Flashy rookies? High-scoring games? Who needs 'em. For the Redd-less Bucks, ugly might as well be the new pretty.
Following a lackluster first half, the Bucks turned the screws defensively in the third quarter and found their offensive rhythm long enough to turn a five point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead. Andrew Bogut easily outplayed Al Jefferson on his way to a second straight double-double (17/10, four dimes, two blocks, two steals), and Hakim Warrick and Luke Ridnour came up big in the second half to balance out the Bucks' attack..
The big story coming in was understandably the Brandon Jennings/Jonny Flynn matchup, but the two rooks were relatively quiet until Flynn (20 points on 17 shots, one assist, three steals, three turnovers) went off for 12 points in the final 7 minutes. Jennings (nine pts, 4/16 fg, six rebounds, three assists, one turnover) wasn't even in the game at that point, as Luke Ridnour's strong shooting night (6/9 fg, 16 points) allowed Skiles to rest his starter for the entire fourth quarter. Before that point, both rookies showed occasional flashes of their talent, but neither got into a real rhythm until the Bucks had put the game away.
Andrew Bogut. The big guy typically feasts on undersized teams. and tonight was no different. Just as in Chicago, the Bucks tried to use Bogut in some different ways and it worked to good effect. Bogut took Jefferson and Ryan Hollins off the dribble as well as down in the post, and Jennings also found him for a couple easy buckets off well-devised back-screens. By the end of the game Minnesota was doubling Bogut every time he touched it, a welcome sign given how rusty Bogut looked in the opening two contests.
It was a bit less enjoyable watching Bogut take a couple hard falls in the process, but despite some pained looks he refused treatment from the Bucks' bench. And it also didn't stop him from taking a handful of charges as well. Just as importantly, Bogut helped the Bucks control the boards and did his part to keep Jefferson from going off on the other end.
Hakim Warrick. Despite a favorable matchup against Oleksiy Pecherov, Warrick was nowhere to be found in the first half. No shots. No free throws. But with Jennings' shot not falling, the Bucks needed somebody other than Bogut to provide a shot in the arm, and Warrick seemed to get the message with an 11 point third quarter (5/6 fg) that featured a flurry of dunks off nice looks from teammates. He made one more free throw in the final period, but overall that one quarter of energy and aggression was enough.
Luke Ridnour. Before the season started I had assumed we'd see Ridnour finishing off a decent share of games. Can't trust rookies, right? Then after three games that started to seem kind of ridiculous.
Well, the vet can still get the job done from time to time. Though Flynn lit him up in the waning minutes, Ridnour stepped up with 12 points late in the third and early in the fourth, stroking a series of jumpers that helped the Bucks' reserves improbably expand the lead after Bogut and Jennings sat down. And when we might otherwise have expected Jennings to check back in, Skiles opted to reward his vet with some more burn. Judging by Flynn's success against him it may have been time to give Ridnour a rest, but overall it's tough to complain.
51. Even without Kevin Love, Minnesota looked far more active on the glass in the early going and grabbed six offensive boards in the first quarter. Fortunately, the Bucks got their act together, grabbing 17 offensive boards and winning the battle of the boards 51-38.
+2. Defending without fouling? Imagine that. The Bucks didn't get to the line much (12/18 ft), but Minnesota was largely content to hoist jumpers and never really tested the Bucks' mettle inside. Minny made only 4/14 from deep and shot just 39%.
29. No Buck cracked 30 minutes, which is a nice thing to see on the front end of a back-to-back.
D'ed Up. The T'Wolves aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut, but holding an NBA team to 72 points is still something to be proud of. The Wolves were never able to generate consistent offense from any source, whether it was on the block with Jefferson or in PnR with Flynn, and the Bucks as usual managed to deflect, scrap and hustle their way into forcing 20 turnovers. Bravo.
Glass Crashers. The Bucks' loss in Chicago was largely a product of their inability to protect the boards, so it was encouraging to see a better performance this time out. Bogut led the way, but everyone else was active, as seven players had at least four rebounds.
Containing Big Al. Jefferson was consistently catching 15 feet away from the hoop, which was crucial to limiting his impact on the game. The Bucks also did well to avoid bailing him out with fouls when he chose to drive. Novel concept. Of course, even when Jefferson did get to the line he looked off, missing four of six from the stripe. It might have been a different story if Jefferson was at 100%, but whatever. Jefferson's been a double-double machine in recent years, so any night you hold him to single-digit points (8) and rebounds (8) on 12 shots, you've gotta be happy.
Brandon's shot...and Jodie's game. They're still rookies I guess. We knew Jennings would have a bad shooting night eventually, but we can take solace in the fact that it came on a night when Ridnour couldn't miss. For the most part he was getting good looks, but he still airballed a couple jumpers and rushed a couple early in the shot clock.
Jode Meeks also got his first extended minutes of the season, playing 19 minutes but mostly just showing why Skiles had been hesitant to give him any burn up until now (2/8 fg, 0/2 3fg, 2/2 ft, 5 reb, 3 to, 6 pts). He mishandled a couple passes in the early going before he scored his first hoop on a transition layup near the end of the first quarter, then missed a series of good perimeter looks. His only other field goal was an exceptionally difficult catch-and-shoot from the left corner that he buried while slightly off-balance and with a guy in his grill. Hopefully it was mainly just an issue of nerves tonight, because his perimeter shooting could be of real use with Redd out and Bell/Delfino misfiring.
Refs. They weren't as noticeable in the second half, but it seemed like the refs were determined to make sure neither team got into any rhythm in the first half. Lots of chintsy fouls, lots of makeup calls, and a million moving screen calls. It didn't seem to favor either team, but it still managed to take away from the game. Well done, Derrick Stafford, Brian Forte, and Gary Zielinski
Scorekeepers. Jennings had at least five assists by my count--ie passes that immediately led to dunks, layups or made baskets with no dribble or hesitation--but the Minnesota scorekeepers apparently aren't big on assists. They might not be biased, either, considering that the home side was credited with just 11 dimes. Fittingly, the live box score was also screwed up much of the night, and Jim/Jon reported inconsistent numbers coming from the arena stat system.