With the Texas trip out of the way, the Bucks began the soft part of their schedule with an appropriately lopsided demolition of the Bobcats, 103-75. The Bucks won every quarter and used a 9-0 run at the end of the second to push their lead to a dozen at the half.. Next up: the same Bobs team but on their turf tomorrow night at 6 pm central time.
Michael Redd. Whether he's a trade chip or a cornerstone, the Bucks need Redd to come around and his vital signs are looking much better of late. Redd was at his best in the first quarter, erupting for 18 of his season-high 31 points (10/16 fg, 3/5 threes, 8/10 ft). I had kind of forgotten what it looked like for Redd to be on, so it was a nice reminder of how unstoppable he can be at his best. All we need now is for Redd to have one of these games every week (rather than once every three months) and the Bucks will be pretty tough.
Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva broke out of his recent slump in a major way, notching 27 points on 16 shots in only 29 minutes. His jumper was falling and he was looking friskier than he has in a couple weeks, which is always a good combination. Though ten of his points came with the game out of hand in the fourth, CV was a consistent threat inside and out all night. Welcome back, Chuck. Stay a while.
- Richard Jefferson. RJ more or less put up his season averages all around, but he's the logical third pick because a) no one else really stood out and b) he's probably the Bucks third best player anyway. His shooting could have been better (18 points on 17 shots) but six boards, three dimes, no turnovers, and good defense on Gerald Wallace (11 points, 4/11 fg) got it done.
- 50. That was the Bobs' scoring output in the final three quarters: 19, 13, and 18. Yep, these Bucks can play some defense--hopefully they can bring it again tomorrow night in Charlotte.
- 23. OK, so it wasn't all great defense that allowed the Bucks to throttle the Bobs--Charlotte helped out with 23 turnovers and the Bucks outscored the Bobs 30-11 off turnovers. The Bucks must be doing something right considering they rank third in the NBA in forcing turnovers; ah, the miracle of intelligent team defense and hard work.
- 58. Redd and CV needed almost no time to rack up their big scoring nights, totaling 58 points in just 61 combined minutes.
Resting up. The Bucks held serve in the front end of the home-and-home, and they also got the added benefit of resting their starters in the fourth quarter. Heck, there was even a shot of Scott
SmilesSkiles laughing on the bench with a couple minutes to go. Don't go soft on us now, Scott.
Chuck and Mike. The Bucks' two most explosive scorers rarely seem to both be on in the same game, but when they are the Bucks are going to be tough to beat.
- The early playoff race. With the Bulls' loss to the Cavs, the Bucks (16-18) remain in the 8th spot in the East, a game and a half up on Chicago (14-19) and just a half game back of New Jersey (16-17) for the seventh spot. I see the Nets fading in the second half--they've had a nice run and look good for the future, but they rely heavily on a young cast and their point differential (-2.5) suggests they've been very lucky thus far. That said, both Philadelphia (13-19) and Toronto (13-20) have the talent on paper to make some noise, though their decisions to go with interim coaches probably won't help.
- Young bigs. While Okafor's line (11/12) looks good next to Bogut's (2/5), he was also stuck on only two points until he piled up those nine garbage time points with Bogut resting. You'd have to ask Larry Brown what the point of that was given the teams are playing again tomorrow night. Let's hope Bogut was saving something for Charlotte, an arena where he's had some of his best games.
- Reloads. Though the Bucks wound up winning the rebound battle 44-42, they allowed Charlotte a whopping 16 offensive rebounds. Part of that was because Charlotte missed so many shots (38%), but it's still not a trend we'd like to see continue.
- Wild Joe. Joe Alexander got in for the last six minutes and as has often been the case looked a little too amped up for his own good. He missed three shots in the span of about a minute, the last being a wild prayer out of the post where he seemingly made up his mind immediately he was going to shoot no matter what (maybe we should call it a Gadzuric). He did end up hitting a tough 22-footer with a man in his face in the final minute, but this was another reminder that the education of Joe Alexander might take a little while.