If only Ramon Sessions had been bottled up a bit more, Milwaukee really would have had a night to boast about. I guess teams shouldn’t really boast about beating the Cavs though, regardless of how lopsided the affair is.
Regardless, Milwaukee had a statistical advantage across the board against Cleveland. More rebounds, more assists, fewer turnovers, a better shooting percentage, you name it, Milwaukee did better. Except for free throws. The former Buck Sessions made sure Cleveland held their own there. They had to do well somewhere I guess.
But in Milwaukee’s 102-88 victory in Cleveland Friday night, there was never much of a doubt. The Bucks led from start to finish and squelched any possible Cleveland runs in a hurry, the start of the fourth quarter being a good example.
Cleveland made up ground quickly as the third quarter wound down, going on a 10-0 run that spanned the last 2:13 of the period. Milwaukee saw a 19-point lead shrink to nine and Cleveland’s crowd had suddenly awoke again. But the Bucks were having none of that when the fourth quarter started. They had been waiting patiently, suffering through Heat game after Magic game after Heat game to get some easy games on their schedule.
Milwaukee forced misses on the Cavs first six shots of the fourth quarter and an Andrew Bogut hook shot with 8:51 to play in the fourth built Milwaukee’s lead back up to 18, putting the Cavs hopes to bed early again. But for as much as this game was about an easy win for a team that needs as many as they can get, it was about the return of a glue guy.
Carlos Delfino checked in with 3:49 to play in the first quarter and would play 13 minutes before the first half was done. Scott Skiles said he planned to limit Delfino to 10 minutes for the game, but Delfino was so active for the Bucks, cutting through open lanes, keeping the ball moving and launching threes, that he ended up logging 23 minutes. He made just one of seven shots from 3-point range, but it was good to see him back anyway. His chemistry with teammates on the court and comfort in Milwaukee’s offense is always evident when he’s on the court.
Milwaukee’s hoping the wins follow him back.
Coach Skiles noted that the Bucks spacing had been a problem at times this season, but said after the game that the team excelled in this area against Cleveland. A lot of that had to do with Bogut. Against a small Cleveland front court, Bogut made 11 of 14 shots and scored 23 points, his first 20 point effort since December 13th against the Mavericks. The Cavaliers had to double him often and the Bucks spacing allowed for plenty of open looks, be them off cuts or ball swings, for his teammates. Bogut’s once reliable hook shots that haven’t been falling for him of late seemed to all go down with ease against the Cavs, regardless if he was shooting from four feet or 10-feet from the hoop.
- It’s really something how quickly assists pile up when a team is hitting shots. With little resistance from the enabling Cleveland defense, Milwaukee shot 50.6% and assisted on 24 of their 39 baskets. Keyon Dooling was the driving force behind the Bucks passing ways, finishing with a season high 11 assists against just one turnover. Overall, it was a very strong performance from Dooling, as he chipped in 12 points to complete his first double-double of the season.
- A strong performance from Bogut allows the Bucks to breathe a little bit easier offensively, but Corey Maggette had another plus game offensively. Free throws, even when Maggette was struggling from the field this season, have never been a problem for Maggette. But when he’s making eight of nine free throws and combining that with a 50% (6-12 FG) effort from the field, he’s a real force on offense. That’s been the Maggette of late and the one the Bucks hoped they’d have all season. Better late than never.
Ramon Sessions is about as far from John Wall as any point guard in the league could be. Whereas Wall was always looking to pass on his penetrations into the Bucks defense Wednesday night, Sessions, just like when he was in Milwaukee, is almost always looking to score. Or get to the free throw line. He did the latter very well against the Bucks Friday. Sessions made just four of 14 shots against Milwaukee, but was 14 of 16 from the free throw line. He was able to drag Bogut into foul trouble early on, but not able to drag his teammates to a win later on.
- Cleveland’s 38.2% shooting night is a sight Bucks fans are all too familiar with. So often the Cavs had looks that were just fine, just not the right players on the shooting end of those shots.
- Cleveland’s already weak lineup wasn’t helped when Bogut had JJ Hickson heading to the bench with foul trouble throughout the game. One of Cleveland’s finest scorers was limited to just four points on one of four shooting in 18 minutes.
Against teams as weak as the Wizards and Cavs, Milwaukee had to control games as much as they had to just win. The Wizards game wasn’t as much an exercise in superiority as the Cavs game was, so perhaps tonight was another sign of progress. Bogut’s big night was good, but if he follows it up with a stinker against a much better Memphis team with Marc Gasol manning the middle, it will be tough to see the 20-point effort against the Cavs as anything more than an aberration. If it isn’t, his play is a possible game changer for the Bucks down the road.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).