The Daily Update 4.3.11

Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks recovered from an early 12 point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers by 6 in overtime. After going 4-6 in their previous 10 games, the Bucks had fallen out of the East’s 8th seed by 4 games, and their playoff hopes coming into tonight were looking dreary. While a win tonight does keep them in the race, there’s probably not enough time left in the season for them to catch the Indiana Pacers. They’ve blown too many close games and lost to too many bad teams to be in a position to reach the playoffs this season.

But what happened to this Bucks team? They won 46 games last season, good for the East’s 6th best record, and many were even picking Milwaukee to win the Central Division in 2010-2011. They’ve utterly failed to meet expectations of winning 50 games despite adding Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden in the off-season. Injuries have hampered a lot of their regular rotation players, and their opening night starters have missed a combined 125 games. But with improved depth and an expected improvement from sophomore point guard Brandon Jennings, this team was supposed to be a sure-fire playoff competitor.

That hasn’t happened. The Bucks are 31-45 with 6 games left to play, and it has everything to do with their offense. It’s been the least efficient offense in the league this season, scoring just 101.6 points per 100 possessions. Couple that with the fact they play a slow pace and they average just 91.6 points per game. Both their pace and efficiency are significant drop-offs from last season, when they averaged 97.7 ppg and a 104.9 scoring efficiency.

When watching the Bucks, you can get the sense the offense just isn’t working, as it’s primarily based off of isolation plays. Isolations are something that many people have criticized in an NBA offense precisely because they’re not very effective. What’s interesting is that the Bucks’ coach, Scott Skiles, once recorded 30 assists in an NBA game. You would think that he would understand the importance of good ball movement more than most. However, the Bucks’ offense has remained as it was last year, and other teams’ have figured it out.

Another problem Milwaukee faces is playing at a slow pace. Even when their offense gets going (and that doesn’t happen with any regularity), it’s hard for them to build a substantial lead because they don’t take advantage of hot shooting or scoring by speeding up the pace. Instead they’re stuck with their two leading shot-takers both shooting 40% or worse from the field. The Bucks have good players and solid team defense, but they’re utterly misused in the their current offense. Essentially, it’s time to change the offense, and that means Skiles has to go, because this team won’t get better until they really let Brandan Jennings take advantage of his speed up and down the court.

Scores from last night:

Los Angeles Clippers 98, Oklahoma City 92 – A dominant second half gives the Thunder their second road loss in as many nights. Clippers add another impressive win to their resume.

Golden State 99, Dallas 92 – Mavericks drop to 3 games back of Lakers for West’s 2nd seed. Warriors remind fans of “We Believe” playoff series.

Milwaukee 93, Philadelphia 87 (OT) – Bucks remain alive in the East playoff race. Sixers lead over New York for 6th cut to 2 games.

Memphis 106, Minnesota 89 – Grizzlies move to 7th place in the West. Timberwolves losing streak now in double digits.

Chicago 113, Toronto 106 – Bulls win again as Rose puts up MVP stats. Toronto loses their 6th in a row.

Game of the Night:

Dallas @ Portland – Two playoff teams who could eventually meet in the 1st round of the playoffs. Portland is very good at home and Dallas should be desperate for a win after losing their past 2 games. Expect a dog-fight with Portland coming out on top.


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