Wednesday night wasn’t the first time the Milwaukee Bucks needed Earl Boykins to jump-start a stalling offense. Perhaps you remember Los Angeles. Or Sacramento. Or a home games against Dallas and Atlanta. You get the picture. It wasn’t Boykins first shot-making rodeo.
And it probably won’t be his last, or the last one the Bucks require of him. Making shots has kind of been Boykins role this season; come in when the Bucks first or second units have dug a hole and missed shots and keep the team afloat. For a team that’s largely been devoid of a consistent offensive presence, his dependability has been rather comforting.
Milwaukee needed a big dose of little Earl early on Wednesday. The Bucks were down 25-18 when Boykins made his first three-pointer of the night with 1:39 remaining in the first quarter. By the time he scored the last of his 18 first half points, the Bucks had firmly taken control of things with a 62-49 lead. During his 12 minutes, Milwaukee’s guard made all eight of his shots and was was the driving force behind an offense that shot 60.5% in the first half.
Coach Scott Skiles was not so surprised after the game, as he rarely is when a guy who he dubbed the Bucks best shooter scores well. He thought back to when Boykins was signed when the summer was nearing an end.
“We talked about it with Earl, and we talked about it internally,” Skiles said after Wednesday’s game. “could Earl be a guy that could come in and help us win five, six, seven games? And that, no question, has already happened.”
Milwaukee wouldn’t require quite so much out of their pocket-sized point-getter in the second half, after all, it was the Cleveland Cavaliers in town.
Brandon Jennings picked up the offensive slack (14 of his 18 points came in the second half. He made seven of 10 shots, so it’s worth noting now: back-to-back games of equal to or greater than 50% shooting for Jennings. Eyes open, people.) and the Bucks defense did their usual thing against a Cavs offense that did their usual thing. The second half saw the Bucks split evenly the ball amongst a number of prospering offensive players, something that hasn’t been seen often in Milwaukee, or anywhere else the Bucks have played this season.
It was at the end of the third quarter that Jake McCormick wondered if the Bucks had eclipsed their point total of the past seven combined games. He said it in jest, but it’s funny, and kind of depressing, to think about how bad Milwaukee’s offense so regularly has been this year. The 88 points they scored through three quarters left them with a higher total than they have produced on 24 separate occasions this season. Milwaukee is 2-22 in those games.
- The Bucks blew away their 10.2 fastbreak points per game season average before the first half was even over with 14. At the end of the night they’d finish at nearly twice their season average with 19 fastbreak points. The Bucks made good use of most opportunities they had, especially after Andrew Bogut rebounds. The big man had a rough night from the field (1-6 FG), but keyed a number of breaks with crisp, quickly thrown outlet passes.
- One time so-so starting duo Jon Brockman and Larry Sanders looked sharp as reserves battling the struggling Cavaliers equally as young and unproven backup bigs. Sanders 12 points were the result of equal parts jump-shots and dunks, while Brockman bullied into the paint, ran into everyone the Cavs put in his way and converted at the free throw line. Brockman made seven of eight from the stripe and finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Speaking of Brockman … I can’t produce the numbers that back this claim up, but judging from my memory The Brockness Monster has drawn something like 15 straight charges without getting called for a block. Okay, the number probably isn’t that high, but he’s certainly getting more of the former called and not the latter. It’s a testament to his ability to get in the right position and probably to the reputation amongst referees he’s developed. Kudos Jon.
- After forcing just one turnover in the first quarter, Milwaukee would force 14 more the rest of the way and finished with 20 points off those turnovers. For a team that had been struggling in recent games to convert on turnovers, that was an important number.
Good news (or bad news depending on your views of the NBA), not only did the Bucks win handily on Wednesday, but the Indiana Pacers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Yikes. The “race” for the eighth seed just got a whole lot more interesting. Milwaukee now sits jut a game and a half behind a struggling Indiana team. The Bucks and Pacers meet again on April Fools Day. There’s a joke in there somewhere.
It’s probably about the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).