Vertically challenged: Clippers 105 – Bucks 98
They survived so much. All the dunking, all the lobs, all the spin moves, all the ferocity and all the violence. The Bucks survived all that and were right there in the fourth quarter Monday night against the Clippers.
This is no small task. L.A. had won eight straight at home coming into Monday’s game and featured a rookie who routinely posts “Kevin Durant in college” type numbers. And he did his thing as usual. But the Bucks were still there. More than that: they were winning. With 7:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee had the lead over the Clippers.
And then, of all people, the Clippers ground tethered backup power forward scored the last of his six straight points to put Los Angeles back in the lead. The Clippers would never relinquish that lead. Just over a minute later, this same backup forward drew the second of two fouls on Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova and sent Milwaukee’s most effective offensive performer on this Monday night to the bench with his final foul. Ike Diogu would head on back to the bench too. It was Blake Griffin time again. But Diogu had done his job.
The Clippers bench isn’t one filled with big names or very productive players. They have some firepower and athleticism in their starting lineup that can rival a lot of teams in the league. No one expected Milwaukee to be able to run and jump with the Clippers starters, but Milwaukee was supposed to take over against the Clippers weak bench. They did in the second quarter.
After trailing 26-16 after one, Milwaukee stormed back into the game early in the second quarter. Eight points from Brandon Jennings and a layup from Luc Mbah a Moute left the Bucks down just two by the 9:45 mark of the second. Quickly the Clippers brought back in Griffin and guard Randy Foye. Later, when Milwaukee saw Griffin head to the bench and a deficit of just two points early in the fourth quarter, opportunity was figuratively knocking at the Bucks door.
But the Clippers made the plays they needed to just long enough until their stars could shine again. Baron Davis and Foye led the Clippers home down the stretch and the Bucks could only watch as another chance at a start of something good had slipped away.
Ilyasova is plugged in. It’s never easy for a guy to explain why suddenly he can shoot again. Whatever the case may be, his shots are falling. Ilyasova was seven of eight from the field (1-1 3FG), scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. The long twos were kind again to Turkish Thunder. He finished a perfect five of five from 16-23 feet, and I’m not even sure he hit the rim.
- At his old stomping grounds, Corey Maggette stomped over and over to the free throw line. Maggette finished 13 of 15 from the stripe, six of 13 from the field and scored 25 points. As has often been the case over the past few weeks, more than once the offense seemed to jump on the strong back of the small forward and ride him until he was out of gas.
- Jennings eight points in two minute burst was fun, as was a stretch in the fourth quarter where he drove the lane seemingly at will, resulting in two of three layup attempts falling through. But his minute limit ruined the fun at the end of the day. He was held to just 18 minutes – doctors orders – and wasn’t very happy about it during or after the game. Jennings sure wasn’t shy about making the most of his time out there though. Hoisting up a team leading 13 shots.
Milwaukee was at a loss, as their horizontal defense could only watch when the Clippers went vertical on them. Griffin finished 13 of 19 from the field for 32 points. That’s to be expected. What Milwaukee appeared less ready for was DeAndre Jordan’s 16 points nearly all off alley-oop dunks. Jordan threw down dunks over a couple different Bucks, including league leading shot-blocker Andrew Bogut. Bogut appeared to be a step slow all night long defensively, struggling to stay with Griffin when matched up on him. Making matters worse, Foye fell on Bogut’s leg in the fourth quarter. The center tried to play on but eventually limped off. An MRI is scheduled for Tuesday he tells Charles F. Gardner.
There will be no six game winning streak. Or five. Or four even. After three straight wins boosted the spirits of the Bucks, Milwaukee came out flat against a very good home team in the Clippers. As they’ve done so often this season, Milwaukee fell behind early and clawed back into the game. Unlike they’ve typically done, Milwaukee actually built up a lead for themselves at one point.
The Bucks held a seven-point lead at one point in the third quarter. But they couldn’t string together a combination of stops and baskets needed to put away the Clippers. That’s the advantage of being the home team. Momentum kicks in and it’s hard to get buried. The Bucks didn’t bury the Clippers when they had the chance, saw the crowd get back into it, watched the Clippers start dunking and hitting shots again and couldn’t keep up.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).