Trophy Hunters

The First Half

The Bucks stormed out to a big first half lead that ballooned to 14 points by halftime. Contributions came from the entire lineup, with some fast starts from Monta Ellis (10 points and 6 assists) and “Steady-Eddie” Ersan Ilyasvoa reaching double digits with 10 points.  In a pleasantly suprising offensive outburst, Ekpe Udoh posted a respectable 9 points, 5 rebounds to round out the top performers of the half.  That the team has 54 points with a subdued first half offensive performance from Brandon Jennings (3 points) bodes well for both tonights game and the rest of this season.

Game

The second half went the way that many of the Bucks games have gone this season: A big lead going in to the half slips away, then Milwaukee either folds, or turns it on and runs away with the game.  Tonight, thankfully, the Bucks opted for the latter, responding with great second half showings from Jennings and Ellis.  The win is the Bucks 4th out of 4 games against Cleveland this season, each time with the offense blowing past the 100 point mark.  The win also brought Milwaukee to within 1 game of the dormant Knicks for the final playoff spot.

Monta Ellis

Any discussion of this game must begin by talking about the late game performance of the Bucks new weapon.  His overall stat line (30 points, 8 assists) looks like just another scorer in a Bucks lineup that scores just under 100 points per game.  But the most important aspect of his game was the final 16 Bucks points were all scored by Ellis.  This is something that the Bucks have been missing all season; a player that when the end of the game comes up, he can kick it up a notch and put the game beyond doubt.  Game after game the Bucks struggled with giving up big leads or coming up short on a rally.  With the addition of Monta, he could be the key piece that the Bucks so desperately need come playoff time.

Brandon Jennings

After a slow start, Jennings woke up in the second half offensively. His 18 points, combined with the great performance by Ellis, led the team through a rough period at times in the 3rd quarter.  Another promising sign; Brandon Jennings proved his shot selection has improved dramatically recently.  Earlier in the season, Jennings felt that he had to carry the team through thick and thin.  This lead to plenty of long three point shots, off balanced layups and reckless passes.  Now with the team playing the way they have been and the additions of Monta Ellis, Jennings play has been much more relaxed and the wins have followed.

Next up, the Bobcats come to Milwaukee for the 3rd game this season and a chance to seize a playoff spot for the first time this season.

Fear the Deer! 

12-14!

2/10/2012

Milwaukee Bucks 113-112 Cleveland Cavaliers

What at first looked to be an uninspiring match-up turned out to be one of the Bucks more exciting games of the season, with Scott Skiles getting a little too excited and being ejected early. Although frankly the Bucks underperformed throughout the first and portions of the second half, Milwaukee used a strong fourth quarter to force overtime and took care of business in extra time. Multiple shout-outs are in order for players who stepped up, including clutch late plays by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden.

Brandon Jennings

In a day that had seen a sad moment in Jenning’s Milwaukee career with his remarks on free agency, the young point guard delivered with a solid perfomance. He lead the Bucks with 24 points and 8 assists, creating opportunities for the offense and leading the late charge. With assists on 2 Gooden shots, Jennings accounted for 7 of the Bucks 11 overtime points, and made headway into breaking his recent slump.

Stephen Jackson/Shaun Livingston

Stephen Jackson has fallen on rough times of late, losing his starting spot during a season long clash with Scott Skiles about his attitude on the court. Tonight however, he and his replacement Livingston worked brilliantly in tandem. At the start of the 4th quarter with the Bucks down 77-85, Jackson dished to Livingston for emphatic dunks within a minute. The pair would go on to score 9 points and 2 assists during a 9-3 Bucks run to start the quarter that pulled Milwaukee to within 2 points.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Although largely silent for most of the game, tallying only 7 points and 6 rebounds, Mbah a Moute stepped upwhen the Bucks needed him the most. Down 2 with :50 seconds left, Mbah a Moute coolly sank 2 free throws to pull the game tied and go to overtime. Big time play from the big man.

Antwan Jamison

We would be remiss if we did not highlight the monster performance put on by the 35 year old. Without any Buck defender willing to face up against him, Jamison dominated the interior, scoring a season high 34 points and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately for Jamison and the Cavs, he wasn’t able to deliver when his team needed him the most. Fouled with less than 4 seconds left in a tie game, Jamison went to the line to shoot 2. He missed them both. He was a nonfactor in overtime, and his misses went on to haunt the Cavs as they were unable to come back in OT

On another note, Anderson Varejavo left the game in the third with an injured wrist. His absence was a great relief for the Bucks front court.

Another day, another Bucks win. At 12-14, the Bucks are still sitting in a good position to qualify for the playoffs, but need to keep an eye on the rising Knicks.

Fear the Deer!

1/23/2012

Milwaukee Bucks (6-9) vs Atlanta Hawks (12-5)

Bradley Center, Milwaukee Wisconsin

Line: Atlanta by 1

The short road trip couldn’t have gone better for Milwaukee.  The defense, which has not been showing up consistently enough for a Scott Skiles team, finally seemed to gel, and the Bucks scored 2 road wins against playoff caliber teams in New York and Miami.  The Bucks return to Milwaukee to play the Hawks, themselves coming off of a 121-94 destruction of the Cavs.  However, when away from Atlanta, the Hawks have looked very beatable, with a 4-4 record on the road.  With the Bucks full of confidence and playing up to their potential, this is a favorable position for a win in Milwaukee.

What to Watch For:

  • After holding the top ranked offense in the NBA to just 82 points on 37% shooting,  the Bucks face another top ten offense in the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks, 6th ranked with 98 points per game, have scored more than 100 points 9 times this season, and have only lost one of those, a 116-109 OT loss to the Heat. Translation: Bucks defense needs to step up big again and hold them to under 90 to allow the meticulous, time draining Bucks offense to control the game.
  • What do the Bucks do about Ersan? After the Turkish forward was benched in favor of rookie Jon Leuer, he became a valuable defensive asset off the bench against the Knicks and Heat.  However, his offensive numbers still leave much to be desired, and unless the Bucks plan on only giving up 85 a game (By the way, Skiles, if thats your plan, I’m completely fine with that), Ilyasova will either need to start improving his offensive/ball handling abilities or Leuer will need to quicken his developing defensive skills.
  • Maybe Stephen Jackson missing the bus to shooting practice Friday in New York was the best thing to happen to the Bucks this season.  In his absence, Shaun Livingston stepped in and played out of his mind against the Knicks and again in Miami.  Livingston, besides being a good shooter, also brings more skill as a scoring facilitator than Jackson did.  This altered the Bucks offense into a 2 point guard system, with Jennings being allowed to roam around the perimeter and find himself shots or lanes for scoring.  The strategy has clearly been beneficial to Jennings, who has put up game high scoring numbers, including a career high in free throws made, since the change was made.
  • The Bucks have lived up to their reputation as an opportunistic defense. They are second only to the Miami Heat for the most opposition turnovers, forcing 17.8 per game. Milwaukee is 8th in the league in steals per game, but the Bucks are able to do more than just steal to create turnovers. During last nights game in Miami, Scott Skiles set up late game defensive schemes that confused the Heat offense, resulting in 11 unforced turnovers by way of errant passes and traps along the baseline. Confusion is key in beating the elite teams of this league, especially when they are more talented.  The Bucks may not have had more talent than the Heat (or the Thunder, Magic, Bulls, or Celtics), but they can beat superior teams with superior schemes, and they proved it last night.  Tonight, with another team higher in the standings coming to the Bradley Center, the Bucks have another opportunity to show their defensive improvements against a top flight opponent.