John Hammond may not be Dr. Frankenstein, but he’s definitely looking a lot smarter this week than he did last. The NBA is funny like that.
Isn’t it nice when the Bucks convincingly thrash an opponent the way they did in their 108-91 victory Wednesday night in Atlanta? If the Bucks four wins this season aren’t proof that not all wins are created equal, then I don’t know what is. Margin of victory is flexing its muscles and bullying wins around the playground right now.
Because really, no one was ready to jump back into the Bucks with both feet when they eeked out a four point win in Indiana. Milwaukee still played three quarters of bad basketball that game, only to see Indiana hand them the game. Sure, it counts as a win on the stat sheet, but it wasn’t a sign that the Bucks were any closer to being the team everyone hoped they would be at the start of the season.
But the two wins Milwaukee’s strung together against New York and Atlanta, those are the kinds of wins that show off who the Bucks could be. Pretty good teams handle weaker opponents at home. Only a select few teams can consistently head out on the road and beat quality opponents senseless the way the Bucks did the Hawks on Wednesday. Obviously, the Bucks haven’t been able to do this with any consistency yet, but at least now they know they can. Sometimes, that’s more than half the battle. The Bucks can look into their mirrors on Thursday morning and see a team that’s done some great work this week.
After wins against Charlotte and Indiana, they couldn’t do that.
Since it may not happen again, we’ll start with Earl Boykins. His mid-range jumper is the stuff happiness is made out of, smooth and consistent, but it was the way Earl controlled the game in the second quarter that was really impressive. Milwaukee’s starters slumped and struggled their way to an early 13-point deficit, only to watch Earl and company come in and clean things up.
He tallied six assists and zero turnovers in the quarter (seven points, eight assists and zero turnovers for the game), and while some were as simple as him laying off a pass for a scorching hot Corey Maggette, Earl often made very good decisions. He gets so much room from defenders thanks to his quickness that he’s virtually alway open for a shot and he’s always been more than capable of knocking down shots. He was decisive in the half court offense and didn’t over-dribble.
- Maggette was the efficiency monster Wednesday, everything the Bucks ever could have asked for. His final shooting numbers: 7-8 FG, 1-1 3FG and 5-6 FT. Maggette tallied 20 points for the evening thanks to his long range shooting rather than his dunks and layups for once. While he still worries most when he loads up from long range, Maggette was an amazing 5-6 on 16-23 foot jumpers against the Hawks. Every one of his makes came of an assist too; it seemed like he was constantly coming off a screen before he attacked or shot, very little isolation.
- Brandon Jennings struggled in the first quarter, but got hot in the third. Like, really hot. In 50 seconds near the end of the quarter, Jennings put up a VERY quick nine points, courtesy of a layup, a 4-point play and a three. His final line recovered from his start and looked good in the end: 19 points (7-16 FG, 4-5 3FG, 1-1 FT), six assists and five rebounds.
- Remember when Ersan Ilyasova was struggling? Yeah, me either. Didn’t happen. Suddenly, he’s back being a terrific rebounding, stretch four, one of the few in the league. Ersan finished with a double double Wednesday, with 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Plus he’s still giving full effort on both ends and looking like a craftier, max effort Troy Murphy. For now. I’ll say though, this team can survive his inconsistencies much better than they could last season.
The Bucks have still yet to allow a team to surpass the 100-point mark on them this season, holding the Hawks under despite 49.3% shooting. Milwaukee gathered up a bunch of traditionally very strong rebounders before this season started. And then saw themselves struggling with allowing offensive rebounds as the season began. Well, the rebounders have begun to return to the mean. Milwaukee owned the glass once again Wednesday, out-rebounding a traditionally strong rebounding Hawks team 44-32. Atlanta scored just seven second chance points.
- Milwaukee hasn’t been much of a fast break team this season, entering Wednesday’s game 29th in the league with just 8.8 per game, but the Bucks were able to run on a lot of Hawks turnovers. 20 points on the break represents a new season high for the Bucks and the 26 points on 17 Atlanta turnovers wasn’t too shabby either. The more Milwaukee turns their tenacious defense into easy offense, the better they will be.
Milwaukee looks like last year’s team again, but with offensive fire power. If I gave away a dollar every time I said last year that the Bucks simply didn’t have the talent to be a good offensive team, I’d be in dire straits financially. Now, Milwaukee has the talent. Thus far, the problem has been getting all that talent on the same page. The past two games, they’ve all been there, dotting each others I’s and crossing teammates T’s. With some time to put in more work before Saturday’s home date with Golden State, the Bucks could be in good position to climb back to .500 this weekend.