After a first quarter in which the Pistons started 11-11 from the field, I thought this might be business as usual against the Detroit Pistons for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pistons have had the Bucks number over the past couple seasons. This year, the Bucks took the opener, but the Pistons out-muscled and out-matched the Bucks in the following two games, exposing the Bucks inability to defend bigger guards or get much penetration.
But then John Salmons made his Bucks debut. From his very first made basket, you could see he offers a little something that the Bucks previously didn’t offer much. Salmons caught on the perimeter, crossed over on Tayshaun Prince and hit a floater in the lane. On his next catch Salmons pump-faked, just like any other Buck would do on a catch, but then again took it into the lane and was able to get to the free-throw line. Those aren’t big flashy plays and I don’t expect him to be a miracle worker, but if these are his strengths, they mesh perfectly with the Bucks weaknesses.
And while a line of 19 points, one rebound and zeroes in every other category looks like Salmons was out there jackin’, it wasn’t necessarily the case. Salmons found a cutting Ersan Ilyasova with a very nice pass only to have Charlie V. hack Ersan and send him to the free-throw line. Another time Salmons got into the lane for the umpteenth time and made a nice drop off pass to a posted up Andrew Bogut – only to have Bogut called for three seconds. For a guy who says he didn’t know his new team’s plays, that’s not too bad.
And neither was the three-pointer he hit to put the Bucks up four with 16 seconds to go with the Pistons crowd rocking and two defenders in his area. That, my friends, was the personification of a” SHUT-UP” shot.
So this is why the Bucks didn’t want to part with Ilyasova, eh? The ever-developing Bucks power forward of the current and possibly future scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds Friday night. Furthermore, Ersan annoyed the other team with his general pesky manner and grabbed a few of those rebounds well out of his area. A lot of guys can grab rebounds that come to them; the real good rebounders are the ones that go get them. That’s Ersan.
- Why does Ben Wallace do such a good job defending Bogut? He forces him from the hoop. Wallace isn’t tall, but he’s probably as strong as Bogut or nearly anyone else in the league and he uses his leverage to push guys like Bogut just a touch outside their comfort zones. Bogut’s typical five-foot shots turned into eight or nine foot shots, which doesn’t sound very different, but certainly is for the finesse hooks Bogut tosses up.
- Yes, Brandon Jennings went 1-13. No, that’s not very good and I know it gets the blood of some boiling. But it doesn’t stress me out too much, especially now that the Bucks have more help offensively with Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse. It doesn’t trouble me because of the shots Jennings was taking. Five shots inside ten feet, a floater or two and a couple layups that just wouldn’t fall. But Jennings isn’t just a “this year” player. Jennings will be here for a long time and the more he gets in the habit of getting shots inside the paint and at the rim, the better he will serve the Bucks once he starts to learn how to get those to go down. And I’m certain he’ll learn that.
- Stack had his best game since the Bucks home game versus an overmatched Indiana team on February 6. In 19 minutes, Stackhouse was very effective, getting to the free-throw line four times and scoring 12 points. The Bucks were able to get him in the post once against an overmatched Will Bynum and Stack was able to show off a nice spin move that he hasn’t busted out very often since his arrival in the Mil.
While Wallace gave Bogut some problems defensively, Bogut was anchoring the defense once again Friday, protecting the paint and blocking five shots. It helps that Wallace misses layups and dunks just to show how poor an offensive player he is and with Wallace bumbling around in the paint Bogut was able to sag off and help his teammates.
And you know what? Jennings is getting better, slowly but surely as a defender. At the very least you can say Jennings is competing very hard on the defensive end and not quitting. When he’s matched against a guy like Rodney Stuckey it’d be easy for him to wear down by the end of the game, but that didn’t happen.
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played just 16 minutes, had only four rebounds, didn’t score a bucket and dropped at least one pass out of bounds. But I still loved what he was doing more often than not Friday. Mbah a Moute blocked a Wallace dunk, knocked a pass off Jonas Jerebko out of bounds and stayed active in many other ways all night.
- After their 11-11 start, the Pistons followed with a 6-20 stretch in the first half. Sometimes it’s just about having the other team miss shots. The Pistons still outshot the Bucks on the evening, 48.5%-38.3%, but the Bucks were able to get more free throw attempts and hit eight more threes than Detroit, which is exactly what they had hoped adding Salmons would help them do.
So this was a little backwards. A home loss to Detroit and a road win in Detroit? Given Detroit’s poor record, they were certainly a prime candidate for the increasingly frequent Milwaukee Bucks road victory, but the home loss still stings. Fortunately, the Bucks have a big opportunity ahead of them Saturday night when the Bobcats come to town.
Milwaukee is currently 1-1 with the Bobs this year, having won at home in November just after the Stephen Jackson trade and then losing in Charlotte later on. The Bobcats are one of three teams the Bucks are duking it out with for playoff positioning in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff chase.