee the other night. Tonight presents another opportunity to beat one of the better teams in the East so far this season. Every game feels like it carries a lot of weight for this team right now, but a strong performance here is paramount.
You know the big three are going to show up, the key to this one will be the center rotation and the second unit. Those groups need to find a way to contribute and the Bucks can pull this one out.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus.