Posts Tagged ‘Scott Skiles’

Bucks’ Dream Comeback Is Bulls’ Nightmare Collapse

CHICAGO – Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee Bucks guard-turned-broadcaster, got stopped courtside the last time his team played at Madison Square Garden. It was Spike Lee, the hardcore Knicks fan and occasional movie director, tugging on McGlocklin’s arm.

“He said ‘Jon, I want to talk to you about that game!’ ” McGlocklin recalled Monday night in the bowels of United Center. “I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I told him, ‘Aaargh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ ”

The game in question: New York’s comeback from an 86-68 deficit deep into the fourth quarter, convulsed into an 87-86 victory when the Knicks scored the final 19 points on the night of Nov. 18, 1972. Pulled off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the rest, it generally is considered the most famous regular-season NBA game in Knicks history, ranking right behind the two championship clinchers for lifelong fans like Lee.

McGlocklin recalled it anew Monday, after the Bucks wound up on the other side of something equally improbable: A comeback from 27 points down deep in the third quarter, 78-51, engineered by an all-bench crew that outscored the Bulls 42-14 over the final 14:29. On the road. With McGlocklin there to flash back.

“You’re flailing around like in a dream,” he said of his Bucks way back when and the Bulls just moments — nightmarish moments — earlier. “You can’t quite reach the ball. You try to take a step, and it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

That was the Chicago side of things Monday, as the Bulls starters saw what had been a cushy lead cut to 17 points by the start of the third quarter. Then — whoosh! — to 10, 80-70, just 96 seconds into the fourth on Beno Udrih‘s 3-pointer. Another Bulls turnover, a run-out dunk by Ekpe Udoh and it was 80-74.

A jumper by little-used rookie Doron Lamb, whose defense on Rip Hamilton was equally important; A 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova, moved to the bench after 11 starts as coach Scott Skiles searched to spark him; And another one from the arc, this one by Mike Dunleavy, after Chicago let a defensive rebound bounce and wind up back in the Bucks’ hands.

That made it 82-82 with seven minutes left. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau already knew what was coming.

“In an NBA game, you can lose 10 points in a minute,” Thibodeau said, his sideline growling over for the night. “Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but I see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with the lead, this is what happens.”

Said Dunleavy: “When it was 27, it was like, ‘This is almost physically impossible.’ But when we got it to [17] at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ ”

Chicago had gone through something like this three years ago, when Sacramento came from 35 points back to win at the UC. Even though Udrih was a part of that epic comeback, few of the Bucks could recall being involved in something similar — and so satisfying.

“I was in a game once with Phoenix where we came back from 27 down, I believe it was to start the fourth,” Skiles said. “It was at Miami and [Dan] Majerle hit a 3 for Miami with like 50 seconds left. We came all the way back but got beat. … You know, this doesn’t happen that much. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to play perfectly, and then you need some help from the other team. Kind of both things happened for us tonight.”

Several things, frankly, happened for the Bucks Monday. They put behind them the sour memories of their loss Saturday to Chicago, a game in which they got pounded on the boards while Skiles played bigs Samuel Dalembert, John Henson and Drew Gooden a total of 1:18.

They got a performance for the ages from the bench crew, outscoring their Chicago counterparts 56-10. They shook off the rust or whatever it was hindering Ilyasova’s game since his return from free agency. His fourth quarter — 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block — seemed better than his first 47 quarters this season combined.

“There’s a little bit better flow with that unit,” Dunleavy said. “That probably enabled him to relax a little bit — make his shots, make his plays. It didn’t feel like he was having to find his way as much.”

In other words — ahem — that dynamic offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, which does tend to dominate the basketball, was nowhere to be found over the final 15:26 as Skiles swapped subs for starters. Ilyasova found some rhythm, while Lamb was more active than any of the other Milwaukee defenders against Hamilton, who had his best night as a Bulls player but missed a 10-footer in the lane as time expired.

“[Ilyasova] is new to it, but that group plays together every day in practice and we more than hold our own,” Dunleavy said. “We know how to play. We share the ball. Whoever’s open takes the shot. That’s how you beat a good defensive team like this.”

After four consecutive defeats that Milwaukee felt it could have, maybe even should have, won — tight ones to Boston and at Charlotte, an overtime loss at Miami and the first Bulls clash, a one-possession until the final half-minute — it tucked one away Monday that it had no business winning.

No business, but more than a little fun.

Bulls Have No Go-To Scorer? Better Go To Offensive Boards





MILWAUKEE – When a team doesn’t have its go-to scorer, it needs something to go to down the stretch. In the case of the Chicago Bulls, that means having guys go to the offensive glass.

When the Bulls beat Milwaukee Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, they shot just 39 percent (32 of 82) compared to the Bucks’ 43.2. They had 16 turnovers worth 15 points to Milwaukee compared to 10 and 7 by the home team. Yet Chicago beat the Bucks with some Chinese water torture – they made 25 of their 26 free throws vs. Milwaukee’s 7 of 10 – and by dominating them inside for second opportunities. And third. And fourth.

Bulls’ offensive rebounding
Season OREB% Rank 2CPTS% Rank
2010-11 29.4% 4 15.2% 3
2011-12 32.6% 1 16.4% 1
2012-13 30.5% 6 16.2% 3

Through Saturday, 11/24
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive
rebounds obtained
2CPTS% = 2nd chance points / Total points

The Bulls outrebounded the Bucks 54-40, including a 20-10 edge on the offensive end. Seven of those came in the fourth quarter and most of those came in the final minutes, when Chicago broke an 81-81 tie with a 12-5 run over the final 5:22.

It was a statistical edge and a psychological bonanza, as the Bucks had to stay in and reset their defense for a half minute, sometimes a minute at a time. The Bulls shot a lousy 31.8 percent (7 of 22) in the quarter, same as the other guys, but got eight second-chance points. They dominated that category, 25-5, even more starkly than the boards.

“There’s a lot of things that can break you,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you can block out great and the ball takes a funny bounce, you don’t get it. Or maybe it’s a result of, you get broken down off the dribble, you get help, rotation, now the ball’s up…

“So offensive rebounding. Defensive transition can break your spirit too. Those things reveal a lot. It tells a lot about the character of your team. People talk a lot about fast breaks, but the second shot is another part of easy baskets.”

By the second shot, a defense might already be broken down. By the third or fourth, a backup screen-setter can seem as dangerous as a missing MVP candidate named Derrick Rose.

For Milwaukee, it was starting center Samuel Dalembert who was missing. He was a late scratch prior to tipoff, with whispers that he might have arrived late to the arena, though coach Scott Skiles called it simply a “coaching decision.” Then there was rookie power forward John Henson, who had grabbed 18 rebounds off the bench in 27 minutes Wednesday at Miami. Henson logged only 1:18 vs. Chicago.

Mostly, though, it was the Bulls’ relentless work at chasing down their own misses that left Milwaukee in shambles late, as surely as if the guy in the No. 1 jersey had been doing the attacking. The Bulls rank fifth in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (30.5). And this is despite the loss this season of backup center Omer Asik, whom NBA.com’s John Schuhmann shared had an offensive rebounding percentage of 14.2 over the past two seasons, best on his team.

“[Getting beat on the offensive boards has] happened to us before,” said Chicago forward Carlos Boozer, who got eight of his 19 rebounds on the offensive glass. “It’s kind of demoralizing, especially when you’ve played good defense for 22, 20 seconds. The shot goes up – they get the ball back! That’s tough.

“The more you go, the more you get.”

Ilyasova Still Searching For His Game

In spite of can be a good thing, if the outcomes are happy even when the inputs are sad. And for a while, the Milwaukee Bucks were doing just fine in spite of Ersan Ilyasova.

But Milwaukee’s 6-2 start was turned into a 6-4 mark after road losses this week at Charlotte and at Miami. Now the Bucks face a home-and-home test against their Central Division rivals, the Chicago Bulls. And Ilyasova is running out of cover, it not quite time.

He was, after all, a big-expenditure guy for a team that doesn’t make big expenditures readily. Milwaukee re-signed Ilyasova when he hit free agency, committing to the 6-foot-9 forward in a five-year, $40 million deal. It was based as much on potential as performance, earned by what Ilyasova did last season (enough of a bump in scoring, rebounding and 3-point accuracy to finish second in Most Improved balloting) and by the promise that held with him in a bigger role.

Trouble is, Ilyasova’s role so far in 2012-13 is smaller, not bigger. His impact is too, according to Charles F. Gardner’s story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Ilyasova’s numbers are way down across the board through the first 10 games, all as a starter. He is shooting 31.3% overall and just 25% from three-point range and 42.9% on his free throws. He is playing 22.5 minutes per game and averaging 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

In 60 games last season he played 27.6 minutes per game and averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2% overall.

“The main thing is I can’t find my rhythm yet,” Ilyasova said. “We’ve got a lot of big guys. Coach has tried a lot of rotations. It’s not the same as it was last year.

“We had just three or four guys last year and we knew our minutes. It was kind of stable.”

The Bucks, particularly coach Scott Skiles, aren’t about to apologize for stiffer competition up front. They were seriously undermanned last season after center Andrew Bogut got hurt in January and traded in March, and with added size have boosted their rebounding and shot-blocking production. Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson have pushed Drew Gooden, the veteran thrown into duty at center in Bogut’s absence, completely to the bench. Meanwhile, Ilyasova shooting and bouts of tentativeness have him spending more time there, too.

It’s early still, and Ilyasova – never the most forceful at asserting himself – might grow his game with a few encouraging stats lines. For the moment, though, he is in that funky class of player such as Chicago’s Carlos Boozer and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (to name only two) who gets paid more yet produces less. The season unspools too quickly to wait around for guys like that, and even when their coaches seem to forget about them, their team’s fans generally don’t.

And if the team falters, in spite of can become an ugly because of rather quickly.

Guy Behind East’s Player Of Week? Bucks’ Dunleavy





Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings was named Monday 2012-13’s first winner of the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. Which probably doesn’t happen without his buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left against Cleveland Saturday. Which definitely doesn’t happen without teammate Mike Dunleavy’s pinpoint inbounds pass to Jennings near the top of the arc.

So how ’bout a little credit?

“I’ve thrown a few of those in my career,” Dunleavy said, laughing, Monday after Bucks practice and treatment. “It’s about 10 percent of the work. The other 90 percent is the guy making the shot. It was kind of him to put it in. I was just standing there out of bounds, kind of mesmerized.”

Jennings’ numbers to earn POW: 17.0 points, 13.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in Milwaukee’s 2-0 start. But take a look at Dunleavy’s: 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 70.6 percent from the field and 87.5 percent (7-of-8) from the arc. Against the Cavs, he had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

His PER, as a measure of overall efficiency: 34.2. Jennings? 28.5. The average NBA player checks in at 15.0.

Two games is a puny sample size. Multiply it by 41 before we start talking of Dunleavy’s across-the-board numbers in the same terms of Larry Bird‘s or Kevin Garnett‘s. His offensive rating of 149.9 — an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com — is crazy good. Heading into Monday’s games, it was third-highest in the league, behind Minnesota’s J.J. Barea (156.3) and Miami’s Ray Allen (149.9). (more…)

Bucks’ ‘Young Money’ All Grown Up?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a player whose name alone stirred as much debate as it did four years ago, it’s stunning how silent folks are now that Brandon Jennings is seemingly all grown up (or at least well on his way).

All of the critics who questioned his motives and at-the-time controversial decision to skip college for a year, instead pursuing his professional hoop dream in Italy, have disappeared. It’s been a steady climb for Jennings, who has done nothing but improve his game year after year, from a rough start in Italy to being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the next year, to now.

Has he grown enough on and off the court for the Bucks to cement his future in Milwaukee with a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline? That remains to be seen.

But with days left before a decision has to be made, Jennings would become a restricted free agent at the end of this season if there is no extension, the topic is on the minds of some. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times raised the question to Jennings, who has more pressing matters on his mind these days, namely making sure he and backcourtmate Monta Ellis return the Bucks to the playoffs:

Jennings has repeatedly said he’s content in Milwaukee and would welcome being with the Bucks for the long haul. Signing an extension would virtually assure that.

But Jennings said he isn’t the least bit worried if an extension can’t be worked out.

Asked if his contract situation was weighing on his mind, Jennings said, “No, because at the end of the day, everything will work out. All I can do is go between the lines and play basketball every day.’’

(more…)

Pressure Growing For Jennings, Bucks

HANG TIME, TEXAS – Coming off their impressive run to the NBA championship, LeBron James and his Heat teammates are undoubtedly in the firing line with every team from Oklahoma City to New Jersey to a pair of them in Los Angeles taking aim at that title.

The Lakers, reloaded and rejuvenated with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, are back in their familiar place in the spotlight.

The Knicks, as usual, are in the glare of the media capital and once more under the unrealistic and misguided notion that they can turn the clock back to 1973.

But as we tiptoe through the calendar toward the opening of training camps, there might not be a team sitting collectively in the heat of the frying pan as the Bucks.

Consider that point guard Brandon Jennings has not yet signed a contract extension, while coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond are also entering the final year of their contracts.

None of those facts have gone unnoticed on a team that has missed the playoffs the past two years, as Jennings noted to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“To be honest, I think everybody is (feeling pressure),” Jennings said. “We’re all on the bubble right now,  because we need to win. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on all of us, not just the coaching staff or the GM. We all know this could be it so we need to turn it around right now.” (more…)

A Dramatic Change From The Bucks





NEW YORK – In one of the most important games of the season, the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks combined for 43 turnovers and 36 percent shooting. It was a gruesome display, and somewhat emblematic of this crazy and often ugly season. It was not, however, emblematic of the way the Bucks have played this year.

Really, these are not the win-ugly, lose-ugly Bucks that we’ve come to know and love over the last couple of years. Yes, Scott Skiles is still the coach. But this year, his team isn’t very good defensively. It’s getting by mostly with offense. Hard to believe, I know.

Bucks efficiency under Scott Skiles

Season W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2008-09 34 48 95.2 11 103.8 23 104.9 15 -1.2 19
2009-10 46 36 94.0 21 102.0 23 100.9 3 +1.0 15
2010-11 35 47 92.1 25 99.0 30 99.9 4 -1.0 17
2011-12 22 27 95.8 6 101.7 17 103.0 20 -1.3 22

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

No team has increased its pace from last season more than the Bucks. No team has improved more offensively. And no team has regressed more defensively.

(more…)

Blogtable: Most Impactful Recent Trade

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Not counting Dwight staying in Orlando, what recent move at the trade deadline will make the most difference this year?

Steve Aschburner: Milwaukee adding Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh. The Bucks already were rolling, winning four in a row before adding the two Golden State acquisitions to their rotation, but now they’ve made it six. That infusion of talent where there was none – Andrew Bogut was forever in the trainers room, Stephen Jackson in the doghouse – and what coach Scott Skiles will do with it over the final month trumps, for me, a temporary Woodsonity bump in New York. One caveat: Milwaukee had better start playing defense not just like a Skiles team but like a playoff team, period. And that won’t be easy with an Ellis-Brandon Jennings backcourt.

Fran Blinebury: It certainly didn’t make a lot of coast-to-coast headlines, but the Spurs pulling the wild and crazy Stephen Jackson back into the fold gives them another scorer and makes them a tougher out in the playoffs.  Coach Gregg Popovich would much rather deal with Capt. Jack’s idiosyncrasies than Richard Jefferson‘s disappearing act.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Stephen Jackson will be a boost, in energy and play, to the Spurs. And he will not be a problem, not going back to an organization he loved being part of before and not being reunited with a coach he respects. Plus, San Antonio will save about $11 million in the deal, at the cost of a first-round pick that will probably be in the 20s. (more…)

Let The Trade Deadline Madness Begin





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks kicked off this trade deadline season with a bang, agreeing tonight on a five-player deal that will send guard Monta Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut and guard Stephen Jackson. The deal, first reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, was also confirmed by TNT’s David Aldridge

If the magnitude of this first move is any indication — Bogut was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Draft, Ellis is one of the league’s top scorers and Jackson, despite his issues with Bucks coach Scott Skiles, remains one of the league’s most dynamic backcourt performers when he’s playing in an environment he likes — we could be in for a wild ride the next 24 hours.

Ellis has been the subject of trade rumors in Golden State for the past three seasons, with the reasoning being as nuanced as his game. Bottom line, just like Bogut and Jackson (who had expressed their own desires to be shipped out of Milwaukee from whatever restrictions they felt Skiles’ system placed upon their respective games), Ellis is being moved at his own behest.

The only problem? You can bet Ellis didn’t have the Bucks at the top of his list, not with the chatter about him joining Dwight Howard in Orlando heating up in recent days. The addition of Ellis also raises questions about Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, whose name has also surfaced in trade rumors in the past few weeks. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that the Bucks don’t have any plans on moving Jennings, which should make some chemistry issues down the stretch this season for Skiles with an Ellis-Jennings backcourt.

Jackson presented a unique set of challenges, same as he always has for whoever is coaching him. A backcourt with two offensive-minded guys like Ellis and Jennings should be as exciting as any combo in the league, but will they defend the way Skiles demands?

We’ve got it covered for you from every angle …

(more…)

Trade Chatter: Trying To Make Sense Of The Annual Trade Deadline Mess





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’re getting close to crunch time, trade deadline style.

The amount of faulty information that permeates every corner of the basketball universe this time of year is off the charts and has been known to infect even the most responsible of observers.

And that means more names, more rumors and in turn, more foolishness for us all to sort through.

Hawks forward Josh Smith was added to the list of players that have gone on record as asking for a trade request, joining his good friend and the best man in his wedding, Dwight Howard (he was last season destroying the Chicago Bulls on TNT last night). Another member of Smith’s wedding party, groomsman Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, has also seen his name surface, disappear and resurface again in trade talks at least a dozen different times this season.

This notion that Smith and Rondo could be swapped for each other is laughable, when you consider that they played together their senior season at Oak Hill Academy and have been tight ever since. If anything, it makes sense for them to be lobbying to play together (in Boston?) as opposed to being traded for one another.

But that’s just more fuel for the trade-deadline rumor fire.

One thing is clear, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard probably won’t be teammates anywhere else but All-Star weekend (provided Howard remains in the Eastern Conference) and at the Olympics.

They both expressed their opinions on the trade deadline drama. Rose has had enough of it all, by the way, telling the Chicago Tribune:

“It definitely is getting old,” Rose said of being asked about Howard. “I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Chicago, marketing-wise is a great city. If someone chooses to come here, they definitely could.

“But I’m cool with the teammates I have. We have a winning record. It ain’t like we need to change anything. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the front office.”

There are zero indications Howard will add the Bulls to his list of teams with which he would sign an extension or that the Bulls are pursuing him.

“If it’s not about the Bulls, I really couldn’t care less about it,” Rose said.

Howard sounded off as well, citing the weather and other issues as to why Chicago isn’t on his preferred list, telling the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Nah, it’s pretty cold here,’’ Howard said when asked about the Bulls rumors.

Nothing says warrior-poet like a player who doesn’t want to chase a ring because of lake-effect snow.

As far as playing alongside the league’s 2010-11 MVP, Howard again couldn’t help but let his true colors shine through.

“I don’t think there’s a player in the NBA who wants to be a nobody,’’ Howard said. “I think everybody wants to be that guy to take the last shot, be that guy that everybody is leaning on for whatever reason, and I don’t think there’s any problem with wanting to be that guy. I’ve been that guy for this team since I’ve been here.’’

Well, that takes care of that!

(more…)