Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  December 7, 2008

Lakers vs Wizards
Records: Lakers 16-2 (1st in West) Bucks 9-12 (11th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.2 (2nd in league) Bucks 102.8 (24th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.5 (3rd in league) Bucks 104.5 (11th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bucks Luke Ridnour, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Malik Allen, Andrew Bogut

Lakers notes: It’s a sign of how far the Lakers have come that they won two of three on an East Coast road trip and fans are complaining.

It’s the way those games went that draws the criticism, the blown leads in the fourth quarter. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in the comments — the play of the second unit late in games on the road is something to be addressed. But that is why there is an 82 game season before the games that really matter, and we are just 22% of the way through it. Anyone who thinks they know now from watching the Lakers or Celtics so far what could happen in June (if both teams even make it that far) thinks they know too much.

That said, it is a concern. DrRayeye had a great idea in the comments, putting together a “hold em” squad that features Lakers bench guys who make smart decisions with the ball, guys like Walton. Could work. Personally, after rewatching the Washington game, what is frustrating is how the Lakers start to go away from what works on offense. The second unit seems to suddenly either be out for themselves or just showboating a little and losing focus, then Kobe comes in and dominates the ball rather than running the offense. The defensive problems seem to feed off of this (and the Wizards gained confidence) but the Lakers woes seem to start when they get away from the offense.

Jackson has sent the message through the media that he may reinsert the starters in the fourth even with a big lead. Maybe he was lighting a fire under that second unit, maybe he means it, but either way the message about focus and staying with the offense have been sent.

The Lakers should get to test that out tonight. Should.

The Bucks Coming In: The Bucks looked better in their last outing a win over the Bobcats, in large part because the team is getting healthy. Most recently the $60 million man Andrew Bogut is back and playing. Redd missed the first 14 games.

As you might expect of a Scott Skiles team, they are playing hard on defense. Most of the time. But Skiles was fired for not using all the offensive firepower in Chicago well and now he has Redd and Jefferson and…. well, some guys who need to be put in the right position to succeed. And that is not happening a lot so far (but the injuries tie in here).

Milwaukee is home to the Luke Ridnour Reclamation Project (a great band name), but the guy to watch is Ramon Sessions backing him up. Sessions has the second best PER on the team (behind that Redd guy). Richard Jefferson is shooting just 48.1% (eFG%) and his true shooting percentage is well off his career numbers.

I’m also looking forward to seeing UCLA product Luc Mbah a Moute, who is carving out a role for himself as a hustle guy off the bench. I wasn’t sure how his game would translate to the next level, but you just can’t underestimate desire and hustle.

Keys To The Game: Here are a couple reasons I think the Lakers should get a big lead to try and hold tonight. First, the Bucks are one of the worst second quarter in the NBA while the Lakers are the best second quarter team in the Association. Meaning the Lakers bench should dominate. Next, the Bucks are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the three, meaning the suddenly hot Radmanovic as well as Fisher, Kobe and the gang should be getting good looks from deep.

I haven’t watched a lot of Bucks ball this season, but you don’t need to see much to figure out this is a jump-shooting team (Bogut and others just did not impress in and around the rim). The Lakers need to close out on the shooters and they need to dominate the boards. On offense, they should be able to get big nights out of Gasol and Bynum because the Bucks have not defended the four and five well this season.

Where you can watch: Standard Sunday, 6:30, Fox Sports night.

65 responses to Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

  1. wow! I’m first, but don’t know what to say.
    I second that emotion of drrayeye, a “hold ’em” squad.
    bon idea.

  2. Ya….too bad Scott Skiles hasn’t really used Mhab a Moute or Sessions recently. I know…I had to drop Mhab a Moute because of his playing time. And Sessions only got 5 minutes last game. When a guy is that good, it’s a wonder why he coaches don’t play him more, even if it is just to develop him.

    It was extremely disappointing in Summer League when all I see of Sessions was on the bench. And this was the same guy that got 20 pts 8 rebounds and 24 assists in a guy last year.

  3. I agree with Dr Ray. The second unit seems to be playing very sloppy on offense. This then leads to easy transition baskets for the opposing team and builds their confidence. The second unit is also not playing very good transition D (or any at all for that matter). So I agree a “hold em” squad on the road may be a good idea. Also Phil needs to put the starting unit back in sooner if the second unit is being sloppy and not playing D. Put them back in when the lead gets down to 10-13 rather than waiting till the lead is 5 and then hoping that Kobe can just come in and carry the team the rest of the way himself. If you put th starting unit back in sooner, then maybe Kobe will be more inclined to run the offense.

    Shortening the rotations on the road for the second unit might also be helpful. Though I know phil likes to give the reserves a lot of practice during the regular season so that they are prepared for the playoffs and he knows who he can trust and who he should keep on a short leash.

  4. Who would a ‘hold em’ squad actually hold though? Luke makes great decisions with the ball. Pau is a necessity, our offense runs smoothly with him. I think Lamar plays so well with Pau and is unselfish, although we’ll lose that defensive presence in the middle.

    At the point is where it gets tricky. Farmar has made some awful decisions and his defense makes him not ready. But Fisher’s judgment has been thrown into question this season.

    Another interesting thing to consider – should Kobe play? Like Kurt said, Kobe often tries to force the action in the 4th and ends up breaking the rhythm. Obviously if the game’s close we need him. But in a ‘hold em’ team, I’d like to see Pau, son of Bill, and Lamar/Bynum depending on matchups. Other than that, I don’t see any players that play particularly intelligently with the ball in their hands.

  5. I’m interested to watch Sessions v. our defense tonight. I’ve followed his stats but haven’t seen him play “in person” much. If the Lakers don’t respect them, he could burn them though, that much I know.

    Last year I thought Andrew Bogut was underrated. Now with his contract, he’s probably overrated relative to what he’s being payed- but he’s another guy who can punish teams if they take him lightly. I think he played well against Drew last year, but I’m not going to bother looking it up.

    I like the 2nd qarter stat pull. Its interesting how many of the things that cause the team to excel in that quarter go awry late in games lately. Hopefully they take the recent disappointments late as opportunities to specifically address the issues that are repeating there.

  6. This thread has merged two distinct issues. The inability to hold leads, and the inefficiency of the crunch time squad.

    First, the 4th quarter unit has played horribly, starting with loose play from Farmar, poor defense and players going one on one far too much. A good barometer of the 2nd unit is the number of FGA that Sasha gets. Sasha doesn’t create his own shots, and needs the team ball movement to get him open looks. (He also almost never takes forced shots). The last few games he has gotten very few FGAs.

    This problem does not bother me too much. A young squad, still learning discipline will have ups and downs.

    The peformance of the crunch time squad is far more worrying. It looks like Phil has settled on a crunch time squad of Pau, LO, Ariza, Fisher, and Kobe. This squad has good overall stats (+28) but I question whether it is the right one for end of games.

    So far, the offense at end of games in a tight match consists of Kobe with the ball and the other guys watching. This is not a winning strategy in the playoffs.

    Last year, Sasha played instead of Ariza. And while I think Ariza is great, at the end of games when the game slows down, and transition play is not as important, the lack of another shooter hurts the team. If you are not going to run the offense (and apparently, the Lakers have decided that the triangle is the world’s greatest offense, except at the end of a close game) then Kobe needs two shooters surrounding him because otherwise, with only one, the offense is too easy to stop; wait for Kobe to make his move, double him with Odom or Ariza’s man and dare Odom or Ariza to beat you.

    More importantly, at the end of games, you need players who are not scared to take the shot. On this team, other than Kobe, I want Fisher or Sasha to take that last second shot to tie or win.

    I think the solution for the team is for Phil to actually start coaching a bit in the fourth quarter and try substituting offense/defense. with LO/Bynum and Sasha/Ariza.

    By the way, the starting 5 unit has now logged 248 minutes, more than double the next 5 man unit and is now at -1 for the year. The only unit with a negative +/-.

  7. I’m not sure how much good a hold-em squad would do, but I think it would be nice to have a unit consisting of ‘well-coached’ players who can come in and play the game they’re supposed to play.

    That would probably have to be:
    Fisher – his actions seem sooo deliberate that I think his instinct is actually to play within the offense.
    Sasha – we won’t see him going 1 on 5 although he can be trigger happy.
    Ariza – good effort.
    Luke – lack of physical gifts (comparative term, I wish i could play like him) force him to be a smart presence
    Pau – euros seem to handle coaching better than young bynum, a tad bit more talented than Mihm 😉

    I just wish our squad would come to their senses quicker and not get carried away. Sign of a young team, something that hopefully will be cured before POs, but the sooner it happens, the better it’s going to be for all of us.

  8. the other Stephen December 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    i want to watch this game, but i have a feeling that i might just fall asleep..

  9. “By the way, the starting 5 unit has now logged 248 minutes, more than double the next 5 man unit and is now at -1 for the year. The only unit with a negative +/-.”

    Bill – where do you get these stats? Also, are you referring to the fact the the starters play twice as much as the bench, or twice as much as other teams’ starters? I would think the former. Also, how is this ratio in relation to other teams?

  10. According to, the Lakers’ starting 5 has a net rating per 48 of 0. The 3 most productive units by this measure are Fisher-Bryant-Radmanovic-Odom-Gasol (+29), Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Gasol-Bynum (+27), and Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol (+25). Here’s the link:

    Anybody watching Indiana-Boston? Once again the Pacers are giving them everything they can handle.

  11. I don’t agree with a “hold em” unit. What would be the point? I’ve always agreed with what Kurt wrote, that “there is an 82 game season before the games that really matter, and we are just 22% of the way through it.”

    As I, and many others have stated many times before, Phil Jackson’s teams always peak playoff time, and if this “hold em” unit won’t be a regular rotation, then it’s pointless. Especially at this point in the season. They have to learn lessons along the way and get better. It’s too early. The season is a grind. A “hold em” unit naturally transforms towards the end of the season with the growing importance of every game.

  12. I thought the game started at 6:30. Has it started yet?

  13. What’s interesting about those +/- numbers is that the +29 and +27 groups each have 4 starters, and every starter is in one or the other, yet the 5 starters together are at 0.

    Is it time to start the rumor that Bynum and Radmanovic hate each other too much to perform well together??

  14. I second Bill Bridges about:

    “I think the solution for the team is for Phil to actually start coaching a bit in the fourth quarter and try substituting offense/defense. with LO/Bynum and Sasha/Ariza.”

  15. oops….and I live on the west coast.

    I need some coffee…

  16. If only Pierce would have missed that three pointer at the end of regulation, the Pacers would have their second win against Boston and the Lakers would have the best record in the league (sigh) oh well.

    I hope the Lakers can get out to an early lead and allow the bench to prove themselves. I still consider our bench mob among the best in the league and they will be motivated to show Jackson how capable they are after the master motivator jabbed at them.

    I would like to see the Lakers gain some momentum with a soft schedule over the next 6 games (other than Phoenix) prior to a four game east coast trip and the long anticipated Boston Christmas.

    Alright we are up 4-0!

  17. Any links online?

  18. Thx, gotta love the windows error box on the screen.

  19. Radmanovic with the slam!

  20. Sorry about that, just posted the only link I could find that didn’t involve downloading additional software…

  21. My goodness, this is an ugly game. Brick after brick, blown layups, sloppy turnovers. Brutal.

  22. Ugly ugly game….both teams. Jordan, please make your layups!

    It’s kind of crazy, at one point, there were 4 UCLA alumni on the floor.

  23. 16, they’re definitely one of the best benches (if not the best)..but like others have pointed out, their game is getting out into transition, 3 point shooting, taking risks, etc….not exactly the lineup you want in there to hold onto a 10 point lead

  24. I think Fisher lately has stopped forcing up shot after shot and let game come to him a bit more. He’s definitely catching and shooting more.

  25. 25

    Completely agree. He’s not necessarily shooting better but he has certainly cut back on the PUJITs and headlong drives into traffic.

  26. So much for the bench coming out with some fire tonight. The combined line from the bench: 3 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 block, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 1-12 FGA, 1-6 FTA.

    At least the Bucks were awful. I really hope to see the Lakers pull away in the third, and give the bench another shot at redemption….Nice alley-oop to start he half!

  27. That sequence with Vlad’s TO was ugly.

  28. This game is comically bad. I can’t stop laughing at some of the nonsense going on out there.

  29. In the library with no headphones. I couldn’t make out who went to the locker room and why. Any info anyone?

  30. Kobe went to the locker room because he was bleeding.

  31. Isn’t that one of our more competent line ups out there that’s failing to put the Bucks away?

  32. it would be nice if we can increase the lead enough to see the sun (yue) rise.

  33. Yes! It’s Mihm time!

  34. I predict the Lakers will not even make it to the fnals the way they are playing. They can’t even put these Bucks away – Lebron would have his team up by 50 points by now!!!!

  35. If you look at +/- stats, all our bench players are – (except for Odom), whereas our starters are +20 or more. Usually this season it’s been our bench that blows games open, but this time it was our starting 5.

    (the bench players are – at the time of me posting this, i have a feeling by the end of the game they’ll probably erase that deficit)

  36. I think we should call Radmonavic Vlad the Impaler from now on. He sure looks like a vampire with that eye of his.

  37. yes! sun yue!

  38. Milwaukee is about to get SUNNED!

  39. will sun foul out?

  40. Here comes the Sun!!

    35. Not exactly sure how being up by 20+ is not putting them away, but… I guess that’s good enough for us here.

  41. was hoping for the lead to grow as opposed to teeter when the opposing team had already thrown in the towel.

    at any rate, good to see sun scoring.

  42. The starters played very well today. The bench, not so much. But there’ll be nights like that over an 82 game season. So happy to see Sun Yue play, although he did pick up 4 fouls in 5 minutes. I’d also like to see more minutes for Josh Powell. I think his energy up front is what we need during offensive and defensive lulls.

    I think Sun will be able to take over Sasha’s role in a couple years, and Powell will make a serviceable replacement if Odom leaves/is traded.

    Overall, no complaints in Lakerland tonight.

  43. Harold,

    Skiles had them full court pressing for the last 5 mintues, against the absolute bottom of our bench. Who cares about the margin. The game was over.

    Kurt was right. Some of us are getting very spolied.

  44. Slow down nostradamus, the Finals are 6 months away. They obviously have areas they can improve on just 19 games into an 82 game season. I think 17-2 is a pretty good start despite ONLY beating the Bucks by 13 points. I think the expectations are getting a little out of control, with us not being happy unless we win by 20+ points.

  45. We should keep in mind that for the last few years, the Bucks have beat the crap out of our Lakers.

    This game was our redemption time–Bynum besting Bogut, taco time for the fans, and 4 points/4 fouls for the Sun. The Bucks starters played so poorly, and the bench played so well, that the Bucks bench played most of the second half.

    Jordan Farmer must have thought he was playing hockey when he completed a hat trick–yup, he missed three layups in a row.

    Did VladRad finish two drives with slam dunks?

    Will the Sun get a chance to play against the Suns on Wednesday?

  46. Interesting factoid – the Lakers and the Cavs are the only teams in the league to have used the same starting 5 the entire season.

    For a team like ours, where there was (and still is) so much speculation about who should start, it’s a bit surprising that Phil hasn’t played around at all outside of training camp.

  47. Why mess with success?

  48. Good minutes from Drew tonight. He is looking like the explosion in his legs is coming back. He dominates the boards for stretches and that it really makes you wish he did it all the time, but in due time, he just may.

  49. Happy that the non-starters were able to hold the lead tonight. The Lakers were really aided by the missed shots on the part of the Bucks, especially to start the game.

    The one mar I noticed in this game was the tendency of Kobe to not work to get to his man and box out. A couple of times he relaxed on defense which lead to a bucket or an offensive rebound. The team also left Michael Redd way too open to start the game. It was lucky he missed his shots, but those kind of lapses are a little bit worrying.

  50. Snoopy2006,

    You can pretty much include Boston as well. The only game they didn’t start the same guys was when KG was suspended a game.

  51. I htink that one of the issues with the Laker bench is that at this point it doesn’t have an established “scorer”. There are a bunch of players who are still figuring things out offensively (at the NBA level), plus Lamar, who is very inconsistent. So it is not unusual for them as a group to all be “off” on any given night, and when that coincides with a lack of easy transition baskets they have a hard time scoring.

  52. exhelodrvr,
    Most benches have one experienced player who is counted upon to score. We have Lamar and that isn’t his game. Our entire team is young, with one of our youngsters starting. With such a young group I think it will take most of the year to figure things out. Meanwhile we fans will probably suffer several heart attacks.

  53. Yup, those Celtics really blew out the Pacers last night….

  54. Though the Lakers record is great at 17-2 (can’t ask for much better) their are still a lot of things they need to work on. Their defense in particular has not looked very good in the last 5 games prior to last nigh. In fact it has been out right horrible at a rating of 113 (which would rank them at 20 or so). The good news is though that 2 of those games have been on the road and against sub .500 teams so maybe it was just lack of focus. They need to pick up the intensity on that end. They are a young team and should only get better as the season progresses. Right now I’d say they were the 3rd best team with Cleveland and Boston ahead of them (no one else is even close to those 3). But its way too early in the season to make any predictions about June.

    On a side note. Right now there are 3 teams on pace for 70+ wins; Cle, LAL, Bos. I don’t think LA will make it to 70, they are young and will have won the west long before that so Phil will start to rest the starters towards the end of the season. However, with the competition between Cleveland and Boston, One of those teams (Cleveland has looked absolutely dominant ranked 1 offensively and 2 defensively) or both could win 70 just trying to get home court advantage in the eastern conference finals. It would be pretty interesting to have 2 teams win 70+ games and have 3 teams with over 60.

  55. Ryan,

    Stop reading John Hollinger.


    Thanks. I wonder if it’s the end of the world also for Celtic fans? A loss, then overtime? The nerve of them. It’s just not Championship material.

    Also, Kwame’s minutes are getting cut. What a surprise.

  56. Vlad is really developing a nice role on the team. He is taking shots within the offense, and he is playing strong defense. Coupled with Ariza, we are really set at SF.

  57. Ryan,
    You have to take into consideration the amount of time the starters are playing, and how young the bench is.

    They are accomplishing what is a next to impossible trifecta: limiting the minutes that the top players on the team are getting while winning at a very high rate and gaining invaluable experience for a young bench.

  58. 58. Kwame, I completely agree about Vlad. He’s looked like a different player on the defensive end this year, and Phil has really turned him into 1st quarter specialist. I realize that sounds silly, but I think Vlad is our deadliest player on offense in the 1st quarter.

    Of course, that’s just based on observation, not any actual numbers that I pulled. If I say Reed’s name 3 times, will he appear with some stats to back up my baseless Vlad-is-our-best-1st-quarter-player assertion?

  59. 56.

    I am not sure why we would just play for the best record in the West, considering that one has to play a team from the East to win the chip.

  60. 56,57. Holinger did miss on this… He was not considering the fact that the Lakers ARE competing with Boston for home court. Which seemed to be a main thesis in that column: that Clevland and Boston would continue at a more competitive clip since they will be racing one another for home court and would therefore have a better chance at 70+ wins. Yet, of course the Lakers want homecourt advantage in the finals which keeps them equaly primed all season (if all goes right).

    PS I hope DFish pushed the save button last night.

  61. So did the Starting unit’s +/- improve last night?

    The bench didn’t completely implode, but some of the issues look like they may be in their heads a little bit. That actually makes me happy because that kind of thing can be worked through. I thought that was why PJ kept Farmar in late while bringing Kobe and Bynum back.

    They still turned the ball over and didn’t grab defensive rebounds well- but maybe the bucks are just good at grabbing ORs while the lakers defense gives them up. It didn’t hurt because the bucks were so off.

    And I think the Cavs not the Celts or Lakers are the best team in the league right now. Their point differential the last 10 games is +19.1. Against a lot of bad teams, yeah, but that’s still astonishing.

  62. 61 & 62,

    Of course, John Hollinger wouldn’t realize or bother to write that aspect because his computer can’t reason and didn’t tell him. We all know he only believes what his computer system tells him to.