Last summer, when we all had dreams, some would call them delusions now, of the Bucks beating the odds, competing hard every night and evolving into a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, those dreams had a lot to do with balance.
No, the Bucks wouldn’t have three superstars like the Heat. They wouldn’t even have one for that matter. But it seemed plausible that they would pair a strong defense with an offense getting contributions from a variety of sources and beat teams they weren’t supposed to.
Turns out, we were right. We just saw it happen. Wednesday night, the Bucks marched into Miami, got those contributions from a wide variety of players and upended the favored Heat 90-85.
Okay, the Heat didn’t have Dwyane Wade. And Chris Bosh had an off night. But this was the win the Bucks needed. Except they needed it a week ago. As fun as it was that Milwaukee played giant killer for one night and likely ruined any chance the Heat had at a number one seed, it was all for not. The Pacers beat the Wizards Wednesday night, knocking the Bucks out of the playoffs.
The season that was supposed to have been a dream, has been a nightmare, and now it’s over. But at least it ended on a positive note.
Eight different Bucks players connected on at least three field goals Wednesday night, as Milwaukee displayed the kind of balance and bench production that has largely eluded the team this season. John Salmons led the way with 17 points, but it was Luc Mbah a Moute’s scrappy style of play that set the tone for Milwaukee. Just one game after dropping a number of passes and looking out of sync, Mbah a Moute helped the Bucks off to quick start, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter, as the Bucks jumped out to a 25-15 lead after one.
- While it was important that Mbah a Moute got going early, it was equally as crucial that someone made some shots late, as the Bucks have struggled to close out games all season. Against the Heat, Carlos Delfino stepped up. Delfino made two crucial threes in the fourth, one with 2:06 remaining to put the Bucks up two and one with just 24.8 to go that gave the Bucks a four point lead, and essentially the game.
- As much as the next guy, I understand the value of a win. It’s fun to see the Bucks beat the Heat. But there’s more to this whole thing at this point than just winning games. So it’s a bummer to see a Bucks win, but largely ineffective games from both Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. The Building Blocks combined to shoot just six for 16. Bogut did his thing defensively, as he always does, with 10 rebounds and four blocks. But against a weak Miami front line, his three of seven effort doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Against teams with a superstar like LeBron James, it’s best just to try to weather his storm and survive. The Bucks did that well Wednesday. James got loose for 12 third quarter points as the game began to feel like it was in his hands, but the Bucks didn’t fold up. They did their best to apply enough pressure on James to convert him from scorer to passer. James can pass as well as anyone, but every team in the league will live with Bosh and Mike Bibby trying to beat them instead of James. James’s teammates couldn’t deliver and the Bucks accomplished their goal.
- With a few very strong offensive rebounders, typically the Bucks fair well on second chance points. But a key for Milwaukee against the Heat, even more than second chance points, was their ability to force and score off turnovers. The Bucks scored 18 points on 16 Miami turnovers. With Delfino and Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee typically does well in forcing turnovers, and as the season has gone on, it has gotten better and better about turning those opportunities into points.
I read what I tweet, what I write and I see how negative I can be. I hate to come off as so negative. I know many people were excited about this win, and that’s cool. I wish I could feel the same. But having watched the Bucks struggle so mightily this season and completely fail at establishing anything consistent, it’s tough for me to get too pumped over a meaningless win in early April, even if it is against the Heat. Especially since this was the night Milwaukee was officially ousted from the playoff race.
So when you see me making sarcastic remarks about victories or plead for losses, just know that’s how I deal with the losing.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).