And Friday’s hero was …
*Cue cheesy Latin horn*
Another night and another player steps up for the Milwaukee Bucks. It certainly seems like every night the Bucks are getting some big play out of somebody (or bodies), but it’s always tough to tell who’ll be the star that night. Coming off a couple strong games in a row, Kurt Thomas was a possibility. Jerry Stackhouse had his best game in a few weeks on Wednesday, so I thought maybe he’d bring it again in Philly. Brandon Jennings is the ticking time bomb, ready to go off for five or six threes on any given night. But I have to say, ‘Los was due.
After initially struggling in his return from injury, Delfino finally got it going Friday night in the Bucks 95-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. 23 points (8-14 FG 5-8 3FG 2-2 FT) and five assists are the exact type of numbers I’d hoped to see from Delfino once Andrew Bogut went down.
Delfino’s various skills make him so crucial to the Bucks success. An underrated creator, Delfino can certainly put the ball on the ground and get to the hoop on occasion. He does it enough that I’ve noticed his go-to move – the reverse layup. No one on the Bucks uses the hoop to protect their layup at the rim better than Delfino with his reverse. When he’s aggressive with that thing and hitting threes, he can really be an effective player.
Of course, there’s a reason he’s on his third team and had a stint in Europe. He’s not super consistent with his talents. It’s hard to count on Delfino to make his threes on a nightly basis. And for some reason, he’s not always busting out those reverse layups and drives to the hoop either. Yes, he’s always an active defender, but his offensive inconsistencies have baffled me this season. If the Bucks want to win a series in the playoffs, the prospect of which seemed plausible with Bogut, impossible right after his injury and now slightly more feasible after three straight wins, they’ll need this Delfino every night.
*Cue the Latin horn*
But this game wasn’t the Calos Delfino Show.
Once again, Milwaukee got a stellar shooting night from Luke Ridnour, as he scored 18 points (8-12 FG 1-2 3FG 1-1 FT) . How long ago did his season stop being a fluke? A month ago? Two months ago? A more pressing question regarding Ridnour now is, how much is he worth next season? Ridnour has been the perfect safety valve for Jennings this season. If Brandon’s struggling (which he did again tonight: 4-17 FG 1-8 3FG), just plug in Ridnour and move on. The way the veteran has accepted his role as a backup this season has been nothing short of amazing. Stepping aside in the last season of his contract, without making a peep, so a rookie could start struggles be damned. Ridnour has handled this with such grace.
Lots of teams could use a veteran that just wants to play and doesn’t want to complain in their locker rooms. It’ll be very interesting to see the market shake out for Ridnour this summer. Oddly enough, Ridnour may have made himself more money by sitting and accepting a role, than he would have had he started all season. Starting this season and putting up the numbers he put up last season wouldn’t have impressed anyone. But being the good soldier and improving his shooting numbers so drastically put Ridnour in a whole new category.
- It wasn’t all bad for Jennings though. As usual, he was money from the line, hitting on all seven of his free throws including some down the stretch. Seven assists are nice to see from the rook and Jennings even threw down his second dunk of the season. I know the Bradley Center wouldn’t mind seeing some more of that in the playoffs this year.
- Free throws were a huge difference in this one, as usual for a Bucks game. There was a slight difference this time though, Milwaukee was the team with the huge edge. The Bucks made 20 on the evening, to a mere nine for Philly. This has more to do with putrid Sixers shooting than some tricky officiating though. At 23, Milwaukee attempted just three more than Philadelphia.
- I mentioned turnovers in the pregame as an issue Milwaukee would need to take care of if they wished to beat the Sixers. The assist to turnover ratio in this one: 23-13. That’ll do.
For all the things I’ve liked about Jennings this season, one thing that I’ve always found a little peculiar was his low steal numbers. He’s quick. He’s a guard. He likes to get into people a little. All season I’ve asked myself why he wasn’t ever coming up with big steal games. He finally had a big one Friday, notching five steals against the Sixers with one leading to his dunk and another leading to an and-one for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
- 2010 Elton Brand, nice to see you (1-7 FG, 2 points).
- Jrue Holiday was less Rajon Rondo and more Rajon Rondon’t. Ba dum che. Holiday missed his first eight shots and turned the ball over seven times. No word on whether or not the Benny Hill theme song was played while he had the ball.
3-0 sans Bogut are the Bucks. Suddenly, the fifth seed is not out of sight, the cold that seemed to arrive upon Bogut’s injury is slowly warming back up and the skies have cleared. We’re left with a Bucks team that now has 45 wins and a for real shot at staying at five or six in the East and clear skies. Even better, the win over a Sixers team that is suspiciously similar to the Hawks in style leaves me further optimistic about the Bucks chances of pulling out a game or two in the playoffs if they’re matched with Atlanta. Yes, tonight is yet another night to feel good about the Bucks and Milwaukee. It seems like those are really adding up these days.