Every now and then, the Bucks show us all that they can still be pretty good. There’s typically a catch though.
Raptors. Nets. Cavs. Wizards. Clippers.
Those are the last five opponents Milwaukee has defeated by double digits. So maybe it’s not time to bust out the hot tubs filled with champagne just yet. Still, it’s fun to see Milwaukee get a convincing win, and that’s certainly what Monday night’s 102-78 victory over the Clippers was.
As Coach Scott Skiles said after the game, “the Bucks were on another level” Monday night. Their passing was crisp and the ball moved freely early. Their defense rotated and helped as well as they have all season. And, finally, they made shots while they were passing and defending well. It was the perfect storm of Bucks basketball. Skiles thought the ball movement was the key.
“Right from the start,” he said, “less dribbling around all over the place and more passing and that’s how we need to play. As a result, we shot the ball well.”
The key early was shooting guard John Salmons dialing up his inner point guard. When Salmons first came into the league, he did so as a big point guard, but eventually moved over to the two. His point guard skills were on display Monday. Salmons dished out four first quarter assists on his was to 12 assists.
When it was all said and done, the Bucks improved to 21-33 and the Clippers fell to 20-35. Those aren’t numbers that should have anyone all that excited, but the more telling one is 4-21: the Clippers new road record. Milwaukee was LA’s seventh stop on a 11 game road trip that goes on beyond the all-star break. So, while it’s fun to see a convincing Bucks win, don’t be fooled just yet.
Carlos Delfino was a spark early and a full blown fire late. The Bucks forward, starting for the injured Corey Maggette, made five of his seven threes in the fourth quarter and missed just three on the night. If there was one thing Delfino needed, it was a seven of 10 three-point game to boost his spirits after a rough month back from injury. He chipped in nine rebounds to go along with his season high 26 points.
- Brandon Jennings made four of his first six shots and seemed on his way to a big night after scoring 11 first quarter points. He’d only end up with 20, but looked sharp for the first time in a while. He made eight of 17 shots and two of five from three-point distance. With Salmons handling the assist duties, Jennings was free to score and finished with just four assists against five turnovers. Not exactly the numbers we were promised at the start of the season, but this is no game to nitpick.
- Jon Brockman scored a season high 11 points on a variety of point-blank shots and five of six free throw shooting. He took a couple charges and didn’t get dunked on. Surprisingly, he only grabbed one offensive board. Typically when he’s scored, it’s been on putbacks and dunks after offensive rebounds. What was most important about Brockman’s game was his solid play after Andrew Bogut fouled out after just two minutes of playing time in the fourth quarter.
The star was Luc Mbah a Moute, but all of the Bucks had a solid game defensively. Bogut contributed three blocks, Brockman took some charges and Delfino nabbed three steals. With the exception of Baron Davis and a few dunks for other guys, none of the Clippers had many easy opportunities or open looks.
The chemistry between the Bucks players from last season, Bogut, Jennings, Delfino, Salmons and Mbah a Moute in particular, was on display Monday night. It felt all sorts of 2010 in the Bradley Center. They knew where each other would be, Salmons could drive and kick to Jennings or swing that extra pass to Delfino. The ball was shared and everyone knew they would get the ball back. There was no selfishness and there was trust. Everyone knew the plays and what to do. That was a team that trusted each other. The Maggette’s and Gooden’s can still be worked in, but doing so without any full practices or time to work together proved much more difficult than anticipated.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).