If you only have been watching Bucks games this season, you’re certainly aware of the three-point shot, but you may not have known how quickly it can turn a game around.
Now you know.
The simple way to explain Milwaukee’s improbable comeback from down 11 points to begin the fourth quarter is like this: they got hot. Hot enough to outscore the Atlanta Hawks by 19 points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 98-90 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night.
It started with Carlos Delfino. Having struggled miserably in his first three games back from injury, some were calling for reduced minutes, or at least reduced shots for Delfino. At least until he started making shots again. Things can turn quickly in basketball though and Delfino appeared to have found his form early Wednesday night. Delfino had made two of four threes heading into the fourth quarter. He then hit another on Milwaukee’s first possession of the fourth quarter to cut Atlanta’s lead to eight and by the time he made his third and final three in the period, he was putting the Bucks up five.
He didn’t do it all by himself though.
Former D-Leaguer Garrett Temple sprinkled in a pair of timely threes and Earl Boykins went on one of his patented shot-making sprees to key a Bucks offense that had been lifeless throughout the game. Defensively the Bucks kept after the Hawks and Atlanta did little to put pressure back onto a surging Milwaukee team. The Hawks had been moving the ball well enough to get good looks and got solid play inside from Al Horford for three quarters. But when things fell apart in the fourth quarter, the team started relying on Josh Smith jump-shots to get them back into the game. Predictably, that failed miserably.
And on every miss the Bucks had a little more energy and countered with the plays they needed to make.
Garrett Temple only arrived in Milwaukee yesterday, but picked up everything he needed to by game time. And the stuff he didn’t know about, he was fed by his teammates throughout the game. Temple said he practiced mainly at point guard in his lone practice with the team, but he saw action exclusively at the two and three on Wednesday night. He looked like a natural fit.
He finished with just eight points, but made three of five shots, grabbed three rebounds and handed out three assists while not committing a turnover. He made a particularly key pass to Delfino in the fourth quarter. With the Hawks in a zone and the ball swung to him on the right side, he skipped his pass across the court to a waiting Delfino outside the arc. Delfino finished the play by making the three and the Bucks were up five with 2:29 to go. Plays like that haven’t always been made for the Bucks this season.
- While the Bucks struggled early on, Corey Maggette did his best to keep his squad close. Maggette uncharacteristically connected on three of four threes, as he made eight of 12 shots total for 22 points, despite not scoring in the fourth quarter. Maggette fouled out on a questionable slap of Horford’s wrist with 2:46 remaining, but his teammates had already picked up where he’d left off after three quarters.
- When shots begin to fall, suddenly the Bucks look quite accomplished at moving the ball. Milwaukee had seven assists in the fourth quarter on 11 made shots. For the game, the Bucks handed out 22 assists and committed just seven turnovers. Run of the mill stuff for a team that’s protected the ball well all season long.
- Delfino’s contributed his typical “little things” in each of the games he’s played in, but had his shot falling for the first time to match those tonight. He finished with 15 points on five of 11 shooting (5-9 3FG) and grabbed five rebounds while handing out four assists. Milwaukee saw five different players hand out at least three assists.
If he played enough minutes, Larry Sanders would lead the NBA in block percentage. And I’m using numbers that didn’t even include tonight’s performance. Sanders added three more blocks to his total against the Hawks. For a guy as raw as Sanders, he looks so very comfortable on defense. Sure of himself and aware of where he is supposed to be. The same can’t always be said about his offensive game, but his development defensively has to be a nice surprise for the Bucks.
- Atlanta didn’t stick with it enough, but there were times when Smith and Joe Johnson were terrorizing Milwaukee’s guards and small forwards in the low post. Smith particularly was all too content to settle for mid-range jumpers when he had an obvious quickness or size advantage over every Bucks player that covered him. He’d finish with just 14 points on six for 20 shooting.
- Atlanta shot nearly 50% over the first three quarters. The fourth quarter though, saw the Hawks make just 22.7% of their shots, while the Bucks connected on 61.1% of their attempts.
Is this a replicable formula? That’s the question I was asking at the end of the game. It’s unlikely the Bucks will make 10 of 20 threes on most nights, but they should be a better shooting team going forward than they have been, so long as Delfino is closer to Wednesday night’s Delfino than Monday night’s. But Milwaukee got some unlikely performances. Earl Boykins bails them out on occasion, but he won’t often make seven of 11 shots. The Bucks got very hot for one quarter on Wednesday. Against the Hawks, a team with a penchant for letting opponents back into games, that’ll work. And it’ll work against a lot of bad teams too.
But the Bucks cannot continue to fall behind they way they’ve done so often this season if they are serious about making a run at .500 yet.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).