The one Saturday night that the Bucks aren’t in Milwaukee and they go and do this. Figures.
But that was the only thing to complain about after Milwaukee’s 115-92 destruction of the New Jersey Nets Saturday evening. Playing without Andrew Bogut (viral infection), Milwaukee displayed the same shooting ability they did in the latter parts of Friday night’s close loss to the Miami Heat, but this time combined it with care for the ball and four quarters of tough defense.
And another heaping dose of Chris Douglas-Roberts.
CD-R finished with 24 points on his 24th birthday, hitting nine of 14 shots (1-3 3FG 5-5 FT). After a messy second season that finished with the Nets practically giving him away for nothing over the summer, CD-R was certainly playing his old teammates with some extra motivation. The timing worked out well for him too, coming into Saturday night’s game after compiling a season high 30-points in Friday’s loss to Miami. While CD-R’s good play carried over from one game to the next, some of the issues that plagued the Bucks didn’t.
After turning the ball over 23 times Friday, Milwaukee limited their turnovers to just 10 against a significantly less imposing Nets defense. There was some concern that the Bucks would suffer a bit of a hangover after an emotional loss, but the strong effort against the Heat seemed to have reinforced the Bucks confidence instead. Milwaukee stepped on the collective throats of the Nets immediately and never let them so much as gasp for air.
A John Salmons three put the Bucks up 5-2 and Milwaukee led the rest of the way, giving Milwaukee their most comfortable win since November 9th at home against the Knicks.
Without Bogut, Milwaukee would need the same strong wing play they got from CD-R and Salmons on Friday. They got solid play again, but an unlikely source contributed. Corey Maggette fought through foul trouble and scored 20 points in his first start of the season. Ersan Ilyasova shifted over to center, Luc Mbah a Moute to power forward and Maggette started at the three. Maggette scored 20 points in classic Maggette fashion. A typical season’s Maggette, not this season’s. He made five of nine shots and connected on 10 of 11 free throws, while turning the ball over just three times. That’s the Maggette Milwaukee wanted to acquire last summer, not the one who’s often shot under 40% this season and has bowled over opponents and missed on passes time after time.
If he continues this sort of play, Milwaukee’s season could really take off. It’s curious he had such a strong game, one night after playing under seven minutes, but it goes to show that he’s keeping himself prepared and ready.
- The Bucks connected on a season high 58.3% of their shots thanks to a combination of them finally finding the bottom of the net on jumpers and the Nets playing little to no defense often. For Milwaukee the little bit of rain ended up in a blizzard of shooting success, as they made 42.9% of their threes and 86.2% of their free throws.
- It’s funny how good ball movement can appear on paper when a team finally starts making shots. Milwaukee had 27 assists on 42 field goals, some of their finest numbers of the season. Were they doing anything differently? No. They just finally started making some shots.
The Nets actually managed a respectable 45% shooting, but did most of their work in garbage time. Where Milwaukee really shined was in limiting the Nets stars. Brook Lopez scored just five points on two of five shooting despite Bogut’s absence. Just as well, Travis Outlaw scored just three points on one of seven shooting.
- A night after Bogut tied the team record with 20 defensive rebounds, Ilyasova managed a strong game himself in his first start at center this season. Ilyasova grabbed 12 defensive rebounds (13 total) and did a very good job helping to limit Lopez all night despite Lopez’s significant size advantage. Ilyasova chipped in 22 points (10-14 FG) and three steals as well and looked comfortable up front with Mbah a Moute, who played well in his more natural power forward spot.
- Doing what he’s been doing whenever he’s received playing time, Larry Sanders managed three blocks in just 20 minutes.
For some time everyone’s suspected things would start to look brighter for the Bucks when the schedule softened, and Saturday night’s game was the first glimpse of what could possible lie ahead. It’s a bit much to expect the Bucks to roll off 20 point wins every time they face a team that isn’t one of the league’s best, but the team that beat the Nets Saturday certainly looks like one ready to put together some consistent basketball. That’s been missing all season, but Milwaukee looks ready to start putting together their best basketball at the right time.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).