Ho hum, another road win without Michael Redd. The Bucks led most of the way, holding off the Sixers 87-83 in Philly (recap / video). If you're keeping score at home, that's now three straight road wins for the Bucks following a 2-15 start to the season away from the BC. Playing Miami, Charlotte and Philly helps for sure, but baby steps, people.
- Charlie Bell. Ah, sweet mean reversion. The worst shooter (percentage-wise at least) looks to be quickly digging himself out his season long slump, scoring 21 points in 32 minutes including four triples. OK, so he was only 8/17 from the field, but two straight 20 point games is certainly something to be happy about. A team-leading +13 too.
- Charlie Villanueva. With Yi Jianlian struggling, Villanueva scored 15 along with 10 boards to provide a shot of adrenaline. CV had three huge dunks, making Jason Smith look very rookie-esque on two of them, and his ability to create a good look late in the shot clock with the Bucks up two allowed Andrew Bogut to tap in with 25 seconds left.
- Mogut. OK, so they weren't quite in rhythm like at times earlier in the season, but Mo Williams and Andrew Bogut were each clutch, so I'll cheat and pick them both for the last spot. Williams tallied 21 along with nine helpers, including a tidy 6/12 fg and 8/9 ft. He also had a huge shot clock-beating three from about 28 feet out to give the Bucks a six point lead with just over three minutes remaining. Bogut meanwhile had a solid 13/12 in addition to three blocks. After working hard to get him post touches in Charlotte, the Sixers frequently doubled Bogut but he still managed a nice game including that big tip in late.
- Zero. As in the number of field goals made by Yi Jianlian (0/7 fg) and the number of threes made by the Sixers team (0/13). Fortunately for the Bucks, CV was on hand to fill in for Yi's off night, but the Sixers couldn't overcome their ice cold night from the perimeter.
- Six.The number of blocks the Bucks had in the first quarter, a good indicator of the energy they showed early in challenging shots. Royal Ivey had two of those, after blocking two shots in Charlotte as well. Why is this odd? Ivey has four blocks in the last two games; in 53 games last year he had the same total, and he's never had more than seven in a season. Overall the Bucks showed some very nice rotations defensively, though they also let Louis Williams slash too easily to the hoop in the second half.
- Nine. Mo Williams had his season high in free throw attempts, converting eight times. For a guy who can get to the rim fairly well, Mo has inexplicably been unable to draw fouls, so especially with Redd out his ability to get freebies is big.
- The Bench. How many times have we been able to say the bench helped? With only Bell, Villanueva and Ruffin available, the Bucks bench combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds, while five Sixers subs got just 20 and nine.
- Playing from the front. Not only did the Bucks get off to a good start, leading 26-17 after one, but they quickly responded to the Sixers 9-0 run that made it 55-51 Philly with their 9-0 run to make it 60-55. The Bucks never trailed the rest of the way, scoring just enough while watching Philly misfire time and again from deep.
- Ivey starting to fit in. I have to say that starting Ivey with Redd out didn't seem like much of a tonic for the Bucks' woes, but the Bucks have gotten off to fast starts in each of the last two games, so let's give Larry Krystkowiak some credit. Ivey has taken a bit of pressure off Mo Williams as a ballhandler, freeing him up to be more of a scorer. Bobby Simmons has also done his part. Though he was quieter tonight (9 points, 4/8 fg) he looks to be moving better and making some shots for a change.
- Yi Jianlian. Lately teams have done a better job denying him open looks outside, but tonight Yi was just off. I'm sure some people will wonder whether CV should be starting, but I don't really see the point. Villanueva will still get big minutes if he's playing well, and Yi's defense is still better. Yi's the future, so let's not overthink the issue.
- Rebounding. Maybe it was all those three point long misses, but the Sixers owned the boards, 47-39, including a whopping 18 offensive rebounds to the Bucks' nine. Sammy Dalembert had 16 boards, including eight offensive.
- The upcoming schedule. The Bucks have a golden opportunity to extend their winning streak to three tomorrow night against Miami at home, but thereafter it gets much tougher. Now at 14-20, the Bucks will travel to face the Lakers, Suns and Jazz in a four day period starting this weekend, so 15-23 is my best bet for their record when they come back home to play the Hawks at the BC next Wednesday. While they're not blowing anyone out, the last three road wins have not been without some very encouraging signs, namely the way Bell, Bogut, Villanueva and Simmons have played more like we knew they were capable of playing. It also sets up an interesting subplot for when Redd returns, most likely this weekend. Without Redd, the Bucks don't have the firepower to compete with good teams, but the team's improved cohesion in Redd's absence will hopefully carry over to when #22 returns from his thigh contusion.