The latest installment in a long line of Milwaukee’s worst performance of the year played out in Indiana Monday night as the Bucks fell 96-109. The Bucks fell behind double digits on a Victor Oladipo triple with 3:05 left in the first quarter and it never got back within single digits for the rest of the night.
The Bucks were yet again dominated in the paint as the Pacers led that count by 18 points, 60-42. Domantas Sabonis again proved unstoppable with 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young had their way with the Bucks down low, each scoring 15. Overall the Pacers hardly broke into a sweat throughout, seven players scored in double digits as they knocked down 55 percent of their shots.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a rare subdued outing as the Pacers successfully protected the paint and thwarted his attempts at getting to the rim. Attempting only 8 shots overall, Giannis incredibly took until the last minute of the half to make his first basket. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe fared no better as they combined to go 11-27 from the field and 3-12 from deep.
Looking disengaged and sluggish from the get go, the wild swings in performance by the Bucks continues to prove costly. The pressure continues to mount on head coach Jason Kidd’s ability to get this team to consistently perform to the level their high end talent suggests they should.
The only minor positive to come out of the game was the second units last quarter effort. After sitting down for three quarters despite the starters getting destroyed, Sterling Brown and Sean Kilpatrick got an opportunity to see the floor and responded with 21 points between them. With the lack of bench scoring rearing its ugly head with regularity this season, it was a pleasant sight and hopefully a sign of things to come.
In yet another opportunity to bounce back, the Bucks host the tail spinning Orlando Magic who surprised the league to start the season 8-4 and spring hopes of a shock playoff birth. Since they reached that mark they have lost 25 of the 29 games to surge into high lottery contention.
The Magic have found the going tough with key players missing bunches of games at one stage or another. Aaron Gordon (9 games), Nikola Vucevic (7), Elfrid Payton (9), Evan Fournier (8) and Terrance Ross (19) have all missed significant time amongst others. The latest victims include Vucevic, who will remain out with a broken hand for several weeks and Jonathon Simmons, who is day-to-day with back spasms. Holding a bottom five offense and defense, the Magic are struggling to find any traction on either side of the ball during the skid.
The Bucks have been a relatively strong team at home so far this season, holding a 13-7 record but as we’ve seen far too often, they are capable of dropping very winnable games when you least expect it. After the abysmal effort in Indiana, a good showing here is vital for the a Bucks team just days away from welcoming Golden State to town.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Fix The Front Line: With the Bucks incapable of stopping Indiana’s big men in two contests last week they face another challenge against the Magic’s big man group. With Vucevic out, the Bucks have lucked out, but they’ll still have to contend with Gordon, an early season All-Star candidate averaging just a fraction under 20 points per game. An improved jump shot has Gordon knocking down 38 percent of his triples, resulting in more of his work being done outside the paint which may suit Milwaukee. Bismack Biyombo also figures to play a key role in the game and the Bucks will be looking to avoid allowing him a rare strong offensive night. Ranked 11th in the league for points in the paint, the Bucks must be wary, and prepared to give a much improved output defensively to avoid another long night.
- Run The Ball: The Bucks were slow, Giannis was out of sorts and no one could buy a bucket against the Pacers. Milwaukee allows the leagues lowest amount of fast break points in the league at 7.7 and yet they gave up 24 against Indiana. Milwaukee rank in the top ten for fast break points and Orlando rank in the bottom ten for fast break points allowed. This looks like a key aspect of the game the Bucks can gain control. Active hands on defense and consistently running the ball should be the aim, and will be an easy way to generate points.
- DO NOT Look Ahead: It seems obvious but a key aspect for Milwaukee tonight will be keeping focus and not looking at the future schedule. With Orlando struggling mightily, it may be easy to think forward to Friday night and the Golden State Warriors. The Bucks cannot afford to drop another winnable game at home after falling to Chicago twice in the last month. Simply take care of Orlando first, and then deal with whats to come. This is absolutely a must win.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus