The point guard match-up fizzled. Heck, the game itself had very little sizzle in it. But what’s most important, is that the Bucks pulled out the win in Minnesota Friday night, 87-72. Even more important? For the first time this year the Bucks were not “The Brandon Jennings Show”. Other people scored!
The Bucks did it with defense and yet another strong third quarter performance. Hakim Warrick scored 11 of his 12 points as the Bucks won the third quarter 31-14. Aside from Andrew Bogut, the Bucks had shown little spark before halftime, so Warrick’s strong third was crucial to the Bucks success. Up 12 heading into the fourth, Luke Ridnour scored nine points to keep the Bucks in control for the entire fourth quarter.
While it’s encouraging that the Bucks put some room between themselves and the true bottom feeders of the NBA by picking up the win, it’s still concerning that they’ve yet to put anything close to a full game together. Against the Pistons they used a similar strong third quarter to set themselves up for a win after a poor start. In Chicago, the Bucks came out hot and had an 18 point lead early in the third quarter before wilting down the stretch and blowing a great opportunity. If the Bucks hope to battle for that eighth seed this season, they’ll need to string together four quarters at a time rather than just one or two. Against Minnesota, two quarters will do. Against the Bulls or the Heat or the Hawks? It’s not the recipe for success.
- Andrew Bogut had his best game of the year for the Bucks Friday night, compiling 17 points, ten rebounds, four assists and two blocks. When the Bucks stalled in the first half (which frankly, was the entire first half) Bogut was there for the Bucks. 5-8 in the first half led to a 8-14 line overall on the night for Andrew. Bogut was able to finish fairly consistently most of the evening. He forced the hook shot less than he had in the first couple games and got deeper underneath for layups and tip-ins all night.
- Brandon Jennings had his first semi-clunker of the year in (at least in my house) a highly anticipated match-up with fellow rookie point guard Jonny Flynn. It didn’t seem so much that Flynn was bothering Jennings into his 4-16 shooting performance, but rather the shots that had previously been falling for Jennings were simply not going down. In fact, it was Luke Ridnour and not Jennings on the court down the stretch as the Bucks fought off any run the Wolves tried to put together. This certainly seemed like a situation in which Scott Skiles went with the guy who earned it on the evening and not any sort of “lesson” for Jennings. To his credit, Jennings was very receptive to sitting on the bench as long as the Bucks were winning. He was rooting on Ridnour and jumped off the bench to congratulate him after the win. Jennings finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists (a very fishy three assists: it looked like he had at least five or six).
- We’ve been asking and tonight we received: Jodie Meeks played 19 minutes against the Wolves! How did he do? Not great. Meeks looked noticeably nervous in his first foray into the game, turning the ball over three times in roughly six minutes and bobbling one or two other passes. But as the game went on Meeks did seem to calm down some. He didn’t turn it over again and managed to snag five rebounds and finish with six points, including a breakaway jam. Why do I mention a fairly run of the mill breakaway dunk? Because that is one of the few times this year a Bucks shooting guard has successfully navigated the rough waters of the slam dunk. Mike Redd hurt his knee last time he tried it and Charlie Bell rimmed out his first dunk attempt of the year Friday night. So props to you Jodie Meeks, you can dunk it.
- The Bucks pounded away on the offensive glass against a T’Wolves team looking like they SORELY needed Kevin Love. The Bucks won the rebounding battle 51-38 including 17-8 on the offensive boards. Everyone of Milwaukee’s starters grabbed at least one offensive board, with Bogut leading the charge at four.
- So what happens when two teams that give up a ton more free throws than they shoot meet? 35 total free throws on 156 total shots. My biggest concern coming into the game was that Jonny Flynn was going to pierce the Bucks defense for a boatload of free throw attempts and makes. Well he finished the game with 2-3 from the line. Nothing scary about that.
- The Bucks were only able to score 11 points on 20 Minnesota turnovers, but forcing 20 turnovers will always help push the needle towards victory for the team forcing them. It helped keep Minnesota from developing a rhythm offensively. Being able to force turnovers and limit fouls has been a challenge for the Bucks, but against an undermanned (and underskilled) Minnesota team the Bucks had success.
- What happened to Al Jefferson? He must be feeling effects of his Achilles injury still, because he does not look like the same player he has been in the past. Eight points and eight rebounds was all Jefferson was able to muster. Kudos to Bogut for the strong defensive effort against the Wolves big man. Limiting him had a lot to do with holding the T’Wolves to 39.2% shooting.
The Bucks took care of the four factors Friday night, so it was no wonder they ended up on top.
The Bucks now sit 2-2 heading into a six game home stand that features foes such as the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Bobcats. That’s four wins right? I’m not taking anything for granted, not by any means, but I’m sure the Bucks are thinking along the same lines as me. Teams that want to make any late season noise, even as small a peep as the Bucks may want to make, need to beat the bad teams at home.