Fortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks, one team had to emerge victorious Wednesday night. It’s a rule. Otherwise, the powers that be may have juts called the game at halftime to spare the crowd, because after an ugly looking first half, things rarely got much prettier in the second.
But basketball isn’t always a beauty contest and sometimes it’s just about pushing through tired legs and out-lasting the opposing team. That seems like a fit way to describe Wednesday night’s game, it wasn’t so much a win for Milwaukee as it was an out-lasting effort in a proverbial scrum of a game.
And when I say this game wasn’t a thing of beauty, I mean right from the start it was hard on the eyes. The Sixers were handling the ball with little worry on where it was ending up, at one point turning it over or having their shot blocked on five consecutive possessions in the first quarter. The problem was that the Bucks couldn’t do anything on the other end after causing problems with their defense, thanks to three misses, a block and a turnover themselves at that point. Milwaukee shot just 30.8 percent in the first quarter, yet led by one after winning the turnover battle 7-2.
Turnovers would end up being the theme all night. While the game continued to be as sloppy an affair as the Bucks have been apart of all year, Milwaukee did their best to take care of the ball and not let the Sixers get out and run off turnovers. The Bucks turned it over nine times in all, resulting in just six Philadelphia points, whereas the Sixers coughed it up 18 times, turning into 23 Milwaukee points. In a one point game in which they lost the rebounding battle by 16, were outshot 46.2-43.5 and missed nine of 21 free-throws, that plus 17 points of turnovers differential was huge.
For one of the firs times all year, the Bucks looked like a tired team in the second game of a back-to-back. It was reflected most in Andrew Bogut’s play. Bogut was dealing with double teams for large portions of the night and when there wasn’t a double team there was Sam Dalembert and his Go-Go-Gadget arms. Bogut had problems facing up because of Dalmbert’s quickness and length and had trouble getting it going with his back to the basket because of double teams. Bogut finished with just 11 points and nine rebounds (3-9 shooting, 5-7 FT) and never seemed to get in a rhythm.
- With Bogut struggling, it was important that the Bucks found offense from someone else, and that someone was Brandon Jennings. Jennings had hit floater working all night and made the Bucks final field goal with 22 seconds to play on a 12-foot floater in the lane. Whether or not that shot is falling usually dictates Jennings’ offensive output, so on a night Bogut was struggling, it was enormous that Jennings had the difficult shot working for him. Equally as big was Jennings care for the ball. In a game that’s as brutal is this one which featured lots of tired legs, it would have been easy for Jennings to get careless and try to do too much, but he valued the ball turning it over only twice while racking up seven assists.
- In slopfests like this, it’s often the guys who make a living crashing the boards and getting some easy putbacks that thrive and that was the case for Ersan Ilyasova. The Bucks premier offensive rebounder typically earns his check by being in the right spots more often than not on missed shots and was no different Wednesday, tying for the Bucks lead with four offensive rebounds. In his strongest game since a shellacking at Portland, Ilyasova finished with 15 points and six rebounds (7-8, 1-1 3FG, 1-1 FT).
Before the game, I was worried the Sixers would try and ride Elton Brand’s strength advantage over Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and they went to Brand early and often. Brand finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds in an effort that had many more highs than lows. Ah, but it had one very important low. Brand missed a layup with 11 seconds to go that would have tied things up. When I say the Bucks haven’t had many balls bounce their way this year I mean things like this have never happened for the Bucks, so it was amazing to finally see.
- Defensively, this is the kind of game where LRMAM can shine. In the first quarter he was all over the place, he blocked a shot, forced a jump-ball, grabbed a couple steals and was in on a lot of turnovers thanks to his nose for the ball and constant pestering. Brand was a difficult assignment for him as a more traditional back to the basket post-up player, but LRMAM contributed where he could with his four steals and eight rebounds.
- The Bucks don’t often lose the battle on the offensive glass, but they did Wednesday, allowing 16 offensive rebounds to Philly and getting out rebounded 51-35. That’s typically not a recipe for success, but somehow the Bucks were only out-scored on second chance points 12-6. I guess it doesn’t hurt as much that the other team is getting second chances if they aren’t doing anything with them.
I would have thought the Sixers would can their last attempt down three at the buzzer, but then they went to Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was actually the worst option Philly had on the court at the time and getting the ball in to him in an effort to tie the game with a three simply cannot be rewarded with overtime. Literally anyone else, Thad Young, Jason Kapono, Lou Williams and Willie Green all are better three-point shooters and the Sixers found a way to find their worst guy and get him the shot to tie. Sometimes the NBA amazes me.