New Year New Result: Bucks 103 – Thunder 97

Recap/Box Score

I’m not going to lie, as soon as the last shot of regulation left Kevin Durant’s hand at half-court, I was slightly worried.  Kobe did it and Dirk did it and if you add Kobe plus Dirk, who do you get?

So you can see where my anxiety stemmed from.

But The Durantula’s running 30-footer wasn’t close and the Bucks rode Michael Redd’s first hot night in what has seemed like years to the finish line in a 103-97 victory over Oklahoma City Saturday night.

But it wasn’t a smooth ride.

Redd hit one long two after the next in overtime, all very difficult shots, but it seemed the only offense Bucks were able to muster and that’s a problem.  If Milwaukee’s having to rely on Redd to hit difficult shots to keep them in a game or give them a lead, that means the offense isn’t mustering much with regard to open looks.  And those tough shots?  They aren’t going to keep falling every time according to the law of averages.

It’s a lot of fun to see guys hit long tough two point shots when they’re going in, but usually they aren’t.  Milwaukee was 3-3 on 16-23 foot shots in overtime and 11-22 on those shots Saturday night, but that’s abnormal.  On the season, the Bucks are shooting just 39 percent from that distance.  Going to Andrew Bogut on a post up with 38.5 seconds left was the first good shot the Bucks got in overtime, and if that’s the case and the Bucks win, it’s fine.  But when the Bucks lose close games and everyone is wondering why, look no further than the challenge they have in getting off good looks.  Skiles thoughts on the general lack of attacking the rim in overtime (aside from a Luke Ridnour lay-up):

The problem is though, we’re going in there and we feel like we’re going up strong and sometimes, maybe there is some contact maybe there isn’t, but we come up empty.  You know, so, you have to go in there and either score or get fouled otherwise you have poor back court coverage because you’re point guard is under the basket, sometimes laying on the ground, and people run out on you.  I want our guys to be in attack mode but I know they’re a little bit frustrated by the inability to get to the line.

Whether they made it more difficult for themselves than need be or not, what’s important is that the Bucks won this game.  It was nice to see the Bucks out execute (yes, the making of tough shots falls into that category, mainly because the Thunder were unable to get the ball in bounds with 20 seconds left) and out defend a team in the fourth quarter and overtime for once.

Offense

When you hear “The Milwaukee Bucks grabbed nine more offensive rebounds than Oklahoma City” it sounds pretty nice.  19-10 were the exact numbers.  But that minor victory is actually the result of a much larger problem the Bucks continue to face: the inability to finish at the rim.  Coming into Saturday’s game, the Bucks were shooting 54 percent at the rim, six percentage points lower than the NBA average and the lowest percentage in the league.  Saturday the Bucks were 19-39 at the rim (48 percent) while Oklahoma City was 19-28 (68 percent).  That’s a pretty big difference.  The Bucks missed a number of easy tip shots and open put backs, the biggest offenders being Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (0-2), Hakim Warrick (4-9) and Brandon Jennings (3-7).

So while the Bucks were racking up the opportunities thanks to their offensive rebounds and extra tips on shots, they weren’t really making them count.

  • Redd finished with 27 points on 12-23 shooting, including 3-7 from behind the arc.  Most encouraging was that Redd was 5-7 at the rim, meaning he was attacking … at least before overtime.  But hey, if he’s hitting those 18-foot jumpers, I don’t really have a problem with them.  Aside from how difficult they are.  And that he fades away.  And that the rest of the team sometimes just stands and watches after he comes off a high screen off the ball.  And that these shots typically don’t go in so they shouldn’t even be in his repertoire.  But aside from that, I love them.  Redd deserves a boatload of credit for this win though, not only was his shooting better than it had been all year, he made a few defensive plays that were clutch, including a tipped pass with 2:18 left in overtime that gave the Bucks the ball with a one-point lead after a Jennings turnover.
  • Bogut had another great game at home, something of a recurring theme with him.  23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks for the Aussie.  He controlled the paint on both ends for the majority of his time in the game.  He even hit what looked to me like a 15-foot jumper, but was actually confirmed in the shot chart to have been a 13-footer.  That’s still an expansion of range and something that’s delightful to see.  Coach Scott Skiles said that Andrew has worked on stepping out, but isn’t confident in it yet.  If he ever can, it’ll be a huge boon to his ever diversifying offensive game.

Defense

LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE.

If I were given two sentences to describe LRMAM’s game, it’d be this one I jotted down starting with two minutes and eight seconds left in regulation:

  • 2:08 left, Mbah a Moute saves a possesion! 1:45, misses layup, UGH.

Luc is just an awe-inspiring player.  He worked so hard all night on Durant and gave him hell in the last minute of regulation, poking it away and diving on the loose ball, and then worked a perfect double-team with Hak’ Warrick to push him away on the last shot.  There would be no good Kobe look for Durant against LRMAM.  He’s just too good to even allow a player to get in that kind of position.  I’d say even more about LRMAM’s performance, but I’m working on something on him for later in the week.  Your patience (and return) is appreciated.

  • The Bucks allowed only 24 points in the last quarter and overtime combined and forced the Thunder into six more turnovers than they committed themselves.  In a two or three possession game, those are the kinds of things that win.
  • This often goes overlooked, I always forget about it, but Luke Ridnour can really foul on the fast break.  Most guards are afraid to get physical and knock a guy down or give him a good hack to make sure he doesn’t get an and-one, but not Ridnour.  He’ll mess someone up if they’re trying to draw the foul plus the basket, just ask Durant.  He found out the hard way in the first half.

Final Thoughts

It looks as though the new year brought a renewed commitment at the defensive end for Milwaukee.  After the first half in which Durant was hitting lots of shots, nothing came easy for the Thunder.  Mbah a Moute set the tone for the perimeter and Andrew Bogut was active inside.  In other words, it was the Bucks of the first ten games, not the ones of the last 20.  Whether this was a temporary reprieve from a team relieved to be back at home against a team that wasn’t a superpower remains to be seen, but at least for tonight we can all bask in the reminder of what these Bucks are still possibly capable of.

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I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

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