In front of what appeared to be only close friends and relatives of both teams, it was very clear that the Miami Heat can be boiled down to two parts: Dwyane Wade and a bunch of guys. Just as clear Monday night was that the Bucks continue their recent uptick in play and are looking more and more like a team that has begun to figure things out. I’ve been contesting that the Bucks have looked like a much better team since an overtime loss on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Houston and the numbers don’t lie.
In the eight games starting with the loss at Houston, the Bucks are 5-3 with a +7.5 scoring margin. One of the biggest reasons for the recent Bucks miniature surge has simply been consistent offense. All season long the Bucks have played stifling defense, but have struggled to put the ball through the rim on the other end. Andrew Bogut has averaged 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, but the most important statistic for Bogut has been his 68 percent shooting. All year he’s been pretty good for the Bucks, but he’s only been hitting around half it shots, which is a little below average for a seven-footer as talented as he. The 68 percent shooting provides the Bucks a solid base for their attack.
Monday night, Bogut was again the focal point for the Bucks. After missing their first 10 shots, the Bucks were able to find Bogut for a few easy ones to get them going. Bogut finished the first quarter with eight, the Bucks finished the quarter with the lead and the Heat were just about finished, as they made only cursory runs the rest of the way. I guess that’s what happens when Wade has a bad night, because Milwaukee has now seen D-Wade twice this year when he’s been off and the rest of the Heat haven’t responded kindly to their stars struggles.
After the eight point first quarter, Bogut did not let up. He finished the evening with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 10-13 shooting. As has been the case in nearly all of the Bucks wins lately though, it was not a one man show.
- Carlos Delfino continued to make my earlier near constant complaining about him look ill informed and foolish by chipping in 16 more points and 10 more rebounds. As long as I’m rehashing the last eight games, let me give you Delfino’s numbers: 15.8 points and 8.1 boards on 49 percent shooting. The refrain on Delfino is that he can do a lot of things well, but not one so well as to make him stand out, but lately he’s taken each thing he does well and brought up to another level. His shooting has been better, he’s finished around the rim, he’s been getting some steals and he’s been rebounding incredibly well for a small forward. Had this Carlos Delfino been playing for the Bucks all year, I have no doubts they’d be at or above .500. Consistency was a struggle for Delfino in the first half, but somehow he’s figured it out in half two of this season.
- Rim. That’s the word I’d say if I was doing word association with Hakim Warrick. Warrick had two dunks that helped energize a slow starting Bucks team and his own offensive game on Monday. After the dunks it was clear Hak’ was kind of feeling it, as he displayed a nice little pivot and jab-step game that I hadn’t seen before which eventually led to a jumper. The straight “I want to rip the rim off right now” dunks are what Hak’s best for though. Those are fun.
- There was a brief moment of panic for me while watching this one though, I’ll admit that. It looked like the Heat may have called up to Toronto and asked them what they did to Milwaukee in the fourth quarter last week to shut them down so bad. Naturally, Toronto would have informed the Heat that their zone stifled the Bucks and errant jumpers rained from every which way. The Heat went into a zone and had the game down to 11 at one point. Then Charlie Bell got nasty and hit a couple threes and the Bucks had breathing room again. Sometimes it just boils down to hitting shots, and the Bucks were able to do that for most of the evening Monday.
It’s not easy to win when you shoot 36.4 percent and the Bucks know that as well as any team in the league, so it’s good to see the opposition struggling for once. Miami has turned in as brutal a two game performance as I’ve seen out of any opponent the Bucks have had in years.
- These two games were a great lesson on how nice it is to have a real legitimate star player on your team. Miami would be the New Jersey Nets without Dwyane Wade and there is an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting that claim in these two efforts, right down to the pathetic attendance. With Wade though, they are eighth in the East, which probably says as much about the East as it does about how good Wade is.
Coach Scott Skiles has been looking for a “signature” road win for some time. He thought they had one in Dallas and that didn’t quite work out. They had a shot in Toronto too, but that didn’t quite work out either. So getting a road win against the team directly in front of them in the Eastern Conference is nice, but may not classify as the signature he was looking for. You know what would qualify for sure? A win in Orlando. That would be a big, fat John Hancock of a signature road win, and with the way the Bucks have played lately, can’t be ruled out just yet. Check back with me after the first half tomorrow and I may be singing a different tune, but the Bucks look like they’ll be bringing it for a while.