Let’s go through our checklist for what makes a classic regular season game (and I mean for the teams, not in terms of the entire league):
- Two overtimes
A lot of NBA games go into overtime. Teams usually end up going into overtime somewhere between five and ten times a season (the Bucks did it four times last year). Going into overtime in itself is nothing special. Two overtimes? Now I’m listening. Regardless of whether the game is intra-divison, out of conference or whatever, it’s going to hold some appeal. The last time the Bucks went into double overtime was December 17th of 2007. So this is not an everyday situation. Check.
- Memorable plays
Andrew Bogut’s tip (actually, his NOT tip). Brandon Roy’s fall away jumper to tie it with 12 seconds to go in regulation. Brandon Jennings’ pull-up jumper to tie it with four seconds left in the first overtime. Jennings Nashian lay-up with 43 seconds to go in the second OT. Yeah, we had a number of memorable plays in this one and I haven’t even mentioned Jennings’ floater near the end of regulation or a number of big dunks late from LaMarcus Aldridge. Check.
- Memorable Moments
Beyond the shots that we’ll remember for the rest of the season, we were treated to a few tense instant replay ref calls. Was Bogut’s tip shot at the end of regulation good? It wasn’t, but it was fun waiting for the refs to tell us whether or not he touched it before the buzzer went off. Did Luc Richard Mbah a Moute tip the ball out of bounds in the first overtime with the Bucks down two, or did Aldridge hit it last? The tape wasn’t super clear, but it did appear Aldridge’s fingers were the last thing the ball touched in play. Squad Six had the building rocking by starting a “this way” chant while pointing in the Bucks direction. Soon everyone else joined in on the fun and the arena filled with electricity. Check.
Was there any better way for Jennings to get his very first NBA double-double than in a double overtime win at home? I say no. Jennings has always fed off the energy of the Bucks crowd and today was no different. Especially when he got it going in the third quarter to the tune of 12 points after not even attempting a shot in the first half. Jennings would finish with 18 points and 11 assists. Check.
While regular season games only hold so much significance in the long run (I’d never compare this game to any of the great playoff games of recent years) this one was still fun to watch. If you missed it, you likely won’t be able to catch a better Bucks game this year, which is actually pretty wild, since I didn’t find the first half to be all that special. I mean, it wasn’t bad, Bogut had it going and the Bucks were playing better defense than they had in some time, but I never suspected I’d be thinking of this one as a classic when it was all said and done. That’s the beauty of sports I guess.
- Bogut was a beast. He again showed a nice array of post moves and did it against a very legitimate defender in Joel Przybilla. 27 points and nine boards on 12-19 shooting. Another nice night for Bogut, who’s followed three bad efforts with three fairly strong ones (the Raptors game was so out of hand he didn’t really need to assert himself). Even better was the big night coming against the length and strength of the Blazers big center Przybilla. Bogut had been struggling against some of the better defenders at the center position and had something to say on the matter after the game:
I’ve heard people say that, but that doesn’t really bother me. I’ve had bad games against guys that are long and I’ve had bad games … you know, I had a bad game against Ben Wallace and he’s 6’9. So I don’t really buy into that. Bad game, good games tonight it was just good to get the win man, I mean, like I said we showed a lot of character tonight. Last year’s team probably would have, uh, bit the dust when (the Blazers lead) was six points.
- Luke Ridnour appears to have discovered some kind of basketball secret. That’s the only way to logically explain some of the moves he’s been making and shots he’s been hitting this year. In 22 minutes, Ridnour scored 20 points and had a lot to do with the Bucks coming back from down six in the first overtime. Ridnour checked in for Michael Redd at 2:38 and proceeded to hit a runner 11 seconds later. Luke scored six more in the second overtime including a ridiculous 19-foot jumper with the scored tied at 97 that he had no business sinking. But he did it anyway, because that’s the 2009-10 Luke Ridnour apparently.
- So, Michael Redd is back. Redd doing a few Redd things here and there, meaning he’s occasionally holding the ball a little longer than he should or taking a shot a liiiitle too quick off of a screen, making it tougher than it needs to be. A good example came early in his first entry when he made a tough leaner. Yes, the shot went in and he could have been awarded a free throw too, but is that really the shot the Bucks want? Maybe two or three years ago that was a good option, but now the Bucks have the ability to get a little better shot, especially when Bogut is on. It’s an interesting debate at this point. Boos rained down Redd missed two free throws, a sign that patience has worn thin, and a quick turn from the applause that greeted his return to the court when he checked in in the first quarter. There was one nice sequence where Bogut kicked out to Jennings who swung it to Redd for three, pretty much exactly what the Bucks had hoped for when Redd came back. Redd finished with 11 poitns on 5-11 shooting, but a team worst -11 plus/minus. Coach Scott Skiles take before the game on Redd’s return:
We’re 10-11 and trying to get to .500. If we were 15-5 and looked like a cohesive unit every game I might say it’s a little bit of a concern, but Michael’s a good player and we’re happy to have another good player back. To me it’s simple. We need Michael to defend his spot, which we expect from everybody but have struggled to do recently, and make shots. We have a lot of open shots right now in every game, we have good ball movement, the ball is moving around the perimeter and you know, we need a guy like Michael to make open shots.
- Aldridge gave the Bucks problems all night long. 31 points on 13-22 shooting. He worked Ersan Ilyasova and LRMAM repeatedly, caught alley-oops and was able to get out ahead of the pack for dunks using his terrific speed. The Bucks, trying to keep Bogut in the game, opted not to throw the Aussie at Aldridge after he picked up a couple fouls early. Aldridge was way too much for the typically solid defender Ilyasova and was too big for LRMAM.
- Portland continued their domination on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 52-44 over Milwaukee. The Bucks are now 4-10 when being out-rebounded. Aldridge and Przybilla led the way with 11 and ten respectively.
- I’m not so certain this is great defense or if it’s just bad play calling, but some how or another the Blazers ended up going with Andre Miller for a three with 32 seconds left down five. The same Andre Miller I refuse to cover in NBA 2K10 because he’s such a bad outside shooter. The same Andre Miller who once shot just under nine percent on three’s for a season.
For the Bucks to come back and win this one after being down six in overtime says a lot about their fight. It seemed awfully glum at that point, but coach Skiles made the correct subs and saw Ridnour and Carlos Delfino connect on numerous important shots down the stretch. He also saw Delfino rip the ball from Roy’s hands on a drive to the hoop in the second overtime after he took over defensive duties on the Blazer’s best player. Sometimes a coach is just able to push the right buttons and have it all work out. That was the situation in OT for the Bucks.
Now, with three days off before the Lakers come to town the Bucks have a great opportunity to get Mike Redd more at ease with his new role in the offense and the rest of the players more at ease with Redd through a couple practices. As odd as it sounds, these three days off may be as important to the Bucks as any games they’ve played recently. If the Bucks can get Redd comfortable and keep Jennings and Bogut fed, they might have an offense capable of picking up it’s end of the bargain with a little more consistency on nights the defense does it’s job. But that’s for Monday and Tuesday. For Sunday? The Bucks have earned a chance to rest in as dramatic fashion as they have all year.