MILWAUKEE — There was no confusion as to what the game plan was defensively for the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, they just didn’t execute it.
Doubling the post against the Brooklyn trio of Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, the Bucks failed to rotate out of the double team and left Marcus Thornton open more often than not.
Thornton hit 4 of 7 shots from beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 25 points in Brooklyn’s 107-98 victory over the Bucks in front of 14,081 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"We just did a poor job of coming out of our double teams," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "We didn’t get to rotation a couple of times and left Thornton up top by himself.
"Just too many defensive mistakes. Bad rotations. Going into the game, one of the things we wanted to do was really affect them down on the block."
The Bucks did a good job on the three they focused on, holding Johnson to just seven points, while Pierce and Livingston combined for 26. But Thornton and Andray Blatche (19 points and 13 rebounds) killed Milwaukee off the bench.
Thornton scored 13 points in the second quarter and 12 in the fourth quarter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers after the Bucks had cut the deficit to 89-85 with 5:03 to play.
Just as they did twice in the last week against Indiana, the Bucks hung around a playoff team for most of the game but watched as a couple of bad stretches cost them in a close game. Sessions said these are the type of experiences young teams have to go through.
"That’s one of those teams that has veteran savvy," Sessions said of Brooklyn. "Not to make an excuse, but we’re young. We just have to keep building on those things. We’re right there at the end of those games. Learning to finish games in this league is not easy. A lot of veteran teams don’t do it also, but it’s one of those things we just have to keep learning and building."
Scoring 16 points for the second time in his four games with the Bucks, the veteran point guard got to the line 11 times and made all of his free throws. But Sessions wouldn’t chalk up the failure to executing the defensive game plan to being a young team.
"Those are simple mistakes that we should know about, including myself," Sessions said. "It’s one of those things where we have to get more practices in and don’t let those things be things we let happen. We’re a young team, but there’s no excuse for that. Closing out games is different, but those type of things we should be able to do."
His coach agreed.
"There will be a block where, whether we don’t execute, turn the ball over or just have a breakdown defensively," Drew said. "Then we have those good moments, but we don’t have enough of the moments when the game is on the line.
"You can say it’s because of the youth, but here you are almost 60 games into the season. That excuse is not going to work anymore. We’ve done this enough and been in this situation enough times where we should be a little bit more consistent when we talk about defensive coverages."
Bridgeman returns: Former Bucks guard Junior Bridgeman was on hand Saturday, as the team handed out bobbleheads with his likeness and honored him during a timeout in the fourth quarter.
The timing of his visit was particularly ironic as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday morning that Bridgeman has shown interest in potentially investing in the Bucks with current owner Senator Herb Kohl.
Because he is part of a group with an ownership stake in the Sacramento Kings, Bridgeman couldn’t comment much on the situation in Milwaukee.
"I think the team should stay here," Bridgeman said. "There’s been a lot of dedicated fans over the years. I know they’ve got some issues with a new arena, but hopefully all that will get worked out.
"Because I’m involved with another franchise, they have some rules against those things — so I can’t even touch it without having my tongue cut out."
Reported to be worth over $200 million by Forbes, Bridgeman has made his money as an investor in over 160 Wendy’s restaurants, close to 100 Chili’s restaurants and some Fazoli’s restaurants.
He became involved with the Kings last May through former NBA guard Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento.
"You always hope you make good business decisions but obviously there’s a lot of emotion involved in this one, a lot of heart that would go into it," Bridgeman said of a potential investment in the Bucks. "You just hope that doesn’t lead you to do things that aren’t prudent. Over the next few years some things have to happen but I think it will prove itself out."
Bridgeman also addressed the issues facing the Bucks at this time, including the need for a new arena and a decline in attendance.
"When I look at this team (attendance) is probably one of the things I would be least concerned about," Bridgeman said. "I think back to the old days when we played over in the other building, we had a pretty good team and we sold out every game. I think the fans in Milwaukee have always supported not just the Bucks but the Brewers and everyone.
"I think it’s a matter of going through that lull where you get an exciting, productive product on the floor once again — new arenas bring excitement also — there are some things going on with the league that will help smaller markets and the NBA in general — I think they’re in a good position."
And if the Bucks were ever to leave Milwaukee?
"Shot in the heart," Bridgeman said. "It would be devastating. I’m tied to the history of the game in Milwaukee."