Wednesday’s loss against the Clippers offered a distillation of the Bucks team that has persisted into the Prunty era: largely scoring with ease but not enough, squandering transition chances with poor decision making, and giving up all the wrong shots. The Clippers are a team tailor-made to make the Bucks look bad with how they run their offense paired with personnel. They have quick guards, a monster rebounding and rim-rolling center, and they run a lot of pick-and-rolls. With the exception of Bledsoe’s combination of strength and speed, Bucks guards are wholly incapable of fighting over a screen to stick with ball handlers, especially when they are so visibly outclassed in terms of quickness. The Clippers could instantly collapse the defense by running their meat and potatoes DJ high ball screen, forcing Henson to cover two in the paint and a weak-side defender to leave a shooter to tag DJ or hack at his arms. The Bucks really had no answer and continued to give up threes and paint points. The number of times Austin Rivers shook our guards with isolation dribble moves hurt my feelings.
Grim Snapshot of Bucks’ Issues
I was among those who believed a conservative defensive change was in the air when Prunty took over, and the first dozen games or so bore that out. However, it became clear that when the Bucks were again challenged by superior opponents, they–either by design or by trained instinct–fell into old aggressive ways.
They were gambling on steals or doubling in the post (often from one pass away) which led to predictable disaster, and fans could almost hear the old rationale for this manic set of principles. Jason Kidd’s brain parasite told him that with our length and ranginess, the resulting offensive efficiency of live ball turnovers would cancel out those rare capitalizations on our over-helping and gap-shooting. It might make some sense given our individual transition talent between Bledsoe, Giannis, and Jabari but it would help if anyone besides Jason Terry consistently knew how to make passes in transition. Whether it’s Giannis or Khris throwing passes far over the head of the outlet man, Jabari tossing a hook pass to Henson at midcourt, or one of our transition playmakers getting into the paint to find two teammates within arm’s length, the execution outside of a one-man show is atrocious (that is not mentioning whenever Bledsoe wants to pinball an entire transition defense by himself instead of looking for a pass out).
The Bucks schematic issues on both sides of the ball aside, winning at the margins is how games like this turn from losses to victories. The roster makeup composed of guards with minus speed and a dumpster fire of a center rotation presents some intractable problems in a league where high pick-and-rolls are the default way to break a defense down that tinkering and a coaching change can’t fully fix. But, as is often the case, the Bucks are doing little to help themselves.
By: Daniel Gaenslen