If I told you that the Knicks came out and punched the Bucks in the face early in this game, I don’t think you would believe me. But they did! The Knicks jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the first two minutes.
And then the Bucks went on a 22-2 run. 22-2!
Carlos Delfino hit some threes, Andrew Bogut asserted his will all over the much smaller David Lee and Ersan Ilyasova was running all over the court for rebounds, grabbing every loose ball and setting screens like his life depended on it. The next thing you knew, the Knicks were wilting like a flower and the Bucks had the game in the palm of their hand. The Bucks won the first quarter 40-22 thanks to incredible defense and an unrelenting effort based attack. Remember my cries for help for Brandon Jennings two games ago? The cavalry has arrived. Bogut: 22 points and eight rebounds. Ilyasova: 13 rebounds (six offensive!) to go with six points and loads of tipped balls, charges taken and opposing players annoyed. And in the spirit of saving the best for last, I give you Jodie Meeks: 19 points on 7-11 shooting, including 5-7 from behind the arc. This is where “what we’ve been waiting for” meets “Jodie Meeks arrival as a shooter.” Meeks was 3-3 in the first quarter and at no point showed any signs of the nerves that appeared to bother him previously. Even better, Scott Skiles said before the game that he would keep sticking with Jodie as long as he continued to defend like he had been. A shooter and Skiles-pleasing defender? Thank you second round, you’ve struck again (hopefully).
So. Much. To. Like.
- The Bucks crushed the Knickerbockers on the offensive boards, 15-6. On one fourth quarter possession alone, the Bucks grabbed four offensive rebounds … while they were up 24! That kind of effort in that kind of situation is a sight to behold for Bucks fans.
- The Bucks shot 46.6% overall and 33% from behind the arc. Meeks led the charge, but after him the Bucks did struggle a bit again from three point territory. Delfino hit two early, but missed on his next four. Jennings missed the two threes he attempted, but it’s hard to complain when Meeks goes 5-7 in his second game with extended minutes. As long as he’s hitting, or anyone for that matter, lanes will be opened up for Brandon Jennings and that big Australian guy who operates underneath.
- About that guy, he hit 8-14 shots and even went a perfect 6-6 from the stripe. Eight rebounds and four assists to go with 22 points makes everyone forget about Bogut’s struggles in his firs two games this year. Bogut has declared himself 100% back physically and it’s certainly looking like it on the court. He’s taken at least four charges in the last two games alone and bounced up every time with glee.
- Jennings had another nice scoring game (17 points) but even more important got the crowd into it early with a nifty moves and thrilling passes that led to easy buckets. Some people had no idea the Bradley Center could get as loud as it did at times in the first quarter. And at the end the of the first the fans gave the home team a standing ovation in respect of their first quarter man-handling of the Knicks. An impressive job by the 15,486 (though I’d guess it was less than that) on hand.
- 27 points off 17 Knick turnovers is a great place to start. The Bucks were harassing the Knicks early and capitalizing on each opportunity. At times the Bucks didn’t even have to do much. Once the Knicks got down they started to get lazy and were throwing passes to guys who weren’t looking. Twice a Knick passed to a teammate not paying attention and each time the ball bounced off the player and into the hands of a waiting Buck. That’s capitalizing on a team that’s mentally not prepared (or not interested) in playing basketball. As soon as the Bucks made it clear that their defense wasn’t going to allow anything easy for the Knicks, New York pretty much rolled over.
- The Bucks DOMINATED the boards 54-34 while limiting the Knicks to just 17 free throw attempts. Seriously, the Bucks were grabbing defensive rebounds with such ferocity and certainty that I worried for the safety of the basketball. Any time the Bucks are able to clean the glass and avoid racking up too many fouls, they are going to be awfully tough to beat (well, as long as their offense shoots over 40%). Second chance points have been a problem for the Bucks in the past, but by no means was it an issue tonight. But not every team is going to start Danilo Gallinari at the power forward spot.
- The Bucks have yet to allow 100 points this season and are the only team in the league that can make that claim. The Bucks ranked first in the league in defensive rating coming into this one and only improved on their efforts. To be fair this was almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Chris Duhon has not successfully converted on a field goal in his last nearly 70 minutes (67 minutes and 25 seconds … roughly) on the court. “The Streak” spans three games! This is the Knicks starting point guard!
- This was a battle of one of the finest offensive minds in the league in Mike D’Antoni vs. the gritty defensive mind of Scott Skiles. Skiles clearly got the upper hand, but in defense of D’Antoni, he has a lot less to work with offensively than Skiles does defensively. Offense is more than just a matter of effort, but I will say the Knicks offered very little of that in this one.
The Four Factors
The Bucks were able to make up for their slight disadvantage in turnovers (20-17 in favor of the Knicks) by limiting Knick points off turnovers (15 compared to 27 for Milwaukee) and dominating the offensive glass. Combine that with their stellar effective shooting percentage and it’s easy to see why this one was all Bucks.
Not every game is going to be against the Knicks, but the ones that are have to be wins for the Bucks. Saturday night was simply a matter of taking care of business against a team that shouldn’t have been able to handle the Bucks defensive intensity and that’s exactly what the Bucks did. Took care of business. While it may seem like it’s been forever since the Bucks last had a winning record, I warn you that last season the Bucks started out 3-2. Eerily familiar, no? The difference was that the Bucks followed that with three games against Boston, Phoenix and Cleveland.
This year? Denver, Golden State and Dallas. All at home and followed by New Jersey and Charlotte. Opportunity is knocking fervently at the Bucks door and if this performance is any indication, they’ll be answering.