Bucks have been consistently inconsistent
MILWAUKEE – There were very few smiles in the Milwaukee Bucks' locker room Tuesday night.
A 105-95 loss to Denver, Milwaukee's first home loss this season, left the Bucks with a 4-9 record and a bitter taste in their mouths. The Bucks have dropped three in a row and eight of their last 10 games.
Up until Tuesday, the question was: How could the Bucks be so good at home and so bad on the road? Before the game, head coach Scott Skiles pointed to the extreme differential in the team's home and road splits. Milwaukee was shooting 49 percent from the field at home and was connecting at a 42 percent clip from three-point range while averaging 102 points in its home contests.
On the road, those numbers dipped considerably, especially the Bucks' average of 86 points per game.
"We're two completely different teams," Skiles said. "We have a plus-nine scoring differential at home and negative-10 on the road. That's a 19-point swing. We have to figure out what we're doing when we leave Milwaukee."
But the Bucks' performance against Denver may have exposed some bigger flaws. Skiles, as much as anyone, would like to know just what is going on with his team.
“We're not close to really understanding how hard we need to play and how hard we have to compete and pay attention to detail," Skiles said. "A whole bunch of things like that. We're trying to get to the bottom of it."
There is plenty to evaluate.
Offense continues to be a problem for Milwaukee. Tuesday, the Bucks played from a deep deficit most of the game and because of that seemed to panic at times, putting up contested or forced shots.
The growing concern, though, is coming on defense. Long a hallmark of Skiles-coached teams, Milwaukee's defense has been slipping in recent games. The Bucks are 22nd in the league, allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the field. Bucks opponents are hitting their three-pointers 35 percent of the time, good for 19th in the league.
"We just ain't playing well," said frustrated shooting guard Stephen Jackson. "We don't have an identity right now. We really don't know where to be on offense."
Jackson played just 17 minutes against Denver and spent the entire second half on the bench, along with center Andrew Bogut. The two combined for just four points on 1-of-11 shooting before being pulled from the game, a move that Skiles said was a result of what he thought was fatigue on their parts.
"We just tried to get some energy into the game," Skiles said. "I thought he was better in the second half. But we're just looking for any lineup to junk the game up a little bit, see if we can't get some fresh bodies in there."
The Bucks return to the practice court Thursday in the hopes of finding some answers before visiting the New York Knicks on Friday and the Miami Heat on Sunday.
Mbah a Moute ready to return: Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute didn't play Tuesday but he has been cleared to return to action.
The forward has missed 11 games due to tendinitis in his right knee and hasn't played since the Bucks' loss at Utah on Jan. 3. During that stretch, Mbah a Moute hasn't been able to practice either, so while he's available, how useful he will be in the immediate future is up in the air.
"I don't have a great comfort level when he hasn't done anything," Skiles said. "He hasn't been with the team; he hasn't practiced."
In two games this season, Mbah a Moute has played just 34 minutes and has eight points with eight rebounds.