Game Notes: Wizards at Bucks
With Arenas down, Wizards win.
by Dennis Tarwood
A sloppy slush-filled night outside in Milwaukee Wednesday set the stage for a shabby Bucks (12-15) performance in a 109-97 Washington Wizards (10-17) victory just before the Christmas break for both teams. The snowstorm kept Milwaukee’s crowd home, leaving the true attendance closer to theoretical than the listed 13,113.
Scott Skiles’ young squad jacked up an unconscionable 25 three-pointers, making a mere five. The game only held close due to a plethora of offensive boards for the Bucks created by their flurry of long-range duds.
Before the game, Skiles was reluctant to discuss the effects of the holidays on his team, joking, “I get asked that, but what can I possibly do?… I get a lot of fans (asking), ‘Don’t you tell them to do this? Don’t you tell them to do that?’ It doesn’t mean it does any good.”
Having said that, Skiles emphasized the opportunity left under the Christmas tree for any team that cared to claim it. “This is the time of year that you can steal games…. If you can keep your focus, this is the time you can do some damage.”
Indeed, the Wizards found the adage to be spot on. A 37-27 first quarter enhanced by the Bucks missing all five threes attempted and allowing Gilbert Arenas to log 13 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds made it clear which team was Cindy Lou Who and which one was getting its Grinch on to steal the game.
Brandon Jennings became a non-factor, playing only 16 minutes due to foul trouble. Jennings found himself bolted to the bench immediately after his early first foul on Randy Foye, only escaping long enough to gather his second foul on Arenas. To repeat: Brandon Jennings could not keep Randy Foye in front of him.
With Charlie Bell and Jodie Meeks left to distribute the ball, the Bucks fell on old ways learned during Andrew Bogut’s numerous absences and settled for three balls early in the shot clock with little success.
When Jennings wasted a mere 18 seconds of the second half to rack up his fourth foul, the game seemed settled. But Milwaukee clawed back by missing a ridiculous amount of shots and then making their second shots off offensive rebounds.
The Wizards pulled away in the 4th, though, after Arenas departed with a thigh/hip bruise on his left side after careening into an immovable Australian on a charge call. Earl Boykins filled the Arenas-sized void surprisingly well and closed out with clever drives to the basket and a willingness to swing the ball to the weak side, neither of which the Bucks could solve.
Flip Saunders spoke about the “shot selection” of the Bucks after the game in cloaked terms as if he would prefer to sneak out of town with the win before anyone discovered the bullet hole in the Bucks’ collective foot, crediting his team with strong shooting but better defense, proven out by a 53-36 percent shooting advantage on the night.
As Flip noted, “We sent three guys back off every shot… I did not want them to get open floor opportunities.” This led to only one offensive board for the Wizards but absolute frustration for the Bucks all night.
Arenas didn’t quite know what happened on his final play of the game: “I just know I ran into knees. I just kept thinking, ‘How come I keep getting hit where the pads aren’t?’” Arenas gauged his pain and fatigue levels and chose to sit out the rest of the night. “We hit shots; we got free throws; we got stops. There was no point in my going back in.”
Andrew Bogut was less sanguine: “We’re blowing defensive assignments… what have we played, 27 games, 100 practices… it’s frustrating.”
By the way, Scott Skiles’ teams are 18-22 during the December holidays (12/21-1/1) during his coaching career, setting a .450 pace compared to his career .511 mark. He probably has a few things to say to his team about that in practice No. 101 on Christmas Eve.
* Flip Saunders after the game: “I think guys are playing their roles better.” In totally unrelated news, DeShawn Stevenson was a DNP-CD.
* The Bucks’ entertainment team did a Festivus bit during a time out. Honestly. In 2009.
* The Wiz run through their intros again secretly when the home team is announced. Well, Andray Blatche does. Repeatedly. He runs out to greet his teammates and then scoots back to the bench to do it for the next starter.
* If you are looking for a last-minute gift for Brendan Haywood, consider a tent. He likes camping out a lot, as two defensive three-second violations might suggest.
* If you want to give Scott Skiles a gift, don’t mention where he was two years ago Thursday.