Bucks lose another game, but maybe find themselves: Celtics 105 – Bucks 102
Looking for more reasons to dislike Kevin Garnett, Bucks fans?
Almost universally, Bucks fans are bummed out after an incredibly hard fought, intense 105-102 overtime loss for the Bucks on Wednesday night. And with good reason. Some will say it was the refs fault, some will question a few decisions by the Bucks near the end of the game and some won’t be able to utter Kevin Garnett’s name without a swear word in the sentence for the next few days. There are a number of things to be upset with after a loss like this.
Yet, I urge everyone to do their best to put on a happy face once again, because if this game is any indication, the Bucks are back. Or at least close.
This was a squad that bore no resemblance (at least after the first quarter) to the group that limped into Boston 1-3. Milwaukee got contributions from all over the roster in ways big and small Wednesday night and looked a lot more like the team many thought they were heading into the season. The Bucks hung tough on the second night of a back-to-back against last year’s Eastern Conference champion and are probably feeling confident in themselves as a group for the first time all year.
Maybe it won’t go down as a victory in the record books, but does that really matter all that much here in the fifth game of the regular season? The Bucks aren’t jockeying for position right now, they are simply trying to get a lot of players on a lot of different pages all to focus on the same few words. In that regard, the Bucks looked successful Wednesday night.
Calls that could have gone one way or the other, Andrew Bogut’s early struggles, John Salmons slump extension (another dead legged 3-10 shooting night) and a three-point loss that set the Bucks back to 1-4? Those are all small scale things. Games decided by one possession can go either way in the NBA. The better teams blow out the bad squads and eek out tight games on the road against other good teams. Milwaukee’s getting there, they just aren’t completely there yet. The big picture is that the Bucks were able to get rolling and can take some good feelings with them on the flight from Boston to Indiana.
Of course, all is lost again if they don’t show up against the Pacers on Friday night. For now, I’m confident they will.
Bogut started the game 0-5 and didn’t look very good doing it. He’s not the most natural looking athlete in the world, so when he’s unable to get his post game going, he looks slow and out of sync. Suddenly, at some point Wednesday night, everything changed. The big Aussie was able to tip a few offensive rebounds back in for easy buckets and found his post moves while he was at it. Bogut finished out the game by making eight of his last 12 shots (8-17 FG 5-7 FT), though he did the majority of his work very close to the rim. For the game, Bogut was 1-7 inside 10 feet and 7-10 at the rim. On the plus side, he was a terror tipping rebounds to teammates and grabbing them himself. Sometimes it seemed like he was fighting off the Celtics all by himself on the boards and the numbers reflect that. He finished with 13 of the Bucks 42 rebounds, good for 31% of the team’s total. No other Buck had more than seven.
Milwaukee’s center also rekindled his chippy relationship with the power forward everyone loves to hate, Kevin Garnett. If you recall, Bogut was ejected in a 2008 game
after getting a second technical in an altercation with Garnett. Bogut received a flagrant one foul after the fact and Garnett was suspended for swiping at Bogut’s face with an open hand after the play. On Wednesday night, Garnett dunked a big time dunk on Bogut (see above) while the Bucks were trying to take control of the game and appeared to have thrown an elbow or two at the Bucks center once he landed. Bogut pushed Garnett with his forearm and both were hit with technical fouls.
- The Bucks bench came up big on Wednesday and delivered the exact type of game everyone’s expected out of them. Ersan Ilyasova, Keyon Dooling and Corey Maggette combined for 36 points. Ilyasova (2-2 3FG) and Dooling (2-5 3FG) finally provided some of the outside shooting that was expected of them and Maggette (7-8 FT) continued to get to the line for Milwaukee.
- Carlos Delfino only hit one three (granted it was a very important and difficult one in overtime though) in four attempts, but played a much larger play making role than he had previously this season. Delfino was handling the ball a lot for the Bucks and making a lot of pick and roll decisions. One of his five turnovers was especially costly, as he threw away the ball on what was basically the Bucks last solid chance to tie the game in overtime. He did finish with seven assists to go with 15 points (6-15 FG) though, a season high for him.
- Milwaukee struggled to finish around the hoop again. The Bucks shot just 18-32 (56.3%) at the rim, while the Celtics managed to convert 17-24 (70.9%). The most glaring difference came from the guards. Brandon Jennings (2-4), Delfino (3-6), Salmons (0-2) and Maggette (0-1) all struggled in their own ways at the rim, combining to go just 5-13. Delfino had trouble converting and Salmons and Maggette could barely even get any attempts at the bucket. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo (4-6), Ray Allen (2-4) and Paul Pierce (5-6) were able to get to the basket with more success and convert at a better rate, specifically in Pierce’s case. The Celtics guards combined to go 11-16 at the rim. A huge difference.
This wasn’t a bad defensive game for the Bucks. Their defensive rating of 102.9 for teh game was about on target with their season’s effort of 102.3 (points per 100 possessions), though I’m sure they would like to drop that down a notch or two. Milwaukee opted to put pressure on Rajon Rondo throughout the game rather than give him more space to operate and he responded with a typical Rondo 17 points and 15 assist night. Milwaukee did force him into a season high six turnovers though. Overall, Milwaukee wasn’t beat by any one man, but rather by a team effort of Celtics clutch plays and Milwaukee’s own screw-ups near the end. If the Boston Celtics are given the chance to put away a game at the line, they’ll do it.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).