It's rare that you can look forward to a game against the Spurs, but the Spurs sans Parker and Ginobili just aren't the same, are they? That was painfully clear tonight, as the Bucks stumbled their way to an ugly but hard-fought 82-78 win at the BC, rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to pull it out in the late going. Mike Redd was once again in street clothes, and the Bucks will be awaiting word whether Charlie Villanueva's tweaked hamstring will condem him to the sidelines as well. How bad is it for the Spurs? They featured a starting backcourt of rookie George Hill and journeyman Roger Mason, while someone named Anthony Tolliver also played 28 minutes. Yikes.
Andrew Bogut. Bogut's been taking some heat lately for his lack of offensive production, and tonight wasn't exactly a breakout game in the scoring department: 10 points, 5/10 fg, and not a single trip to the line. But Bogut at his best does a lot more than score, and that was certainly the case tonight against a decent big man by the name of Tim Duncan. Playing a season-high 42 minutes, Bogut grabbed 17 boards (seven offensive), dished out four assists, recorded three steals and didn't turn the ball over, something he's struggled with greatly as teams double him more frequently this year. And with the Spurs missing two-thirds of their big three, Duncan needed 20 shots for his 24 points and grabbed just five boards along with four turnovers. No, Bogut didn't have an answer for Duncan in the late stages, but we'll take it. Bogut's game highlight? Befitting of his post offense lately, it started with him mising a short hook with five minutes left in the fourth. But rather than drop his head and sulk, he tore away the rebound from Duncan to reset the offense. Moments later he got what he deserved, hammering a one-handed follow dunk off Charlie Bell's miss.
- Ramon Sessions. At this point there doesn't seem to be much doubt that Sessions brings more to the table than Luke Ridnour, but for now there's something to be said for using Sessions' scoring ability with the offensively-challenged second unit early and then keeping him in to close games. It wasn't a monster game for Ramon, but efficiency sure is nice to see from your young PG: 13 points on 5/7 fg along with three boards, three assists and no turnovers in 24 minutes. More importantly, it was Sessions who quarterbacked the team to a 21-2 run that gave the Bucks their first lead midway through the fourth. He also had a huge pickpocket of Tim Duncan with two minutes left and a layup past Duncan with 30 seconds to go, keeping the Spurs at arm's length. He continues to get in the lane with ease, in stark contrast to Ridnour--whose lack of explosiveness means he can't get much more than floaters in the lane.
- Richard Jefferson. He didn't exactly come out guns blazing, but Jefferson got the Bucks back into it with ten in the third and added a further six in final stanza. All told, RJ tallied 19 along, nine boards, and just one turnover--and probably enjoyed having to guard Ime Udoka and Michael Finley rather than LeBron James or Paul Pierce.
- 11-8. The Bucks are the only team to have a winning record against the Spurs in the last ten years, and they kept it up tonight against a team that didn't look too much like the Spurs of old. I think they'll take it.
- 14. If you're going to lay bricks all night, you better be ready to get some of them back, and the Bucks did just that with 14 offensive rebounds compared to seven for the Spurs. It carried over to the other end as well, as the Bucks outrebounded San Antonio 47-37.
- 7. It wasn't a big assist night for the Bucks (17), but along with their prowess on the glass they also helped themselves greatly by taking care of the ball, turning it over just seven times.
- Scraping one out. Beating the Spurs in their current state isn't anything to be too proud of, but at the moment the Bucks should be focusing on surviving November. Some beautiful basketball would be great, but the Bucks aren't good enough to worry about winning ugly.
- Youth movement. The Bucks' lack of depth has been severely tested by Redd's absence, and you can only imagine what will happen if/when more injuries come (let's hope CV can go on Friday). As a result, Scott Skiles hasn't had too much choice but to take a look at his youngsters. Fortunately, Sessions and Mbah a Moute (another extremely solid 11/7 night) have outplayed their starting counterparts and helped keep the Bucks afloat. Even Joe Alexander has gotten regular minutes of late, looking (dare I say?) pretty solid. Gold stars all around, kiddies.
- Saved by the D. With few options outside of Tim Duncan, the Spurs aren't the most difficult team to guard right now, though Michael Finley (8/12 fg, 19 points) did his best to pick up the slack. The Bucks also did their part in the second half, once again finding a way to buckle down on defense and turn the Spurs into a jumpshooting team while the Bucks made their 21-2 run. In conceding just nine free throws, the Bucks also found a way to D up without much fouling, an area they've frequently struggled in so far.
- Et tu, CV? Sure, Villanueva hasn't exactly been Mr. Consistency (has he ever?), and tonight marked the first time 08/09 that Skiles gave Mbah a Moute the starting nod over CV. Still, Villanueva's the only true PF on the roster and losing him for more than a game or two would make things awfully...uh, interesting up front. The good news is Mbah a Moute has been better than CV anyway, but after that the pickings are slim. Malik Allen has been largely MIA of late but would likely get some of that burn and Alexander would no doubt also get some smallball time at the 4--which unfortunately isn't his best position. If CV is out on Saturday, expect Elson to see more time against Kevin Garnett.
- Half empty. Scoring 15 points in the first quarter is bad; compounding it with just 16 in the second is downright miserable. No doubt the Bucks' 12 point halftime deficit would have been a lot worse against a healthier Spurs team, but tonight one half was enough to get it done.
- Starting guards. Bell's managed to put together a couple decent games of late, but in general he's still struggling to find his shot and doesn't look much like a starting NBA guard. The same can be said of Ridnour, who had a hot hand in Cleveland yesterday but otherwise has been roundly outplayed by Sessions of late. Is it just his back bothering him? Hopefully that's the explanation.