Many of you are aware I was born and raised in Milwaukee. (The Good Land!) Many of you are also aware there is a shiny new Forum that the Milwaukee Bucks began playing in this season. What none of you know is, I haven’t been able to attend a game at the Fiserv Forum. Shameful, I know. That all changed this past Saturday, as I made my Forum debut to take in the Bucks versus Charlotte Hornets game. The first leg of a back-to-back weekend for the Bucks.
The Fiserv Forum is everything I dreamed of and then some, as a child taking in games from the nose bleeds of the Bradley Center. (Have to admit, I was a little teary eyed seeing the half demolished BC on my way into Fiserv. ) Everything was a fan pleasing experience. The ambiance, the food, the production, and the team. Let’s get to the game shall we?
I got vibes of Jason Kidd (*shudders*) early in this game. Bucks were down double digits to the 10th place Hornets. (Who have been a thorn in the side of the Deer.) Old habits showed up, causing me to damn near lose my voice in the first half. (I eventually did for a little bit the next day. I won’t miss any time though.) Bucks did not close out on three point shooters and got lit up for it. Head coach Mike Budenholzer’s rotation also brought back some traumatic memories of the Kidd era. Despite a vastly improved DJ Wilson, Bud sticks with Ersan Ilyasova. A move that did more harm than good especially in the critical early parts of the game when the Bucks needed to climb out of the hole they created.
The second half saw Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo take over the game. Milwaukee climbed out of a first half hole and beat the Hornets, 131-114. (1-0 in the Fiserv Forum for me!) Bucks clinched their 50th win of the season (First 50 win campaign since 2000-01.) and you’ll take it, but there was just as much to dislike as there was to like about it. Certain trends popped up.
Fast forward to Sunday night in San Antonio, the other half of the back-to-back weekend. The first quarter was great. Bucks jumped out to a 15 point lead. Then, the rest of the game happened. Once again the inability to close out on three point shooters had the Bucks paying dearly. (Spurs shoot nearly 40% as a team from deep. Last thing they need is help from a lackadaisical defense.) The end result was a 121-114 loss for Milwaukee. Coach Bud’s rotation continued be, let’s say, Kidd-esque. (*shudders*) His commitment to having newly acquired Pau Gasol on the floor didn’t lose the Bucks the game, but it didn’t win it for them either. Not to mention his explanation for it after the game left a lot to the imagination.
This weekend showed me two things: The first being, the Bucks are grinding. The weekend started with a win and ended with a loss. News Flash: Back-to-backs are hard. Especially this late in the season, with injuries, new players, and returning players. The Bucks’ first rated defense has struggled since the All-Star break. (George Hill’s injury attributes a little to this, but the entire team isn’t quite giving their best defensive effort right now.) Despite the struggles, Bucks are still rated first in defensive efficiency. (104.7) It appears to be more labored than it was before the break. Again, we are in the grind point of the season.
The second thing is: Coach Bud has a funny view on the long-term vision for this squad. Funny, depending on what your idea of humor is. Staying with Ilaysova and Gasol in critical moments of these games frustrates Bucks fans. (Dark Bucks Twitter in particular. *shudders*) He’s playing one guy that probably shouldn’t be a mainstay in the rotation, to rest another guy who shouldn’t be a mainstay in the rotation. Frustrating but, you still have to Bud. What he’s done has worked to the tune of the best record in the NBA and the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. I have faith this rotation will be ironed by playoff time. (Just think to seasons past and be grateful for the problem of having a deep roster.)
It’s a late season loss, on the second leg of a back-to-back, against a Western Conference team. It means nothing as far as standings go. Bucks are still first in the East, with a friendly schedule and players returning from injury soon. This loss is not something to panic about. The rotations and lack of defense is certainly eye-opening, though. It is something I will be watching.
There are 15 games remaining, it’s grind time. No sense in losing your head over a late season loss that has no bearing on the playoff future. Pay attention to what matters on the court, not the superficial final score.