Preview and Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Darius Soriano —  January 15, 2013

Records: Lakers 16-21 (11th in the West), Bucks 19-17 (8th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.3 (6th in the NBA), Bucks 99.6 (25th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.7 (20th in the NBA), Bucks 100.4 (7th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Steve Blake (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Bucks: none

The Lakers Coming in: After the Lakers got their win against the Cavs, one of the key buzzwords coming out of their locker room was defense. Kobe’s on-ball pressure of Kyrie Irving was highlighted as especially meaningful and moving forward the team will look to Kobe for more leadership via tougher defensive assignments on that side of the ball. This is something I’ve advocated for as well, with the implication that for the Lakers to be their best on that side, Kobe must play better defensively than he has so far this season.

But individual defense can only go so far. Dwight Howard has tremendous individual defensive numbers this season. Kobe and Ron are still also above average when asked to pay full attention to the man with the ball. Darius Morris has flashed good defensive ability this season too while Gasol has been very good in defending post ups and in contesting jumpers when he recovers to his man. But team defense isn’t just the product of a bunch of individuals guarding the ball when it’s their turn to. It’s about helping and recovering, shading and anticipating, thwarting a drive and then rotating back to another position. Team defense is a choreography of movement where the individual becomes part of the whole.

The Lakers haven’t performed well in these areas and must be better as a team. Kobe’s leadership can help in this area. If he raises his game and is more attentive, others will follow. But know that it will take everyone moving in lockstep. It’s the only way it’s going to change.

The Bucks Coming in: Four games ago, the Bucks and Scott Skiles decided to mutually part ways. At the time, the Bucks were 16-16 and, in what’s typical for a Skiles team, were a scrappy bunch defensively. Since then, the Bucks have won 3 of 4 contests under interim coach Jim Boylan. The philosophy of the team hasn’t changed much with Boylan in charge, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes.

Mostly, what’s been shifted has been who the minutes go to; who starts and who doesn’t. Irsan Ilyasova has been moved to the starting lineup in order to get more offense and versatility into the game. With him, Monta Ellis, and Brandon Jennings starting the last 4 games, the team has scored 104 points or more 3 times, a feat they’d only accomplished 8 times previously this season.

All in all, the Bucks will remain a defense first team. But with Jennings playing better lately and Ellis able to put up big numbers on any given night, they may be able to piece together enough offense to stay in the playoff hunt. Their recent play says they have a good shot.

Bucks Blogs: Checkout Bucksketball and Brew Hoop, two very good sites (with fantastic names) that do well in covering this team.

Keys to game: The Bucks have the type of roster that can really bother the Lakers on several levels.

First, the Bucks possess two quick, attack style guards and a small forward who has size and skill to play an all court game. This means that there is player to hide Nash on defensively and he will either be chasing Jennings to start possessions, guarding Monta in isolation on the wing or in the post (Ellis is one of the better post up guards in the league), or he’ll have to deal with Ilyasova all over the floor while keeping him off the backboards.

None of these options are desirable, so it will be interesting to see which direction D’Antoni goes in. Having Nash on Jennings seems like the best option, but as stated earlier Jennings has been playing well of late and attempting to get Kobe to slow him is also a good strategy. In any event, Nash will have his hands full on D and his mates will need to be there to help him and then recover back to their own man.

Second, the Bucks have the type of active big men who can wall off the paint defensively and really bother the Lakers when they do attempt shots inside. Larry Sanders leads the league in blocked shots and does an excellent job of defending the rim in one on one and help situations. Mbah a Moute is one of the more versatile defenders in the game, offering length and quickness that allows him to cover from the three point line to the rim with equal effectiveness. With Epke Udoh, Samuel Dalembert, and John Henson on their bench, the Bucks big man depth can make a real difference on both ends of the floor with their activity.

The Lakers, then, need to play smart and make the most of their opportunities when they get them inside. Dwight should still be featured inside, but it would be good to get him the ball on the move so he can finish going towards the hoop rather than having to create his own shot against a collapsing defense. P&R’s with lobs and pocket bounce passes can be effective, but would also be more effective in early offense against a D that isn’t set or after the ball has moved from side to side to catch the defense in the middle of their rotations.

Furthermore, tonight is a night where made three pointers would really aid the Lakers’ cause. The Bucks are one of the better teams defending the three point shot (opponents only shoot 33%, good for 5th in the league), so the Lakers ability to hit shots in the face of their defense would not only generate points, but hopefully create more spacing against a team that typically does a good job at covering a lot of ground defensively.

One offensive option that could also be explored is the man that Monta Ellis guards. I’d be surprised if one of Ilyasova or Mbah a Moute wasn’t guarding Kobe with the other taking Earl Clark. That leaves Ellis to likely guard Ron and that’s a matchup the Lakers can take advantage of with quick post ups and duck ins on the weak side after the ball is swung. Ron could also go hard to the offensive glass and keep Monta close to the defensive paint rather than running out and hurting the Lakers in transition.

In the end, this is a game the Lakers need to win and must dial in their focus to tonight (and not look forward to Thursday’s game against the Heat). A win tonight gives them the chance to build some momentum and get a win against a solid team. Confidence is needed as much as victories with both only feeding each other as the season goes on.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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92 responses to Preview and Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

  1. For Warren!

    D it up, Mamba!

  2. From ESPNLA:

    Clark was asked what has been the most fun part of his run so far.

    “I ain’t going to lie, just getting my name called in the starting lineup at the Staples Center,” Clark said. “That’s a big accomplishment for me and my family. You know, sometimes at night it’s what you dream about and it came true.”


  3. Earl Clark, Mama there goes that man!

  4. Get at it, Clark. You can stay there if you work harder than you ever have before in your life…then it’ll get easier.

    Just a bit concerned about Kobe’s minutes this year, and now he’s required to be the defensive stopper against the top pg’s in this league, all of whom are 10-13 years younger than he and with far less NBA minutes logged. Currently in the NBA every team has a young unstoppable pg or 2 guard, and if Kobe is going to play clamp down defense on them, then look for diminishing returns from the Mamba’s offensive efficiency.

    Defense is the name of the Lakers 2nd act. No defense, no wins, no playoffs!

    Let’s go Lakers!!!!

  5. I know we aren’t supposed to comment on trades but I would like to know if someone can explain what the lakers options are with kobe in the future? i know he has a no trade clause and i don’t want him traded – figure he will retire as a laker but when does his current contract expire? 2014?

    So then what happens after that? Say Dhoward is the future of the lakers – he obviously is not having fun so why would he not bolt after this season? If he signs yes he makes millions more but at his salary a few million more might not matter to him. Look at a player like Duncan taking less so he can play for an organization that values him – has a great coach – has great teammates.

    If kobe gets a new contract as a laker will he remain the alpha dog and defer to dhoward? i highly doubt this but of course just my opinion.

    I hope lakers don’t end up with d12 just walking away after this season – what else could go wrong for this team?

  6. jerry ross,

    even if DH decides to leave – something i personally find extremely unlikely – he would have an enormous incentive to ask the lakers for a S&T. The Lakers could then decide if they wished to receive assets for him or just to let him leave and clear salary. The media makes it seem as the Lakers are hostage to DH’s whims but, in fact, they are in an advantageous position (and a flexible one) regardless of what he decides.

    neil, why would you call that bandwagonning rather than supporting his players and building their confidence? I greatly prefer the way MDA handles his players in the press than how, say, Mike Brown did.

  7. CHearn…

    I share your concern about Kobe’s minutes and workload. It can work if A) Overall team defense improves and B) The rest of the Lakers step it up offensively. I worry about Kobe running into so many picks chasing quick point guards, as well. Always a chance of injury bouncing into much bigger players and those type of body blows tend to wear a player down.

    Watched Milwaukee play vs. Toronto on Sunday. They had an impressive win, coming back from a deficit of more than 20 pts. Larry Sanders is awesome and Henson is long and is coming off a 19 point effort against the Raptors that was a point off his career high. The Bucks have plenty of size to throw at the Lakers.

    Mike Dunleavy is their glue guy off the bench. He provides a cool presence that helps counteract the often mercurial Jennings/Ellis backcourt. And Luc Mbah a Moute is a terrific defender. The Lakers will have plenty to keep them busy tonight.

    Should be a good game. Our Lakers can’t afford to take any team for granted. Share the ball and defend! Go Lakers!

  8. Kenny T: Luc is a fantastic defender. Watched him at UCLA and was hoping he would fall to the Lakers that draft year.

  9. Kobe Alert: At tip off Kobes goes into a three way tie for 26th in games (with Eddie Johnson and our own Derek Harper). As previously reported – he is closing in on the Big O in minutes, free throws, and FTA’s (maybe 3 games for the mins and about 10-12 for the other 2). So, since I have a few lines of space to play with, I am issuing a another true Kobe Alert in response to the jerry ross post above. KB’s contract expires in 2014 and then he becomes an UFA. He could retire, he could go elsewhere, or he could re-sign with us. I believe he wants to re-sign and wants to retire a Laker, and I have said many times that I am rooting for the 20 year career. Should he be re-signed for $30 million? No. However should we slap him in the face with $5 million? No. This will require planning. Of course we need to see what happens with DH, but we also need open lines of communication with KB. This is not only key for us on the court, it is a key public relations matter. Our relationship with our legends is not very good. Jerry, Elgin, Kareem, Magic, and Shaq all have had rocky relationships with us after they stopped playing for us (during in some cases). This is not all the FO’s fault, but some of it is. The handling of Kobe deserves some attention in advance. I do not want to hear about lack of communication, in some tearful news conference when he retires before he wants to. My desire: Start discussions now and extend Kobe during the 13-14 season, for 2 more years with additional mutual option years. Salary in the $12-$14 range (we are paying Nash $10 in 15 for those who think that is too much). A platinum statue in front of Staples will not satisfy me or KB, if his twilight years are not handled properly : )

  10. Kobe Bryant, lets see if he keeps up this new found Defense.

  11. I haven’t made up my mind about Mike D. but when there is a whiff of odor the fans sure do like to pile on. Talk about bandwagonning…

    Why don’t we all take a deep breath. Phil Jackson was, at best, an average coach in his last year – yeah, he just dialed it in. Mike Brown didn’t seem to understand that this city demands entertainment. Now we want Mike D. to do everything Phil would have done, or we will roast him until there is nothing left.

    This year has been laid out – and we got a real injury bug. This means there isn’t likely any great white chargers coming in to save us. Let the games play out and the team evolve. There is no need to keep reinventing the wheel each day, just because we forgot to blow our nose.

  12. Just remember how lightning FAST Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are.

    Thats all.

  13. Blake may never come back as he has a new setback. Why can’t they amnesty this guy and use it to bring in a real PG. What a waste of three years.

  14. lil pau: “The media makes it seem as the Lakers are hostage to DH’s whims but, in fact, they are in an advantageous position (and a flexible one) regardless of what he decides.”

    well said! yes, the “worse case” is as follows: The Lakers rent DH for a year, instead of having a player in the fold who can’t go bowling w/o missing half or more of the season. They clear cap space and start rebuilding a year early. Doesn’t sound so bad to me.

    Howard “takes his talents elsewhere” … fine, is he good enough to carry a team anyway … ? nope

  15. Just to clear up something: The Lakers can’t participate in S&T’s because they’re a luxury tax paying team. The new CBA changed the rules on those transactions, so if Dwight leaves, he leaves as a FA only.

  16. Don’t like the proposed matchup of Clark on Ellis. Don’t compromise too early.

  17. Don’t like Clark on Ellis. We need his rebounding.

  18. Back to back Kobe to Dwight to start the scoring for the Lakers

  19. Kobe with 2 great assists to get things started.

  20. Like I said love Clark on Ellis! Metta most have stayed home last night.

  21. No way Monta can handle Kobe. Look for the Bucks to adjust.

  22. Great passing so far! Counted 3 alley oops to Howard and 1 to Kobe (8 out of our 20 points). And solid energy on defense. It’s been both Clark and Metta on Ellis since they’re getting switched a lot on screens.

    Anyone else notice Howard doesn’t set full screens for Nash? He gets into position and then immediately rolls. Is that by design? I suppose it’s working?

  23. Morris messed up that 2 on 1. Give it back to Kobe! He redeems himself with the corner 3.

  24. Why does MD makes changes when the team is rolling? Can’t be fatigue in 7 minutes.

  25. Man, if these defense will keep up for the rest of the season and offense distributed like this. DAMN! I don’t care if they are an 8th seed come playoffs.

  26. Loving the early defensive intensity thus far. With the key word being EARLY. Hope they can keep it up.

    D-Mo has to convert those opportunities.

  27. Hy Mike they keep their starter in. Your bench stinks. Why put them in so soon. Think Mike.

  28. Don’t like 5 bench guys at a time.

  29. Not liking this line-up at all… don’t think you need to rest Nash-Kobe-Metta-Howard all at the same time. Bucks got their confidence up and made a run.

  30. Stupid, stupid stupid coaching. You can’t have 5 subs out there together.

    Amazing let them back in game,

  31. Nice lineup out there right now. Seriously? D’antoni takes out ALL the starters at once?? Idiot.

  32. Terrible decision by Mike D to just take all the starters out like that. They were rolling. Now when you put the starters back in it won’t be so easy because the Bucks are in a grove now.

  33. Everyone already commented on the boneheaded substitution package there so I won’t beat the horse–it’s dead.

    However, wouldn’t that lineup look a little better with Pau instead of Sacre? Still think Pau should come off the bench and bolster that group….

  34. The Lakers 2nd unit has no shot creator. All they could get we’re contested 3’s at the end of the first period. Morris needs to try to drive and kick sometimes.

  35. Lakers with 10 assists on 10 FGs, the bench gives up all but 2 points of the lead.

  36. How many stupid GT will Dwight have this year, all this is Mike Daaaa fault.

  37. Metta should never take a PUJIT ever.

  38. Ok so please leave at least 3 starters in there at all times until your up by 30.

    Basketball 101 from my junior high days.

  39. Two quick thoughts:

    Bucks got to the half-century mark, but for once it seemed like pace causing the high score, not bad defense:


    For the love of god, clean up the defensive glass and you win going away…..

    P.S.—HOU and POR lost tonight—have to get this one….

  40. Good first half for the Lakers, 21 AST on 23 FGs but the Lakers gave up 11 ORBs, need to do a better job on the defensive boards. Only 2 turnovers.

  41. @Robert – in your last Kobe Alert (before the Cavaliers game) you made a very funny joke `bout Kobe´s not having the chance to attain 1 record, that would be Wilt´s, because he and his lady have reconciled (props to you Mamba) – LOL Robert! excellent
    Hope we can keep this type of play up tonight -(& only 2 TOs to boot!)
    Go Lakers!!

  42. It looks like the TO issue has abated, at lest for a half. Shame about all the ORBs LA are allowing.

  43. Rambis and Worthy keep pounding on the defense while ignoring the fact that the Lakers blew the lead when the bench was in the game. I don’t pay that much attention to +/- but all the Lakers starters were + and all the subs were minus. Add the 28-20 rebounding edge (11-3 offensive) in favor of the Bucks and there’s your close game.

  44. Everyone plays better when the ball is being shared….

    True indeed. Just hope that it leads to a victory.

    Kobe playing an excellent all around game. Jennings, up to this point, has been a non factor .. Dwight showing why it’s imperative that we retain him after this season. As Darius noted, a sign and trade is not even an option.

  45. With all the good announcers in the land how did Bill M get this job?

  46. Nash can just be out of control to often. Relax Steve.

  47. Steve is killing the team on both ends. Sorry

  48. Nash will be 65 years old after this game. He needs rest.

  49. Earl Clark!!!

  50. Kobe doing some work, on DEFENSE!

  51. This Laker team reminds me of a leaky dam, every time they fix one hole another one springs forth. When did the Lakers become this bad on the boards, they are giving up offensive rebounds right and left.

    The big hole, which was their leaky sieve for a defence appears to have abated (hopefully not temporarily) – and they would be winning this game by 20 if they could just rebound.

    Other than the boards issue this is a much better team to watch, more passes, more help of D, more hustle – I can stand by a team that is trying – win or lose.

  52. Warren really? Well he is 2 for 8 and 0 for 3 on 3s with 3 TO so that not bad for 65 year old.

  53. Missing JordanHill tonight. Lakers have got to gang rebound.

  54. i wish the lakers would slow down the game. You can see kobe and nash are getting tired running up and down the floor playing defense and offense. But of course mike d’antoni would never slow down the pace.

  55. Noooooo he us doing ut

  56. Look at this garbage bench which makes Kobe shoot ever time. You can’t play 4 D leaguers Mike.

    I give upl

  57. 32 minutes thru 3 quarters for Kobe…

  58. Kobe is really working hard tonight.

  59. These bench minutes at the start of the 4th are crucial.

  60. Lakers push lead to 13 with Kobe on the bench with Howard leading the way. Kobe might be able to get a few more minutes of rest.

  61. Henson is just a bit too light in the cakes to be left on an island against Dwight!:-) Give that boy some help!

  62. Now THAT is how we want the bench to play (apart from blowing layups on the break and giving up more ORBs).

  63. Dwight´s bringing it!

  64. Dwight Howard aka The Future!

    I think Earl Clark is getting fatigued. Hope he regains his legs in time for the Heat. Still I like his moxie.

    Kobe should now see that he can get 30 plus and give Dwight 25 plus.

  65. Dwight came to play tonight. He looks great!

  66. Kobe is amazing. Lakers only guy that can get his own shot anytime.

    Not counting Morris 2000 streight misses at the rim of course.

    How about some Meeks?

  67. Really impressed with the southpaw pg, Udrih. Plays under control and knows how to run a team.

  68. Eggs are coolin´, butter´s getting hard!!!

  69. Kobe makes a great fall-a-way FG

  70. Game over my friends. Thursday against the Heat.

  71. 3:07 to go… Time to pull the plug, Mike.

  72. The team and Kobe In particular were great on D tonight it’s a start In the right direction!!! If the effort and energy are like this every night we can live up to our potential what a good win!! Now lets beat the Heat down Thurs!!!

  73. I don’t understand why MD’A didn’t pull Steve and Dwight when he pulled Kobe!?!? This one is in the fridge.

  74. OK now coaches out there. Who takes LJ and who takes Wade Thursday?

  75. The biggest stat of the night—the price of the tacos for the second game in a row….the defensive board work needs to be better—but definitely back-to-back “effort” nights on the end of the floor where championships are frequently won

  76. Possibly the Lakers best game of the season on both ends of the floor. Push this to three straight wins on Thursday.

  77. Kupchak absolutely has to get a better *than Blake backup 1 and a backup wing.

    There was better effort on D tonight.

  78. The more he’s gone, the more we seem to function better without Pau… Just sayin…….

  79. Good game tonight against a team with a better record than us!

    KOOO- Kobe guards Wade and MWP gets Lebron along with Clark at times.

  80. The Bucks were not able to convert Lakers turnovers into points. Of the 10 Lakers turnovers the Bucks only scored 2 points.

  81. I don’t want to see Pau playing the next few games. Not because I think he wouldn’t help the team or anything, but because any longer extended period he can get off will help his knees/plantar fascitis.

  82. @Sald0gg – You’re just sayin’ — but over the years the Lakers have gotten along in January without a whole phone book full of their stars. Have to believe they need their full strength for the playoffs.

  83. I will say Kobe doing some work on DEFENSE against Wade. MWP and Clark can’t contain LBJ. They need to let him work on both sides of the ball.

  84. I hope Pau was watching tonight. He can really help the team with his rebounding. At times tonight, Dwight was the only Laker battling on the defensive glass.

  85. drew bledsoe is a FA next year…just saying.

  86. Harvey… Do you mean ERIC Bledsoe?

  87. I’m hearing rumors tha Gasol could be availible on THURSDAY.

    And BTW Miami has crazy amounts of rebounding problems right now.

  88. Points M. Ellis 17 D. Howard 31
    Rebounds L. Sanders 11 D. Howard 16
    Assists B. Udrih 7 S. Nash 11
    Steals M. Ellis 1 S. Nash 2
    Blocks L. Sanders 3 D. Howard 4

    Been a while since I’ve seen none of Kobe mentioned in a game summary (tho he could’ve been there in points today).

  89. yes I meant Eric Bledsoe..

  90. This was a good sign. Team looking more unified. Better Defense, finally some ball movement, Bryant & Howard were beasts, that’s what we all envisioned.

  91. By the way that left handed guard, Udrich? Is very good. Be happy to see hin in purple.