Bucks 119, Knicks 115: Recap

Having talked up rookie Ramon Sessions for quite some time, we're pleased to report that the kid has officially arrived. Despite trailing by double-digits in both the third and fourth quarters to the woeful Knicks, the Bucks got a huge lift on both ends from Sessions, who combined with Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Bobby Simmons (!) to give the Bucks a roller-coaster 119-115 overtime win at the Bradley Center.

Three Bucks

  • Ramon Sessions. In a career-high 34 minutes, Sessions scored just four points (1/5 fg, 2/2 ft) along with four rebounds, six assists and one turnover. Not eye-popping numbers, but it's safe to say that his insertion for Mo Williams near the end of the third quarter was--for the second straight game--the turning point for the Bucks. Sessions' game management was solid; he generally wasn't looking to shoot and instead kept the ball moving, especially in the closing minutes when the Bucks were feeding Redd on every possession. He continues to be a little hesitant once he uses his good first step to get into the lane, but he also continues to show good court vision, making skip passes and putting the ball where it needs to go. Defense was where he truly made an impact, however. In the first half he harassed Nate Robinson from baseline to baseline, and then in the fourth quarter Sessions blanketed Jamal Crawford (6/17 fg) after the Knicks' leading scorer had started to show some signs of life. In the final minute, Sessions made two clutch free throws with the Bucks trailing by two before feeding Bobby Simmons for what looked like the game-clinching fast-break layup with 1.8 seconds left. However, he almost gave it all away with a bonehead foul on Quentin Richardson's three point attempt after the ensuing timeout. But Q missed the first free throw before hitting the next two, sending the game into OT where the Bucks never trailed.
  • Michael Redd. With 36 points, nine assists and six rebounds, Redd dropped one of his best lines of the season. Early on it looked like Redd was in vintage shoot first, pass never mode, but he was getting into the lane at will against the Knicks' soft perimeter defense and gradually started finding open teammates as well. While everyone will be talking about Sessions after this game, let's not forget Redd was doing much of the heavy lifting late in the game.
  • Bobby Simmons. Playing poorly and not-so-subtly questioning the coaching staff in the press has really been doing wonders for Simmons' playing time of late, so his season-high 24 points and six rebounds were unexpected to say the least. Simmons matched Bogut's scoring number in just 29 minutes, like Bogut making 9/14 shots from the field while also hitting five of a season-high six free throw attempts. With the Knicks going small and Charlie Villanueva having another awful shooting night, Krystkowiak wisely shifted Simmons to PF when Yi went to the bench with 6:39 left in the fourth. Simmons, who already had five in the quarter, scored six more in regulation before scoring the Bucks' first six points of OT.

Three Numbers

  • 27 vs. 29. These are the two worst defensive teams in basketball, so we shouldn't be surprised by a big scoreline, but both teams did well passing the ball, the Bucks chalking up 27 assists while the Knicks did them two better.
  • +17. Some games the +/- stats are fairly head-scratching but this was not one of them. Sessions was +16 following his +17 effort in Chicago, but it was Simmons of all people who actually led the Bucks with a +17 differential, accurately reflecting the role he had in the Bucks' comeback.
  • 25-12. After the Bucks went down 103-94 with 4:22 left, they turned the screws on both ends, outscoring the Knicks by 13 in the next 9:22 of regulation and OT. As they did in Chicago, the Bucks made a major run early in the fourth quarter, as two Yi Jianlian jumpers, a pair of Redd free throws, a Simmons layup and a Simmons three sparked an 11-0 run that tied the game at 88 with 8:32 left. But the Knicks regrouped after a timeout, getting three triples from Quentin Richardson (the latter two well-contested) to re-establish a nine point edge.

Three Good

  • Bogut returns. Between his protective mask and mouthpiece, Bogut looked like he could barely breathe early on, and his airballed first free throw suggested the mask required some acclimation. Still, Bogut didn't take long to sort things out, taking advantage of the Knicks' consistently small lineups with a very solid 24 points and 13 rebounds. The lack of peripheral vision afforded by the mask probably had a little to do with his five turnovers, but it's tough to find fault with a 9/14 shooting night and a 6/8 performance from the line.
  • DePaul's finest. Three of the NBA's four DePaul alumni were in action tonight: Simmons, Richardson and Knicks rookie Wilson Chandler. Perhaps enjoying their little reunion, Simmons and Richardson were especially frisky with 24 and 22 points respectively. In the fourth they dueled nearly shot-for-shot, as both scored 11 in the quarter. However, Simmons had a 6-4 edge in the OT as his early scoring gave the Bucks a lead they would never relinquish.
  • Larry K. At this point of the season the best thing LK can do for the franchise is give extended burn to the youngsters, and he's doing just that. Sessions saw early action tonight and, for the second consecutive game, Mo Williams didn't leave the bench in the fourth quarter as Sessions ignited the Bucks on both ends. LK has also gotten in the habit of playing Yi and CV together for stretches, something that might have been helpful to see more of earlier in the season. Yi looked bad defensively in the first half, but he repaid Krystkowiak's patience with a smarter, more energetic second half that also saw him stroke a pair of jumpers early in the fourth quarter.

Three Bad

  • Mo money, Mo problems. It's easy to get caught up in Sessions' promising play and overreact--especially given the way the season's gone, Bucks fans that are still paying attention might understandably be desperate to find something to feel good about. Still, Sessions' two-way play and the Bucks' success with him in the lineup also underscores what's so problematic about Mo Williams. Often times Mo can compensate for his porous defense by lighting it up offensively, but that hasn't been the case the past two games, and he'll always get criticism for not involving teammates as much as some might like. In three seasons with Williams as their starting PG (04/05, 06/07, and 07/08), the Bucks have won 30, 28, and 25 games (and counting). While I didn't think the Bucks could afford to lose Williams for nothing last summer, it's now reached the point where we should reasonably question whether the Bucks can afford to keep paying him $8+ million per season.  
  • VNuv's everything. Just recently some Bucks fans were starting to speculate whether Villanueva's scoring binge and Yi's prolonged slump might cause the Bucks to revisit their apparent decision to anoint Yi the PF of the future. Yet even then CV was a volume shooter who didn't play a lick of defense, and it's no secret the Bucks' brass is counting on Yi to help the Bucks off the court as well.
  • Too close. Isn't there something odd about winning by only four at home against a bad team when you get 84 points on 30/50 shooting from Redd, Bogut and Simmons? Well, these are the Bucks, so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising. In the first half both teams allowed open looks left and right, as the Bucks especially seemed far more concerned with preventing penetration than open jumpers. In the third quarter the Bucks' carelessness was key, as three misses by Villanueva and turnovers by Bogut and Williams helped the Knicks turn a 63-61 deficit into a 70-63 lead.
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