This is the type of game the Bucks need to win: at home against another East team with playoff aspirations, and not to mention one coming off a draining double-overtime loss the previous night. Well, the score wasn't quite indicative of how tight it wound up being, but the Bucks again got the job done, downing the Hawks 105-96 at the BC (box score / video). The Bucks had no answer for Josh Smith (38 pts) in his first game back from a quad injury, but the rest of his teammates looked tired and you somehow got the feeling that they were never going to get over the hump. Knee-jerk reactions:
- The Bucks shot a tidy 52% from the field (versus 48% for the Hawks) and also won the battle on the glass 44-38, so in some ways it's surprising the game was as close as it was for so long. The Bucks also shared the ball very well, with Mo and Bell combining for 18 of the Bucks' 27 assists.
- Let's acknowledge the great work by the bench, who were all a "plus" for the game. Villanueva (+18), Simmons (+8), Gadzuric (+6), Bell (+5) and even Ivey (+11, against his old team) helped turn a first-quarter deficit into a near-double-digit lead in the second quarter, allowing the starters to then run with it a bit and give the Bucks an 11 point edge at the half. That group, especially CV and Bobby, then also helped the Bucks hold off a couple furious rallies by the Hawks in the fourth. I mentioned in the preview that the second unit has been very disappointing thus far, so big credit to that group for stepping up. Villanueva couldn't handle Smith in the late-going, but he wasn't alone in that regard. CV's 17/7 performance came at a convenient time given Yi's lack of involvement (0/4 fg, 5 pts), and it was Villanueva who was the key to the Bucks' second quarter with ten points. Meanwhile, Simmons scored 10 including a couple key shots when the Hawks had made it a one-possession game.
- All that said, the player of the game was most likely Andrew Bogut, who notched his second straight 20/10 game with 21 points (10/15 fg), 10 rebounds and four blocks (!). Off the top of my head I'd say that's only the second time he's done that in his career, the other time being his back-to-back 20/24 and 27/11 lines in Philly and Charlotte last season. But one thing he's never done is block four shots in consecutive games. Shot-blocking isn't typically an acquired talent, but Bogut has now blocked four or more shots three times in eight games after accomplishing that feat once in his first two seasons. Like last game he was mostly scoring in the flow of the game by being active, with Mo Williams setting him up a number of times for easy hoops. Watching the "Mogut" combo the past two games has been beautiful to watch.
- The starting backcourt did their job, with Mike Redd scoring 21 on a tidy 10/16 fg, not to mention a number of key shots when the Hawks were keeping the game tight. And while he only had three rebounds and no assists, Redd helped limit Joe Johnson to just 14 points including some nice defensive work in the last couple minutes.
- Mo Williams meanwhile nearly had a triple double with 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He again had five turnovers, but he's doing such a good job getting others (especially Bogut) involved that the rough edges are pretty tolerable. Mo again had a big defensive play late, picking off an inbounds for a layup to seal the win.
- Probably the most disappointing thing was that the Bucks didn't put the game away when they stretched the lead to 68-53 in the third. Rather than kill off the tired Hawks they allowed a 10-0 run and had to work down the stretch before scoring the last eight points of the game. A major part of the Hawks' success was Smith bullying his way into the paint time after time, and even when he missed he gave the Hawks a chance to get second chances.