That waiting game just happened to involve a 104 – 77 beat down last night to the Indiana Pacers, an undefeated team with hardly a dent in their armor. The 9 – 0 Pacers had a full complement of players at their disposal, save for forward Danny Granger and his strained calf, of which Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said, “We’re not going to rush it. There’s no need to rush it.”
Why should they?
The Bucks,on the other hand, cannot afford to wait much longer. Going into Friday night’s game at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, the Bucks (2-6) had eight players listed on their injury report, the most recent addition being Rasual Butler, who injured a shoulder against the Magic two nights ago. Butler was averaging 14.2 points over the last five games before exiting against the Magic.
Those 14 points wouldn’t have won the game Friday, but the absence of Butler and five other players is having a serious impact on head coach Larry Drew being able to establish an identity with his team.
“We are trying to improve as a team. (We have) A lot of new faces, a lot of young faces,” Drew said prior to the game. “We’ve had to move people around because of injuries.”
Even with eight players designated as injured, Wells was forced to put two of them on the court. Forward Zaza Pachulia was questionable with a sore right foot but played for almost 25 minutes. However that 25 minutes didn’t produce much offensively, as the native of the country Georgia was 2 of 14 from the field for four points, while managing to lead the team in rebounds with 11, 10 of which came in the first half.
“I hate to mention (injuries). It sounds like an excuse and I don’t want to bring excuses here. But this is a reality,” Pachulia said. “It’s just hard—hard for all of us. Coaches and players alike. Injuries are part of the game, but the one thing we have to concentrate on is playing hard and playing smart and having our identity and chemistry.”
The other walking wounded was guard Luke Ridnour, playing in his first game of the season after missing the first seven with back spasms. Though listed as doubtful, the 11-year veteran took to the court for 21 minutes, but produced just four points and committed one turnover.
“Everyone has come out and competed. Everyone has played hard, no matter how many guys we’ve had,” Ridnour said. “I think when we get healthy and get in rhythm, we’re going to be alright.”
The Bucks’ patchwork team was not lost on Vogel.
“Gotta to give credit to Milwaukee for putting up a really good fight, obviously in an undermanned situation with so many guys out,” Vogel said. “A few those guys shouldn’t even have been playing.”
While saying the Bucks “put up a really good fight” might be an overstatement, the Bucks did become the first team this season to outscore the Pacers in the third quarter, with Milwaukee scoring 24 to Indiana’s 23. Leading the Bucks in the third was guard O.J. Mayo with seven of his 20 points. Mayo carried the Bucks’ only real badge of honor so far this season, the three-pointer, by going 3 of 5 from the behind the arch and will all three made shots coming in the first half.
Only two players had started more than five games before Friday, a lack of player consistency for the Bucks that has put Drew, in his first year with the Bucks, in a dire situation.
“It does not discourage me from coming in and trying to do the job I have to do. When you talk about dealing with adversity, it can do one of two things to you. It can either deplete you or it can take your team to another level,” Drew said. “From a stand point of teaching these guys how to deal with adversity, we’re very early in the season.”
Drew compared the Bucks opening stretch of the season to being “kind of a chess match.”
A chess match can be a waiting game and that game continues for the Bucks tonight as they finally return home after three-straight away games to host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder (5 -3), led by Kevin Durant, will go into Milwaukee riding a two-game losing streak after narrowly falling to Golden State on Thursday, 116-115.