Scott Skiles had to laugh, probably to keep himself from crying, but maybe to keep himself from running on the court and launching an impromptu tutorial on how to properly shoot a free throw. After all, we’re talking about a guy who was an 88.9 percent free throw shooter for his career.
So the 0-7 finish the Bucks had at the free throw line Monday night was properly particularly devastating for their coach to watch.
And it’s unfortunate that the once again unacceptable free throw shooting takes away from the positives that this game brought. Andrew Bogut had the best game of his career, dominating Roy Hibbert and everyone else the Pacers threw at him en route to 31 points and 18 rebounds. And Bogut was able to cede control of the ending to Brandon Jennings, who had another frigid looking shooting night at 7-19, but hit a three and fall-away jumper in the last two minutes that helped give the Bucks just enough breathing room.
And that’s how everyone envisions the Bucks being successful, ride Andrew Bogut relentlessly all game and then let Jennings handle the ball and make plays in the fourth quarter, it’s the perfect big man/little man set up. And for one night the Bucks had it going.
And still, Milwaukee almost blew the game.
- I feel like I’m constantly getting a never ending stream of text messages about how bad Michael Redd is at this point, but if you look at his final line and changed his name to something else, he doesn’t stand out as being bad at all. Rather, his plus eight looks fairly nice. Don’t let it fool you into thinking it was all roses and rainbows for Redd on Monday though, he still takes DIFFICULT shots and apparently is incapable of shooting a free throw. On Twitter, mAndersonMN suggested that it may be do to his recent knee problems, that he’s not getting the necessary knee bend into the shot and inevitably coming up short. A good theory and something I’ll try and delve into further when the Bucks return home Wednesday. One thing I’ve noticed Redd doing that I do like, has been his recent interest in aggressive defense. He’s had a few steals this year where he gambles a little, but pokes it free off another man; he did it to Kobe and now Troy Murphy Monday.
- Rotation roulette continues. Charlie Bell sat for the entire first half, entered the game two minutes into the third quarter and stayed in the rest of the game. With good reason too. In Bell’s ten third quarter minutes, he was 2-2 from behind the arc, scored six points and the Bucks outscored Indiana by eight. In the fourth, Bell had a steal and a block but was apart of the parade of questionable free throw misses in the last minute. Bell’s first half minutes went to Jodie Meeks who remains mysteriously incapable of connecting on open three’s. Even if Meeks is flying around making plays, grabbing rebounds and playing exceptional defense it will never make up for it when he’s not making three’s. His position requires the making of open three-point shots. The Bucks entire offense relies on that position hitting those shots, so if they aren’t going in it doesn’t really matter what else he’s doing.
- Bogut was aggressive and hitting early, so it looked like he was on track to have a good night, but rarely do we get to see the Australian hit for 30. Rarely as in we’ve never seen that before. Congratulations to Bogut on his career high 31 points and extra congratulations on getting 18 rebounds to go along. That kind of aggressiveness and commitment from the rest of the Bucks on getting the ball to Bogut down low will go a long way towards getting the Bucks some more wins in the future. Bogut’s game relies largely on touch and feel rather than his force of nature, so it’s not easy for him to shoot 14-19 like it may be for a Dwight Howard, so when he has it going it’s important it’s recognized and capitalized on.
- So Michael Redd’s return to the starting line-up meant Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s return to the bench. I know Skiles is thinking that LRMAM’s versatility is valuable off the bench and allows for more flexibility, as he can come in for Ersan, Redd or Carlos Delfino but it’s still hard to believe he hasn’t earned a starting spot and 30 minutes of tick (playing time) a night. He’s the team’s best defender and finished yesterday with a plus 14. Mike Dunleavy struggled out of the blocks Monday, but when LRMAM came in he didn’t do the Pacers best offensive option any favors.
- While the Bucks absolutely should have been up more than three as the game wound down, the plus side was their defense as the clocked ticked away. They did give up an offensive rebound to Tyler Hansbrough, who proceeded to punch Andrew Bogut in the stomach and dunk, but whenever a team can force T.J. Ford into two crucial three-point attempts with the game winding down, that’s something worth feeling good about.
This is a double rarity: a Milwaukee road win, in a three point game nonetheless. While it’s fun to say the Bucks showed character or “figured out” how to win a close one for once, it really was just a matter of the ball bouncing their ways more than it did not for once. If Ford hits one of those miraculous three’s, and the way things have gone the last three games I’m surprised he didn’t, who knows what happens. But, for all the ugliness that was the Bucks finish in this one, the two facts in the previous sentence still stand out. After three straight tough losses that left everyone questioning where things stood for the Bucks, this is at least a momentary bright spot.