Jaric and Szerbiack Go Wild
The Bucks lost another game to another Western Conference opponent, 99-91 to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center on Friday night, making them 1-5 against the West. All I can say: Thank God they play in the East.
Unlike some of their other Western contests, however, this is a game the Bucks really should have won. When you hold an All-World player like Minnesota F Kevin Garnett to a subpar 6-17 shooting performance, you absolutely have to win. You won't win, however, when you let a pair of stiffs like F Wally Szerbiack and G Marco Jaric light you up for a combined 54 points on an unacceptable 20-31 shooting. These two guys are nothing more than one dimensional jump shooters. Neither can dribble nor does either have the athleticism to score off of drives. In other words, if you make them put the ball on the floor or just move their feet on offense, they are next to useless. Indeed, on one of the few occasions the Bucks made Szerbiack drive he almost tripped over his own feet, turning the ball over after a wild and shockingly clumsy drive. Yet, for the most part Buck defenders didn't make him move or dribble. They let him set his feet and shoot jumpers. That's when he's actually dangerous.
And Jaric. I guess he plays point guard for the Wolves, though I can't believe it because he has no quickness and absolutely no handle. In fact, any time his dribble was threatened he came unglued and often turned the ball over. Yet he was generally not pressured and he too was allowed to plant his feet and shoot jumpers, which he too is very proficient at. How can this have happened? Why couldn't the Bucks adjust and identify the stationary jump shooters? I mean, at least shut one of these two statues down.
The Bucks should have followed the strategy they used successfully on Wednesday against the Sixers. They should have let Garnett get his, but choked everyone else off. That would have made the Wolves one dimensional and easy to beat. But the Bucks, for some reason, went against that strategy and instead played Garnett tough but loosened up on the Wolves inferior perimeter players. I don't get it. The net result was a 99-91 loss in a game the Bucks played well enough to win.
Magliore comes alive!
Smith and Magliore play well
The Bucks finally established some interior offense at the Target Center. Jamaal Magliore had his best game in a Bucks uniform, scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting, and generally controlling the boards with 10 rebounds. He may not be very proficient on offense, but every night he brings the effort and the energy.
Speaking of effort and energy, that's what PF Joe Smith is all about. The former #1 pick really rose to the occasion in his matchup with Wolves star Garnett, outplaying him for the first three quarters of the game. Smith finished with 8 points and a whopping 14 boards. He's got a huge heart.
Playing his first game since undergoing surgery to set his broken nose, C Andrew Bogut was not himself. For once the Bucks appeared to suffer when he was on the court. In 14 minutes of action Bogut grabbed only 2 rebounds and scored no points. On at least one occasion he also seemed reluctant to challenge penetration from the Wolves SG Trenton Hassell, allowing the smaller man an unabated path to the basket when all Bogut was in position to provide resistance. His initial reluctance is understandable, but we need him to overcome it.
Just a random thought
I was thinking to myself while watching the Bucks-Wolves game on Friday: I have only seen the Bucks C Andrew Bogut operate in the low post with his back to the basket once this year. That was against Heat PF Antoine Walker. I'm sure he's worked the low post more than just once, but the point is it hasn't been nearly enough.
With the notable exception of SG Michael Redd, who is shooting an incredible 46.2% from the field, and to a lesser extent SF Jiri Welsch, who is shooting 48% on a limited number of attempts, the Bucks perimeter players can't hit the pavement if they spit. Someone amongst the following cement masons needs to step up their game and provide some support to Redd, otherwise the Bucks are going to become a gang of one: PG TJ Ford (37%); SF Bobby Simmons (40%); G Maurice Williams (42.3%); G Charlie Bell (38.9%); and the ancient warrior, F Toni Kukoc (32.4%). Ugly numbers.
The Forgotten Man
After signing a 6 year 36 million dollar contract in the offseason, C Dan Gadzuric must be wondering when he will get a chance to earn his money. He has fallen completely out of the rotation, and was DNP'ed again last night, the third time that has happened in this year's first 10 games. After playing 36 minutes in the first two games of the season, the former starter has logged a combined 35 minutes in the last eight, and that includes 16 minutes in the blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. I know they are looking to move the big man, but I'm sure many teams are wary of his big contract and limited game. Not great value for money.