Ten minutes in, it didn't seem like the Bucks could lose. With 10 minutes left, it didn't seem like the Bucks could win. And yet after 53 minutes that's just what happened, the Bucks rallying from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and escaping with a 112-104 OT win at the BC. With Mike Redd nursing an ankle injury, Richard Jefferson delivered with 32 points, nine dimes, and a couple of steals in nearly 49 minutes of action, while the little man combination of Ramon Sessions (22 points, eight assists) and Luke Ridnour (20 points, 11 assists) led the Bucks' comeback effort.
- Richard Jefferson. Jefferson started off on fire with 14 in the first, helping the Bucks to an 18-point lead and the sense that it would be an easy night at the BC. Yet the Bucks then went cold. Like, ice cold. No, make it absolute zero cold. Fortunately, Jefferson came back in the fourth and got some help, too. While he couldn't lock down Caron Butler all night (27 pts, seven boards, five TO), Butler missed four of his last five as Jefferson came out on top.
Luc Mbah a Moute. It's becoming a broken record, isn't it? Another game, another big performance from the 37th overall pick. Though he missed the potential winner at the fourth quarter buzzer, Luc was again a catalyst and continues to show much more polish on the offensive end than anyone expected with 17 points on a tidy 8/10 shooting, including some big hoops late. And on defense it was the same old story, as he helped contain Antawn Jamison to just 6/19 shooting.
Luke Ridnour. There's no way I should mention Ridnour without Sessions, but let's leave the youngster for later. Ridnour returned from missing two games with back spasms and must be feeling better, as he had by far his best game as a Buck scoring 20 on 13 shots in addition to his 11 dimes and seven rebounds. He also had some low points, namely when he turned the ball over for a bucket and followed it up with an offensive foul on the ensuing inbound. Still, if this is the kind of game that Ridnour will deliver once every week or so, the Bucks should feel pretty good about their point guard position. And no, I did not expect to be saying that a week ago.
- 37. I almost couldn't believe the Bucks had that many assists, but there it is. Ridnour, Sessions and Jefferson combined for 28 by themselves, and the Bucks had only eight field goals all night that didn't include an assist. I don't think the Bucks can win consistently without Redd, but the benefit of playing two point guards at the same time is that you can at least be sure the ball will be kept moving.
- 51. I'm having a hard time figuring out how the Wiz can get 51 free throw attempts and still lose, but they did. Mostly it was because they couldn't cash in from the stripe--they missed 17 times from the line, which also happens to be the number of free throws made by the Bucks. In reality the Wiz can blame this one mostly on wasted opportunities--their misses from the line and their terrible 2/18 shooting from deep.
- 9. That was all the Bucks had to show for an awful second quarter in which the Wiz outscore them by a staggering 19--turning a 30-17 Bucks lead after one into a head-scratching 45-39 deficit after two. It got even worse from there as the Wizards led by as many as 14 in the third and fourth before the Bucks made their run.
Car RamRid. If Sessions and Ridnour are going to keep playing like this together, they'll need a nickname. Ridnour took back his starting spot following two solid performances from Sessions, but it's tough to think about a brewing PG controversy when the two played so well together. Sessions moved into the off-guard position for much of the night, playing a crucial role in the fourth with his ability to get into the lane and either dish or finish himself. Don't expect to see too much of Tyronn Lue in the near future.
- Comeback Kids. Yes, these Bucks should beat these Wiz at home. Without Arenas and Haywood, Washington's lack of size and depth should spell major trouble given the Bucks' success of late pounding the ball inside. So while there should be a sense of concern that the Bucks needed so much drama to dispatch the boys from D.C., there's also something to be said for digging yourself a hole and still managing to climb out of it. Whereas last year's club seemed content to roll over at the first sign of adversity, the 08/09 Bucks are looking in the early going like a fairly plucky bunch. In particular, the Bucks were able to turn the screws defensively in the final 10 minutes tonight, with Mbah a Moute and Jefferson stepping up to put the clamps on Jamison and Butler, respectively. Hmm, Scott Skiles much?
Fun with the Wiz. What is it about playing the Wizards? I know they're a zany bunch, but something about the motley crew from the capitol leads to entertaining (if not pretty) basketball. In January, the Bucks' improbable home OT victory prompted me to call it the "strangest, least predictable" game of the season, and the two teams set out to provide an encore tonight. Redd and Arenas were also missing from that game. The only disappointment was that we weren't treated to yet another buzzer-beater.
- The Return of Emo Bogut (kinda). His final line looks OK--10 points, 13 boards, two blocks--but Bogut continues to struggle from the line (2/7, now just 6/18 for the season) and he's turning the ball over far too carelessly in post. Tonight he looked passive for much of the night in spite of the Wizards' massive size disadvantage, and when he does get in the post he's still too vulnerable to double-teams. At this point I'm not sure why any team wouldn't double him immediately, as his superior passing from the high post still doesn't translate fully to back-to-basket situations.
- Schedule toughening. From a practical perspective tonight's game was crucial given what the Bucks have coming up: in Boston Friday, at home to Phoenix Saturday, and then road games next week in Cleveland and San Antonio. Winning two of those would be awesome and one would be very acceptable.
- Going for the Jugular. Up 18 in the first against a shorthanded Wiz team, a good team doesn't let up. But the Bucks simply lost their rhythm offensively and couldn't keep Washington off the line on the other end, underscoring what we already knew--the Bucks remain very much a work in progress.