The roar of the crowd late in the fourth quarter of Milwaukee’s 100-87 win over the Washington Wizards Wednesday night seemed a little out place. Milwaukee had been up virtually the entire period and had long put away the hapless, 0-20 on the road, Wizards.
But the crowd went wild after two Larry Sanders free throws with :12 seconds remaining. There would be snack wraps. For just the third time this season, the Bucks surpassed the always challenging 100-point plateau in a home victory. Certainly not something anyone would have expected after Milwaukee’s rough first quarter.
The Bucks made just five of 18 shots in the first (27.8%) and trailed a hot-shooting Wizards team by eight after one. But as Milwaukee’s been doing for much of the season, they spent the second quarter crawling back into the game. Getting back into games hasn’t been much of a problem for the Bucks. For all of their losses this season to powerhouse competitors and bottom-feeders alike, not very often have the Bucks been blown out. It’s been getting past a tie that’s been a challenge for them.
That’s where playing the league’s worst teams comes into play. On a night where the Bucks were by no means at their sharpest, they still were able to blow past the Wizards in a third quarter in which Milwaukee shot 68.8% and limited the Wizards to 25% shooting. The Bucks grabbed the lead for good halfway through the third quarter and never looked back, eventually winning by 13. It wasn’t always easy for Milwaukee though. Coach Scott Skiles said before the game that as much as he wanted a win against Washington, he wanted to see a strong performance out of his team.
” No,” Skiles said when asked after the game if he got the game he wanted from his team. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we can’t be satisfied. If we were playing Orlando tonight, or the Celtics tonight, we gotta play better than that. The guys know that. We can’t be in celebration mode right now, there’s still a lot of things we need to do better.”
Much like the team itself, Corey Maggette couldn’t do much in the first quarter. His patented drives for contact were only resulting in ugly shots, not free throws. His jumper wasn’t going down and he wasn’t contributing elsewhere. Fortunately there were three quarters left for him to make up for the first. Maggette finished with 21 points on seven of 18 shooting and shot (and made) seven free throws after that first quarter in which he attempted none. He even tied his season high with four assists and had now had at least three assists in each of his last four games. Rejoice!
- With Maggette more apt to kick the ball out and the Bucks in general seemingly always passing the ball Wednesday night, there were plenty of opportunities for Keyon Dooling to shoot. And shoot well he did. Dooling made nine of 11 shots and three of four threes Wednesday night, good for a season high 23 points. Dooling’s often been criticized for his inaccuracy this season (and for not being Luke Ridnour), but his defense has been steady throughout. He combined that defense with made shots on Wednesday and put together a pretty stellar game. If that was something he could do more often … look out.
- Depth is a luxury the Wizards don’t have. That was obvious before Wednesday’s game and even more so after. While the Wizards got just 18 points off their bench in Milwaukee, the Bucks countered with 35, 19 of which came from Earl Boykins. Boykins said after the game that with John Salmons out (right hip soreness, day-to-day), it was up to the rest of the guards to step up. He and Dooling combined for 42 and officially stepped up.
John Wall was a hot topic before the game and Coach Skiles noted that he is a rookie and has some rookie moments just like everyone else. Wednesday night seemed like one big rookie moment for Wall. While his final numbers looked okay, 10 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, Wall failed to have much of an impact beyond the first quarter. He looked passive, even with the minuscule Boykins covering him. Bogut on Wall after the game: “He’s a great passer, he’s very, very good at getting into the paint. We kind of realize that he’s not going to score too much, we tried to just fake at him and make him take tough shots. In the open floor and transition he’s tough to stop.”
- And transition was the key for Wall early. Seven of his assists came in the first quarter as the Wizards capitalized on Bucks turnovers and long misses to score eight fast break points. But the Bucks took better care of the ball as the game went on, shot better and limited the Wizards to just 15 fast break points the rest of the way, while Wall managed only six more assists.
- After rebounding troubles in Houston, the Bucks were back to their typical work on the glass. Milwaukee won the rebounding battle 43-34 and limited Washington to just six offensive rebounds. When the Bucks limit second chances and keep the opponents shooting percentage down, they end up looking pretty good.
Skiles was abrupt in dismissing this game as the effort he was looking for, but there were some positive steps. Milwaukee’s shot better than 44% in three straight games now, just the second time this season their offense has been able to put together a streak like that. More importantly, Corey Maggette is coming around as a starter and providing the Bucks with some kind of consistent offense, something not Salmons, Bogut or Brandon Jennings has been able to do much this season. With Carlos Delfino possibly practicing tomorrow according to Coach Skiles before the game and Jennings getting closer and closer, the Bucks might have something to build on here.