For a while, it looked like we’d be discussing a game that was never in doubt. Then a Bucks win began to just look doubtful. And then, finally, there was no doubt that the Bucks would walk away with a win.
At the heart of it all? As usual, it was shot making. When the Bucks were taking care of the ball and making shots things went pretty well. That was the first quarter. Milwaukee shot 57.9%, passed out six assists and turned it over just twice. It was a party at the Bradley Center, as the Bucks led 32-9 just a week after sinking to that very same low of nine points in a quarter just a week earlier.
And then things took a turn with the worse. Milwaukee’s nine-point-like offense returned and, uncharacteristically, the Bucks got a little loose with the ball. The Knicks turned the tables on Milwaukee and poured in 32 points while the Bucks managed just 15. Across the country, a 15-point quarter is surely cause for concern, but around these parts, it was just business as usual. Milwaukee fans have become accustomed to such scoring droughts.
So it was a tad surprising to see the Bucks return so strongly in the second half.
Led by Carlos Delfino’s 17, the Bucks scored 53 in the second half, just enough to tip the Knicks. Delfino established a new career highs in points, pouring in 30 behind six made threes, just one game after scoring 26 and hitting eight threes against the Nets. Still anyone out there questioning Delfino’s impact? When he’s stepping into shots and pulling with confidence, it makes all the difference in the world for the Bucks.
“It’s very important for me personally and for Brandon,” said Andrew Bogut of having a shooter like Delfino making shots. “You come off the pick and roll and they have to respect Carlos’ three-point shooting ability and they double team me in the post, it messes up other team’s rotations.”
Just ask the Knicks and Nets.
Just like he did in Milwaukee’s victory over the Nets on Friday, Brandon Jennings was once again setting his teammates up. Five of the Bucks seven threes came off Jennings assists and four of Delfino’s six were assisted by him. Typically a scorer with a quick trigger in first quarters, Jennings attempted just one shot in 11 first quarter minutes. Don’t say he wasn’t active though. The Bucks point guard grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists in the first quarter as he started on his way to a near triple double. Jennings finished the game with 14 points, nine assists and 11 rebounds. Coach Scott Skiles spoke post game about his guard’s solid effort and how assists are a team effort.
“I thought Brandon had a really nice floor game overall,” Skiles said. “I once had 30 (assists) in a game, but I’d had zero if they weren’t making shots. The other guys deserve credit for that. You gotta see people and when you deliver it they gotta knock it down. He had really nice vision tonight.”
- Fortunately for the Bucks starters, Monday is an off day. All five played at least 40 minutes and scored in double figures. Three, Delfino, Jennings and Andrew Bogut, tallied double doubles. Skiles said after the game it wasn’t that the bench played poorly, it was just that his starters were playing so well it was hard to keep them out of the game.
- Luc Mbah a Moute has defense that can always be relied upon, so if he’s doing more than finishing at the rim (something he’s actually struggled with these last two games), he’s a bonus on offense. He was a big bonus against the Knicks. Mbah a Moute made the most of his career high 13 free throw attempts by connecting on each and every one of them. Mbah a Moute finished with 19 points and eight rebounds while hounding Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony alternately all game. Stoudemire finished with 25 points, but took 28 shots to do so.
I know it may seem like the Bucks are unpredictable, given their offensive explosions over the past two games, but unpredictable is about as far from what the Bucks have been over the past 10 games as anything. The Bucks are 5-5 over their past 10. Their five wins have come against Washington, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. While Philly and the Knicks are firm playoff teams, no one would accuse either of them of being world beaters, and don’t forget that there were favorable factors working for the Bucks leading up to their game with the Sixers.
Milwaukee’s five losses have come at the hands of Phoenix, Boston, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando. The Eastern most teams in that group are clear upper echelon teams in the East, with the Suns being a playoff candidate in the West. So while our memories may allow us to believe the Bucks are an inconsistent group possibly on the verge of establishing some consistency, their performances of late, when looked at all together, seem to indicate a truth.
That truth? The Bucks are now good enough to beat the teams that they should. And that’s about it. Considering where the team was earlier this season, this is a step in the right direction. The question going forward will be whether or not the Bucks can begin to beat the teams it may appear that they shouldn’t. It’s an awfully tough transition to make over the last 12 games of a season.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).