The way things have gone this year it seems like we’re going to have to stop expecting anything to have an effect on Brandon Jennings. He’ll struggle out of the gate adjusting to the NBA. Nope. Michael Redd is out, Jennings won’t be able to take on much more of an offensive role, will he? Yes he will. Andrew Bogut went down? Jennings should struggle now that his two best teammates are out, one being his pick and roll partner, right? Nah. At this point, I’d expect him to put up 20 points on a court constructed purely out of kryptonite.
The kid just keeps topping himself and upping his own ante. Without his two best teammates and in his first game without Andrew Bogut Jennings was his typical (crazy I’m already saying this is typical, isn’t it?) self in scoring 29 points and contributing seven assists to only two turnovers. His impact was clear right off the bat.
In the last three games, to say the Bucks have come out of the gate sluggish has been very kind. They’ve stunk it up defensively in first quarters since the Knicks left town. Coincidentally (or not?) Jennings hasn’t been able to get his offense going until the second half of each of those games. On a night when the Bucks were missing their two best defenders (Bogut and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) one might have thought it would be safe to assume the Bucks defense would struggle mightily in the first quarter again.
It wasn’t the stingiest effort, but the Bucks played with a vigor not seen in the past few effort. Naturally, Jennings opened the game with 17 points in the first period. The way the team’s defense fed off his hot shooting on offense was something I am not talented enough a writer to describe. Everyone played harder. They played more together. They had hands up, they had their legs in defensive croutches, they made quick decisive movements on defense and they grabbed rebounds like the wanted to crush the ball. Energy was back on the Bucks’ side.
Sure they only took the first period 30-25, but control of the game was clear. This was the Bucks game.
I usually don’t spend a lot of time talking about the little things. Don’t get me wrong, I like the little things. There are so many of them that they add up and sometimes are more important than the big things. They can just be hard to track. But not tonight. Tonight the little things were clear because every time I looked up and saw a little thing getting done, it was Charlie Bell doing it.
Whether it was him diving into the crowd, coming out of the scrum with his dribble alive and the ball secure or grabbing that tipped rebound loose for anyone, it was always Bell to answer the call. Sure, his PER isn’t great and he doesn’t get to the free throw line, but Charlie Bell deserves credit for what he’s been doing. And how has he had so much success with those little things this year? Charlie himself lets us know:
It’s not all about scoring. It’s about making the right plays, making plays for teammates. I try and lead by example. You can talk all you want, but if you don’t go out there and do what you say you going to do, ain’t nobody going to listen to you.
- It was evident that someone aside from Jennings was going to at least provide some kind of support on offense for the Bucks Friday night and the power forward position provided the boost the Bucks needed. Ersan Ilyasova contributed 13 points, while Hakim Warrick from his comfort zone on the bench, snapped out of a funk and pitched in 16 points. To show he was REALLY back, Warrick even threw down a nasty dunk in the first quarter.
- I said I’d be happy with 12/12 out of Kuran Gadzuromas tonight. Six points, ten rebounds and four assists was enough to suffice though. Thomas was especially assertive on the glass, grabbing seven rebounds himself and always looking ready to knock anyone out who tried to pry it from his vice-grip hands. Both provided more than enough defense on the Bobcats not-so-stellar center duo of Nazr Mohammed and Alexis Ajinca. The Bucks spent a lot of timing matching the “we’re going small with Boris Diaw at center” Bobcats though. In these cases, Ersan did just fine.
- About that allowing free throw thing again though … still not under control. The Bobcats almost shot more free throws than they did field goals (43-59)! Fortunately, no one on the ‘Cats had any shot all night from the line. It was a very high schoolesque performance from the stripe for the Bobcats Friday. Stephen Jackson was the biggest offender at 4-9.
- Does anyone remember when Gerald Wallace used to take it to the basket? He apparently doesn’t, or at least he didn’t until the fourth quarter. Wallace spent much of the game taking terrible shots from the perimeter despite the Bucks being without their interior anchor and best shot blocker. Thanks Crash!
Overall, this was exactly what the Bucks needed heading on the road for a four game swing to the West. In addition, they found a line-up that featured Ersan at center and Warrick at the four that allowed them to match-up well when the Bobcats went small. If they use that to force mis-matches while Bogut is out, they might be able to survive his absence better than anyone is predicting.
They’re already off to a pretty good start.