Even if it was a game later than Bucks fans would like, the REAL Los Angeles Clippers showed up in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. You know, the team that doesn’t (can’t?) defend, that takes bad shots and appears to go without an offensive strategy for significant portions of the game. That’s the Clippers we’ve all come to know and love, that’s the Clippers that opposing teams love to see, that’s the Clippers Milwaukee got on Tuesday. The results were predictable.
Using runs of 10-0 in the first quarter and 18-8 in the second, the Bucks never lost their double digit lead in the second half. And that was before a dust-up renewed the Bucks interest in a game that they had been keeping at arms length.
That seemed to pique the interest of the Bucks and more importantly, drew the interest of a crowd that had been in and out of the game beforehand. I’ve carried with me the vague memory of the Bradley Center crowd’s airline hangar noise level from the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s hard to recall that. That was nearly 10 years ago and rarely has there been much to get all that excited about since then. So when a moment crops up that get the crowd more than just “involved” in the game, those are the best. After the miniature dust-up, Squad Six began an “An-drew Bo-gut” chant. Soon the whole crowd joined in. Bogut noticed.
“That was pretty cool. I haven’t seen the place rockin’ like that for a while, where the whole crowd got involved. Hopefully we can encourage the rest of our fans out there to feel free to join in when Squad Six is chanting, it brings a great atmosphere.”
That atmosphere Bogut has been looking to recapture? That’s called a playoff atmosphere. It helped that Bogut’s Squad Six has been at it game in and game out, but Milwaukee has a history of stepping up in the moment.
And its basketball team is looking like they can play that game too.
As they often do in wins, Milwaukee was doing two important things: moving the ball and taking care of it. Milwaukee had 27 assists to just seven turnovers. In losses to Philadelphia and Miami, the Bucks were often allowing themselves to get trapped and continuously had the wrong guys taking difficult threes. Milwaukee can be a very good three-point shooting team, so long as the right guys are shooting in the right situations.
Right guy, right situation: Brandon Jennings on a pass from a driving John Salmons or Charlie Bell.
Right guy, right situation: Jerry Stackhouse with time to set up and no one running at him.
Wrong guy, wrong situation: Stackhouse, in the last few weeks, any time he wasn’t wide open.
Right guy, right situation: Bell, in the corners (46-102 coming into Tuesday’s game).
Wrong guy, wrong situation: Bell, off the dribble
Right guy, right situation: Salmons, after a jab-step fest or on the catch and shoot.
Milwaukee continuously found themselves in the right spots on Tuesday night, which is an indication of how poor either A. the Clippers defense is, or B. their preparation is.
- Plenty of stars on the night for the Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova: 20 points (8-14 FG 1-5 3FG 3-4 FT) and eight rebounds. Stackhouse: 16 points (7-10 FG 2-4 3FG). Jennings 17 points (7-15 FG 3-5 3FG) six assists and five rebounds.
Looking for a reason as to why the occasionally chippy Steve Blake went off after a seemingly harmless, yet hard, screen from Andrew Bogut? Try Jennings defense. Not more than one possession before, Jennings snuck in and tried to steal the inbound pass from Blake. He’d been harassing Blake all night, resulting in just one steal and fast break layup for Jennings, but an off night from Blake, and at that point Blake had seemed to have had enough.
After Bogut’s screen, he got into extra curriculars with the big man and then found himself face to face with Jennings. Truth be told, Jennings stuck his nose where it didn’t really need to be, the situation had looked to be under control, but I think he’d had enough of Blake’s surly demeanor and general foul attitude. The two went face to face and Jennings earned a T, as well as a little more hate around the league I’m sure.
But Jennings seemed to want to have his big man’s back. And that’s what any team wants out of their point guard of the future. Get on the front lines, be a leader and have your teammate’s backs. It’s hard to be too disappointed with that. And of course, it’s even better when he comes down right after on a break, fakes behind the back and finishes the layup. Nothing like salt in an opposing team’s wound.
- The Clippers shot 36.8%. Not too shabby Milwaukee.
- That Craig Smith I was worried about? Not a point and an 0-3 night.
A double digit win in which Bogut and Jennings get to sit out the entire fourth quarter? I’ll take it. Now it’s on to Cleveland for a tough test. If they lose, they lose; it’s not the end of the world. Milwaukee’s game against Charlotte later in the week is the one that really counts. For now, the Bucks finish their homestand 3-2, salvaging it after two disheartening losses. Wins are wins this time of the year, so Milwaukee can feel good about getting a crisp game in before heading back on the road.