Preview and Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Darius Soriano —  March 28, 2013

Records: Lakers 37-35 (8th in the West), Bucks 34-36 (8th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (8th in the NBA), Bucks 100.8 (21st in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.6 (18th in the NBA), Bucks 102.3 (12th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Marquise Daniels, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders
Injuries: Lakers: Metta World Peace (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Bucks: none

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers were able to snap their three game losing skid with a win over the Wolves last night, but that win doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence considering how that game evolved. The Lakers did look better on offense, finding ways to incorporate Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol for most of the game while still showing balance with their perimeter attack. These are positive strides and shouldn’t be dismissed even if the Wolves aren’t the most stout defensive team.

However, the Lakers’ defense continued to struggle especially in the 2nd half where the Wolves put up 71 points. A lot of that was related to the sloppiness of the Lakers’ offense and subsequent fast break chances, but there were also more than a few breakdowns in the half court that need to be looked at. Gasol still looks a step slow in going after rebounds and was hesitant to leave the paint in closing out on Dante Cunningham’s mid-range jumpers. Giving up both of those gave the Wolves too many second chance opportunities and some clean looks that they hit at a respectable rate. Gasol will need to improve, but so will the guards chasing around screens and in the P&R as well as the other bigs stepping up to contain dribble penetration to help ensure that plays are bottlenecked early rather than allowing them to fully develop.

The Bucks Coming in: The Bucks have lost 4 straight games and have not been able to take advantage of the Celtics’ poor play in the race to avoid the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs out East. Their most recent loss was last night against the 76ers, a game that saw Brandon Jennings benched for the entire 4th quarter while his team struggled and only scored 14 points  to Philly’s 24. That 10 point difference sure does seem important when the Bucks only lost by 2, but I digress.

After the game Jennings was not happy and one has to wonder if that carries over to tonight or beyond. One of the reasons the Bucks are even in the playoff hunt (besides the East being a wasteland at the bottom of the standings) is on the strength of Jennings’ (and Monta Ellis’) recent play where he’d shot better and really distributed the ball well. The Bucks are already a solid defensive team but with improved offensive execution from their backcourt (and not just Jennings and Ellis, but J.J. Redick too) has helped them establish themselves firmly in the conference’s top 8.

But their recent play has fallen off and that will lead to frustration from everyone, including the head coach (who may end up benching a key player who’s playing poorly) and the players (who may lash out for seeing their minutes cut). For their sake, they need to turn this around and see if they can make one last push over their final 12 games to try and catch Boston. That seems unlikely, but being served up as a sacrificial lamb to the Heat in round one should be motivation enough to try.

Bucks Blogs: Bucksketball and BrewHoop both do very good jobs of covering this team. Give both a look.

Keys to game: The last time these teams met, there were two pretty big keys to the Lakers winning. First was that Kobe guarded Brandon Jennings all game, pressuring him full court and pretty much disrupting the Bucks’ offense whenever they shared the floor. Second was Dwight Howard having a pretty strong game by dominating the paint, scoring 31 points on 14-18 shooting and grabbing 16 rebounds.

Considering Kobe won’t be guarding Jennings tonight (now that he’s playing SF and Meeks is a starter, Kobe will have to guard a different player) it may be hard to duplicate the first part of that equation. But the second part — the Dwight dominating inside part — is very much possible again and should be a major part of the game plan.

For as great a defensive player as Larry Sanders is — and his excellent, not only at blocking shots but deterring them in the paint entirely — he lacks the bulk to bang with Dwight inside and can be exploited with power moves. Dwight will need his touches tonight, not only to try and get easy buckets, but to also establish the paint in a manner that forces the Bucks’ defense into hard decisions. If Sanders gets in foul trouble or if the Bucks decide they have to send help to Howard, it will open up the outside shooting that can turn a close game into one that’s clearly in the Lakers’ favor. So, go to Dwight early and often and see what they can get from it.

Besides pounding the ball into Dwight, the Lakers must do the same for Gasol against the Bucks’ power forwards. if Ilyasova starts at that spot, Pau will have a distinct size advantage and should be able to get shots inside just as he did against the Wolves last night. Pau will need to be assertive, however. He must fight for position in the post more often and must turn down his mid-range jumper in favor of putting the ball on the ground and using his dribble to get into post position. Once the post is established, he can initiate a move or kick the ball out to re-post and then go back to work. Either scenario is fine, but he and the wings must make a concerted effort to make it happen.

Kobe should also be able to create against some of the wing defenders he’ll see tonight. Whether he’s guarded by one of the smaller back court players (Ellis) or any of the Bucks’ SF options (Daniels or Dunleavy), Kobe can go to work both in the post or from the wing in isolation or in the P&R to get himself shots 15 feet and in. Kobe mustn’t settle for the long jumper too often in this one and instead force the defense to help (especially Sanders) which should lead to good shots or opportunities for the bigs to get involved through passes or on the offensive glass.

Defensively, the Lakers primary concern should be the perimeter game the Bucks bring to the table. Nearly every one of their best players — Jennings, Ellis, Ilyasova, Dunleavy — are threats from the wing and that will mean the Lakers defense will need to be sharp all over the floor and beyond the arc. Jennings and Ellis are especially dangerous in the P&R with both having the ability to step back and hit the long jumper or turn the corner and attack the paint. Ellis has been especially good at slashing to the rim lately so the back line defense will need to be prepared for him to dart into the paint and finish at the basket.

Ilyasova offers an interesting match up in this game as well. Much like Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham last night, the Turkish forward has good range on his jumper and will look to draw Pau away from the rim and defend his jumper. If Pau doesn’t get out on the floor, he will yield jumpers to a capable shooter. So, the Spaniard will need to leave his safe zone in the paint and venture out to the wing and trust his help behind him by closing out hard and contesting shots when they go up. Pau is still not back to 100% in terms of mobility, but this is the only way to defend this team when they spread you out.

The Lakers haven’t won both ends of a back to back all season and tonight will be a tough game to do so. The Bucks are a scrappy team and typically play hard all night. That said, they’re only 18-17 at home and, like the Lakers, played a road game last night. And while Jennings should be fresh from not playing in the 4th quarter, the rest of the guys fought through the final buzzer trying to get that W. Fatigue should be an equal issue for both sides and a lot of this game will come down to the ability to stay disciplined mentally while playing to their own collective strengths. If the Lakers attack inside out, share the ball, and help each other on defense they have a very good chance in this game. If they don’t, they’ll likely play a close game with the home team having the advantage down the stretch.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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88 responses to Preview and Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

  1. On vacation but stiill… For warren!

  2. Kobe Alert: Against the Wolves, Kobe racked up his 415th thirty point game, while shooting 12-21. It was the 215th time that Kobe has shot over 50% while getting his thirty. Brandon Jennings has 24 games of 30 with any shooting percentage and he is by far the Bucks active leader. During the game Kobe played in his 45,000th minute, and needs 36 to catch Moses for 12th. Just 19 FGs to go to catch Elvin for 6th, and 21 dimes to equal Avery Johnson for 32nd. Kobe needs 35 points to move by Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the All Time Scoring List. History in the making by one of the Games All Time Legends.

  3. Lakers by 4. Bank it!

  4. Warren and a Kobe Alert.

    This game is already in the refrigerator.

  5. It’ll be interesting to see how we try to hide Nash, defensively, tonight. I’m guessing, if Darius’ projected starting lineups are accurate, that he’ll start off on Daniels. If so, let’s see if the Bucks will attack him (Nash) early and often.

    I’ll also be a ‘Keen Observer’ tonight of Ilyasova. Good, young stretch 4, who also happens to be a decent rebounder. Would like to see how he looks defensively.

  6. FYI Meeks is by far the worst shooter of starters at 38%.

  7. Dwight Howard in early foul trouble again, think I’ve seen this before. Hopefully we will see more of Gasol in the post.

  8. Kobe goes for 40 tonight.

  9. Nash schooling the young fella and their coaching staff recognizes this and re-enters Jennings.

  10. Robert you might have to include turn overs in the Kobe alert. Top 10 in the league now. Mostly very bad ones of late.

  11. Lakers built a double digit lead by playing through the post and being able to get back on defense. Going away from that is why it’s a close game.

  12. Lakers are a bad defensive team, you always have a chance of closing a gap against them.

  13. My mistake.

    Kobe is 3rd in the NBA in turnovers per game. That is brutal.

  14. Got away from the inside game that built the lead, i keep saying it since before the season that is the way to play for this squad, they can be almost invincible playing that way, everything looks in sync on both ends ,they got away from that and a 13 point lead evaporates and the defense allows 35 freaking points in a quarter. Maddening to watch

  15. It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big Kobe apologist—but absent his turnover-fest in the first half, this is probably a double-digit lead at half.

    When he came back in the game in the second quarter, Nash was really running the offense well. I would have liked to have seen Kobe let Nash keep driving the truck instead of trying to take over.

  16. Jodie Meeks is the worlds worst fast break player….pffftttt.

  17. OMG Meeks…

  18. Joe i never expected the Lakers to be a top defensive team not even very good, just a team that made stops when it mattered but i think there is a correlation between the sets this team plays and the effort on the defensive end.

  19. More TO info Kobe and Nash lead the NBA Guards in TO and Kobe is 4th all time in NBA history and is by far the Lakers all time leader. Note to Robert!

    Might be Lakers biggest issue. It’s just a terrible problem that won’t get better with age.

  20. Jodie Meeks adventures in layups.

  21. This is like the 100th time this season i say the Meeks should be fined everytime he takes a dribble.

  22. Well at least lakers are trying to post up gasol more. And even tho meeks sucks at finishing on the break he got 3 steals so nice defensive effort.

  23. I think Kobe’s other achievements vastly cover up his turnovers. He made them but most of the time he makes up for them.

  24. @Fern not a single Laker has consistently tried hard on D this year except MWP. Problem was obvious: he was usually a ball stopping bad shooter on O. It begins and ends with Dwight and Kobe on D. Kobe has been bad all year having to expend ridiculous energy on offence, and Dwight has been so-so due to sulking and injury.

  25. I may add I have never been a fan of the “funnel” D the Lakers play as they are really bad at help and recover defence. So the coaching comes into play here a bit.

  26. @ Joe,Howard was injured by my own experience back problems suck really bad and im aware of Kobe’s issues on D he has to be in rescue mode most of the year, what i was triying to say and let me make clear that this is something fairly new in the season is that now that we have Pau and Dwight togheter and playing reasonably good togheter, when the offense goes thru them the team looks on sync on both sides of the court, our frontline is the best in the game and its not even close, the last 2 games wich are the first 2 games they have played well of each other the team looks different, when they got away from that is same old same old.

  27. Another loss looming, not because the Bucks are better but because this team is clueless

  28. Lakers getting killed on second chance points. Bucks have all the energy here.

  29. Lakers blew a double digit lead and strugling against a team that is going to be in the playoffs only because every other team under them is terrible and they are making the playoffs bu default, this Lakers team gave us glimpses of what it could be but most of the time is painful to watch.

  30. Earl clark had a good run but now we see why he rarely played the last few years. He’s becomes invisible on the court. It’s real bizarre D’Antoni will play Kobe whole halves but sits Dwight when he’s not in foul trouble. Have to ride all the horses to the finish line not just one.

  31. Turnovers, 16 of them once again hurting the Lakers, 20 points given up so far.

  32. It’s tough to beat any team when your starting guards have 10 turnovers that led to 14 points. Older guards= turnovers.

  33. It is so hard watching MDA ignore options like Ebanks, who admittedly is inconsistent, on nights when Meeks and Clark just plain suck.

    The sad thing is there is no reason to believe this can get much better next year.

  34. The Lakers are old. They are down cos they r tired.

  35. I see hack a hack coming tonight.

  36. They solved the TO problem. Kobe and Nash on bench last 5 and zero TOs and back in the game. Interesting.

  37. wow forget about defense, we cant even score consistently. That was at least 4 missed shots right at the rim which ended in a offensive foul.

  38. This team is maddening to watch.

  39. They are going to lose this game and IF we make the playoffs we are facing an embarrasing first round sweep this team its done.

  40. Rusty Shackleford March 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    This (at 5:35 remaining in the 4th quarter) is the worst game I’ve seen Kobe Bryant play this year.

    No coaching adjustments either.

  41. Dantoni should sit pau in favor of Jamison. Pau can’t defend and just stands there on offense it’s awful

  42. This team is so awful on back to backs, historically awful. A real pitiful display again tonight.

  43. Let me just *vomit* right now.

  44. I think the lakers have the worst defensive point guard in the league in Nash and the worst defensive big man in the league in Pau. There’s not one thing Pau does well on the defensive. Doesn’t alter shots in the paint, can’t defend one on one, and can’t defend the pick and roll

  45. Lakers look like they are running out of gas in the 4th quarter. Kobe iso plays seems like all they are doing. Bucks playing with more energy. Do the Lakers have another comeback in them?

  46. Kobe can no longer play back to back games. No defense, TOs and bad shooting. No wonder they will be 0 and 14, front office lives in some past bubble by not finding youth to play the guards. They will be tied for 8 th this time tomorrow. Just a old slow team. They are not making the playoffs this team is a joke. Sanders completely out playing Dwight.

  47. It makes perfect sense that Meeks is out there, he has totally earned it….

  48. It’s called fatigue! D’Antoni said that he learned after the Phoenix game that his team gets tired, yet here we are again utilizing a short bench. Just as more and more of the older Lakers go down with injuries. He’s playing Pau into the ground on his 3rd game back in the lineup after six weeks on the injured list.

    More than anything Clark does not know what his role is for the team. Earl went from playing more than 20 minutes to less than 9 minutes a game.

    The Lakers are fatigued and cannot play back-to-back games because they play extended minutes and exhort so much energy on the front end game just to win.

    There’s a 1:34 left in the game down by 12 and he is still playing the same 6-7 players. Clear the bench!

  49. How many games have been lost in the second half to younger, more athletic teams? The Lakers have to have some kind of approach to these situations — play to strengths, slow the game down. Sigh…

  50. This is shaping up to be a embarrasing season for the ages, and i thought that after losing in the Finals against the Piston after signing Payton and Malone was embarrasing. This is an embarrasment to the organization and the fans and most importantly to the memory of Dr Buss, i feel our future is bleak beyond this season, only hope is for Utah to bail us out again, this is truly rock bottom, losing 4 games against inferior oponents at least on paper, im embarrased beyond belief yet again

  51. Oh and for those that don’t know, Nash hurt his leg, explains why we haven’t seen him in some time.

  52. All is see is pau flailing his arms on both end of the court. The bucks have attacked him almost every single play and scored every time

  53. Front office on down take credit for this season. Firing Mike Brown to the players not being able to come together as a team. Total failure by all involved.

  54. This is, guaranteed, Pau’s last games with the Lakers. Sadly the person who really needs to go is MDA.

  55. How in the Hell can this team even hope to win a playoffs series if they cant win back to backs against crap teams? They barely won in Minny last night and then got crushed im Milwakee after blowing a double digit lead, this team is done, it would be better if they dont make the playoffs and blow it up.

  56. Kobe and Meeks shooting 30%. Pau should not be in there. only time they were in the game was we when starting guards were on the bench. Most overrated team in NBA history. Thanks Jimmy for not understanding old age.

  57. Rusty Shackleford March 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    All feel free to rip this team’s effort tonight.

  58. Dwight gives up on offense far too much. All season on certain sets when he’s a last option he concedes that he won’t be involved in no way other than offensive rebounding. He has to make himself available to his teammates.

    Pau broke down at the beginning of the season. Kobe and Nash are bodies are breaking down now. This off season it’s time to transition to a youth movement.

  59. Fern,

    I really believe that there are very few teams that are worse than the Lakers. The decline of Pau and Nash is dramatic, the bench is not even adequate. Losing like this is a disappointment, but definitely no longer a surprise.

    Such promise on paper.

  60. Lakers should have used gasol in the post more often. Otherwise he was useless in the 4th quarter especially on defense.

  61. I’ll say this for Kobe tonight, his shooting % is crap but he has 30 pts on 17 FGA because he is getting to the line. That is efficient offence.

  62. I hope they dont make the playoffs i truly do, it will save us the embarrasment of being swept in the 1st round by OKC or SA in 4 blowout losses. They dont deserve to be in the playoffs and i hope the Mavs made the playoffs to add even more humilliation to it.

  63. Lakers have one chance left to sweep a back to back situation (NOH at home, Portland road). If they fail this will be the first Lakers team not to win back to back games.

  64. Oh and for all those sacking Nash, he had 16 pts on 5 of 7 shooting and 6 assists in 23 mins tonight. He was also our only + player tonight.

  65. Pau is not even conditioned! A basketball player can’t be out for six weeks and be expected to jump back on the floor in game shape. The coach does understand game shape, doesn’t he? Kobe is exhausted, injured and the only person capable of creating a shot for the other 13 players on the team. Nash can’t consistently create a shot for anyone, and Blake can’t either.

    Every team circles the calendar for the Lakers games because they’ll get their next contract off the stats they put up against them.

    The Lakers are trying to tank so they can get in the lottery…oh that’s right they don’t have any picks they gave them away.

    They are who they are!

  66. To think I thought it would be close to the second coming of Shaq-Kobe-Malone-Payton…

  67. Climbing out the under .500 hole and playing for nothing other than pride in the dozens of games where Lakers rallied from an insurmountable lead to lose in the end is showing now. The team is mentally and physically fatigued.

    All those whole second halves Kobe played that resulted in losses results in these poor shooting performances. 33 minutes instead of 42 add up and make a difference.

  68. Reality is this is not a good team. Just another weak performance by the starters. They are just a .500 team which I predicted in pre-season with a lame duck coach, the front office has turned this proud franchise into a NBA low end team. Fans deserve mire then that.

  69. The good news is, there are no back to backs in the playoffs. The bad news is, can we get to the playoffs.

  70. The good news is, there are no back to backs in the playoffs. So you can throw whatever stat out the window.

    The bad news is, can we get to the playoffs.

  71. @ TeamN you are preachin to the choir, my hope was high all season long until last week when we lost those games against Phoenix and Washington, that lowered my expectations down to nothing, im convinced the best this team will do is limp into the playoffs and get crushed bu whoever the 1st seed is, this team is old with bad coaching and in an organizational chaos, only hope is to somehow be able to retain Dwight, hope that Kobe plays his last season next year and use the massive cap space we will have to bring in youth, the era of veteran teams being able to compete is over, we need yputh bit there is no hope to getting any intil July 1st 2014 this Lakers era is over, but i dont even know if we are be able to recover from the loss of Dr Buss for a long time. I see dark times ahead

  72. Morris, Meeks, Duhon and Ebanks were never injured yet somehow Kobe still averages 38 minutes a night.

  73. Let me say it one more time, this team makes last season team looks like a juggernaut, this team went to hell the moment the NBA stopped the Chris Paul trade. Straight up sent it into oblivion, Cuban won at the end…

  74. Pau was featured heavily in the post tonight 12 fga, Meeks, Jamison have the green light 10 and 12 shots, Blake 8 shots. 2nd best player on the team gets 8 shots and is relegated to being a screener and defender. Dwight can help in more ways than he’s being used.

  75. Dallas is down 93-71.

  76. I gave MDA the benefit of the doubt for a long time i even praised him when it looked like the team turn it around and its not his fault i still believe he is a very good coach with the right personnel but this roster as constructed was taylor made for Phil.

  77. 0-15 in back-to-back games. Never thought we’d miss MWP so bad. Its true that the nixed CP3 trade has set us back for years! Jimmy-Boy and MDA don’t have a clue.

  78. We won’t go any where unless Defense period….it’s gonna have to come from their coach to develop a defensive philosophy/game plan. We say oh kobe needs to pass, shoot less, playmaker, etc, or we need to play inside out….it doesn’t matter if we don’t get stops.

  79. Is kobe injured? This team is just too damned old… MDA killing this team

  80. Any news why Nash didn’t play in the 4th?!

    The game was so frustrating to watch. Especially Kobe, Dwight was giving his effort on the defensive end but not rewarded on the offense.

  81. Yep Kobe has a bone spir. May not play Sat. Nash has bad back again. Pau foot, leg etc. Jamison a bad wrist. Metta gone. What do these players have in common? How about an average age of 36 in a sport where you are on the back end of their your career after 30. In a Western Conference filled with young, quick players this FO has put humpty dumpty on the floor and now can’t put the old, brittle pieces back together.

    Nice job there guys.

  82. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Kobe leaves the arena in crutches. He has a bone spur in his foot.

    Everything that possibly could have gone wrong, has gone wrong and then some this season.

  83. @tonyt its too late to expect any improvement on defense its just too late.In a diferent tune you know what impress me the most about Saint Riley? PJ is the best of all time but he was set on his ways triangle and thatsit. What Saint Riley did after he left the Lakers? He changed his entire method of coaching, he went from Showtime to an atrition war coach, granted, he did not won in NY but he did on Miami with the same aproach and thats the reason MDA have failed so miserabily here, he needed to change his ways to coach this team and adapt to what he have available, this is not a fast team, this is not a 3 point team, we all bashed the Heat after the decision but you know what was the first thing they did when their big 3 got togheter? They commited to defense and they struglged at the beggining but the only constant was that they could defend, i know the circunstances are diferent but this team have never find out what it is.i actually believe that firing Mike Brown was a mistake on hindsight his biggest mistake was saying that this team would take as long to the All Star Break to start it to turn it around, i believe this team could not be worse with Brown at the helm and i think the FO on a panic move doomed this team and hired the wrong coach, Brown did a lot with a deeply flawed Lakers squad last year and he deserved a better chance this season, he could not had done worse than what we have right now and when it worked that Princeton offense looked beautiful with time to get used to it who knows?, here i am praising Mike Brown feel free to bash me lol.

  84. I think PJ used his Zen powers to put a karma curse on this team, and Cuban did a 100 human sacifices to hex this team, time to pack it in and think of the long term future.

  85. Fern,

    Lets face reality. This team is not that good. They have proved that the whole entire year. People will say it was mainly injuries and blah blah blah. Elite teams find ways to win despite injuries. This is not a bad Laker team, but they are not elite and never was, just extremely overrated. We all were fooled, and are extremely disappointed, but most of us included myself have come to the stage of acceptance. My suggestion for your own good and well being would be to just accept this team for what they are. Don’t let it get to you.

  86. @JoeM i did after the wizard game that broke my faith. Might as well kept Brown. This team is just old and in 30+ years being a Lakers fan i never seen a Lakers team being so disgustinly horrifying on defense. Its the sort of stuff scientists make research.

  87. Btw Joe, about the injuries Vitti has said that he never seen anything like this on his entire carrer, so yeah injuries have played a role. Now the backcourt is hurt…

  88. We have been spoiled as Lakers fans for a long time. This team just doesn’t have it, personnel wise. And the spate of injuries have robbed it of whatever chance it had to compete with the big boys. Kobe with a bone spur in his foot, now. To me it’s just sad. Sadder is hearing so many comments bad mouthing the team. This group is worthy of our support. They are just flawed in many ways. And haven’t been healthy all year. Kobe breaking down was inevitable given his workload and minutes. He is human at the end of the day.