For once, the Milwaukee Bucks opponents could only sit and watch as one shot after another went in. For once, the Bucks played with confidence on offense. For once, offense wasn’t the primary concern at halftime.
For once, the Bucks got a big win.
Milwaukee’s offense was finally everything the front office dreamed it would be in the first quarter of their 107-80 win over the New York Knicks at home Tuesday night. In that first glorious 12 minutes, the Bucks could not be tamed. Milwaukee shot 15-22 (68.2%) from the field, 3-6 (50%) from 3-point range and 8-10 (80%) from the line.
After building a 22 point first quarter lead, the Bucks needed to do little more than hang on for the rest of the game. And with a defense like the one Milwaukee has, hanging on to a big lead isn’t much of a problem. Before the game, Coach Scott Skiles talked about the importance of keeping the Knicks from establishing tempo.
“What you want to do is limit their 3-point attempts if you can and try to make them shoot a poor percentage on those. You cant get caught up in trying to slow the game down. If team’s are shooting 3-point shots and missing those, those are almost always long rebounds that are coming down in guards or small forwards hands.
In the pros, you got to be able to come down and convert that. That’ll be a big part of the game, can we make them miss some of those perimeter shots and get the rebound and get some perimeter baskets.”
- Limit their 3-point attempts: Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Knicks were shooting 25 3-point shots per game. Tuesday, they shot 19. Even better, they made just five. Check.
- Long rebounds: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (masquerading as a three for some of the night) grabbed six defensive rebounds (eight total). John Salmons had six defensive rebounds (six total) and Brandon Jennings had three defensive rebounds (five total). Check.
- Converting: Off Knicks 14 3-point misses, here’s the Bucks stat line: 2-5 FG, 2-4 FT, six points, eight rebounds and one turnover. Not such a check.
Of course, when a team like the Bucks shoots 51.3%, they can live without piling up the easy points on the break off missed threes.
Rarely have the Bucks appeared in sync, confident in themselves or one another on offense this season. Monday they were all that and more. Players weren’t passing up on open shots, nor did they “pump fake air” as Coach Skiles said they had been doing lately. When players received the ball and were open, they shot. When they caught a pass but were covered, they passed. When they had room, they drove and finished. When they were crowded, they drove and passed. It was a beautifully simple game the Bucks were playing and, as they rarely had this season, they made it look so easy. It all comes back to hitting shots and feeling good. It’s amazing what a couple of baskets can do for a team’s mindset.
- Jennings said he wanted to be more aggressive, and in the first quarter he was. Jennings was 5-6 (2-3 3FG) in the first quarter and launched four consecutive successful shots at one point. It was just like old times, the good ones though, not the bad ones. Earlier today, I, regrettably, worried that Jennings would return to his chucking ways and leave the team even further from the success they had last season. For a little while, he played a lot like he did last season, but that would not last. Despite those six first quarter attempts, Jennings was just 8-13 (2-5 3FG, 1-2 FT) on the evening. It’s important that he be aggressive at times, but that he pick his spots. He helped get the team going early tonight and that’s a logical way to go about things.
- After the game, Skiles said he thought Salmons played his finest game of the season. While Salmons still isn’t shooting the ball particularly well, (3-8 on the night) he contributed in other ways he’s yet to make as much of an impact in this season. Salmons finished with six rebounds and five assists against zero turnovers. He was able to drive and kick and did knock down a few open shots along the way.
- Drew Gooden had a lot to do with the Bucks strong start, hitting four of his first five shots from the field before struggling down the stretch. It was important for the Bucks that Gooden finally get back on track a little bit though. If he’s able to consistently hit a mid-range or short corner jumper, he could very effectively play the role Scott Williams once did so well in 2001. Gooden can be a hustle guy at times too, even if scoring is his M.O. Gooden tracked dove for a loose ball in the second quarter, keeping it alive long enough for Jennings to come through and scoop it up on the way to the hoop for a breakaway dunk. Milwaukee needs more of first quarter Gooden.
Milwaukee’s finest defensive effort came against a perimeter shooting team with LRMAM starting at the small forward. That sounds about right. Milwaukee limited the Knicks to just 37.8% shooting from the field and a season low 80 points.
While they didn’t do a great job on converting off missed 3-pointers, the Bucks did do a very good job of turning Knicks turnovers into Bucks points. Milwaukee scored 31 points off 20 Knicks turnovers. A strength advantage inside was also apparent, as the Bucks dominated the glass 45-34 and easily outscored the Knicks in the paint 46-32.
This is the first real complete game the Bucks have played all season. Even in Boston, Milwaukee’s first quarter was kind of a let down. There was no letting up against New York. In a third quarter stretch when the Knicks were hinting at possibly having some interest in getting back into the game, Andrew Bogut rejected an Amar’e Stoudemire shot, ran the court and caught a between the legs pass from Jennings which he promptly flushed through the hoop, capping a 10-0 run to put the Bucks back up 24. He roared to the crowd as the Knicks called a timeout and removed Stoudemire for the game for good. The game was over, the Bucks would soon again be victors and the ship appeared back on course.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).