MILWAUKEE -- The Raptors will make you hot in a winter advisory. They insist.
But still the Bucks made those free throws. Hit those threes. Went to the hoop. Earned that 117.
Toronto actually led 20-18 with under two minutes in the first quarter, but Brandon Jennings scored nine straight to close the quarter and give the Bucks a 29-22 lead that they never relinquished. Threes, an and-one that he finished at the line, a jumper, he did it all, he took command.
Seven Bucks hit double figures (12+, in fact) as Jennings led the way with 22 points in the most balanced offensive effort of the year, against the worst defensive team in the league.
Not a coincidence, but no need to shortchange Milwaukee, even if Toronto's "D" (and I put that in quotation purposefully) is that bad, and they are.
After all, this was supposed to be the team that simply didn't have enough offensive weapons. And that was before Mike Redd went down. Turns out, maybe (absolutely) they can't quite keep up in Boston yet, but they are plenty good to crush a supposedly comparable team in the playoff hunt.
And with that, the four-game cold streak is over.
Brandon Jennings. Jennings delivered his finest game in three weeks with vision (six assists, one turnover), decisive drives to the basket, outside shooting (4-7 on threes), and defense (two steals... two blocks!). All told, 22 points on a sweet 8-14 shooting night.
I was sort afraid that the Milwaukee Bucks franchise was going to relocate before the start of the fourth quarter when Jennings hopped and limped off the court to end the court. But it was nothing major (just a hyperextension, he is okay). And so in Milwaukee they stay.
On a night when everyone seemed to play well for the Bucks, it was Jennings who led the way. And that should tell you something.
Roko Ukic. The best part about Roko's debut on Three Bucks? It came on a night when there was a surplus of candidates. This isn't some case of Ukic getting merely some backhanded props because no one else brought it.
No, no, Roko was legit tonight. Skiles called his number 20 early -- he was the first sub for Milwaukee, less than eight minutes into the game. Have to give the ballcoach credit for picking the right night, but even more credit due to Roko Leni-Ukic, who had last been seen guarding LeBron James on Sunday.
Skiles stuck with Ukic, even with Jennings' hot hand on the bench, and it paid off as the Croatian dropped 17 points on 5-9 shooting in 25 minutes as the real-life sixth man against his former team. He led everyone with a +20 differential, made 2-3 from deep, 5-6 from the line, added four assists, and defended like he plays for Skiles. And despite all of the offensive production, that might be the reason he continues to get minutes: his defense, which was really quite acceptable.
Luc Mbah a Moute. Hardly a peep from Hedo Turkoglu, and there is one major Cameroonian reason why. The Raptors might want to take note of the Principal, because he, um, actually defends. And does so on every possession. Even when Dirk hits a game-winner, Luc is out there, hands up, feet moving.
Hedo scores double digits like nothin', but only nine tonight. And Mbah a Moute had a brilliantly efficient offensive night to boot, notching 16 keen points on 6-8 from the field, mostly right around the hoop.
9. The turnovers were better than halved, dropping all the way to nine after losin' 20 in the loss in Boston. The Raptors went really, really, really small on a few occassions, and the Bucks' big ballhandlers logged lots of minutes. Jennings (1 turnover), Ukic (1), and Ridnour (0) stayed cool. That's three combined turnovers in 64 minutes by the point guard trio.
17. Just had to reiterate, 17 points for Roko. Second highest output of his career; he had 22 against the Spurs back in February.
85.7 %. The Bucks made 24-28 (.857) free throws and Skiles rightfully called it a "miracle" after the game.
Delfino's block. It takes a lot for me to single out a single play here. It's taken all season until now.
Carlos came from the side to just stuff a would-be DeMar DeRozan slam in the third quarter.
DeRozan, he can jump, and he can dunk just a little bit. And he was going for a highlight-even-though-my-team-lost slam on a break, bringing the ball back for effect. Delfino wasn't havin' that, just wow.
A nice game all around for the Argentine, who added 14/8/3. [Ed: see vid below via kebzach]
Fillin' in. No matter who Skiles plugs into the holes left this season by Bogut, Redd, Mbah a Moute etc., it always seems to be a good fit.
The bench has been pretty superb all along given the circumstances.
Three-hundred-and-seven year old Thirty-seven year old Kurt Thomas (who is back to not really playing in December) was very good in the second half of November (after not really playing the first half of November).
Ilyasova has filled in nicely as a fixture starting at power forward after coming off the bench for just 17 minutes in the opener.
Charlie Bell has generally done an admirable job in lieu of Redd. Even Gadz' had moments.
So for Ukic (!) to step up tonight might be at once the most surprising and most expected development.
Luke. I've typed about Brandon, Roko, Luc, Carlos, Ersan -- just about everyone.
But props are in line for one Luke Ridnour, he of the mangled arm in Boston. If you caught the replay, it looked bad. So bad I could hardly watch the second replay. I'm not sure how it was humanly possible for Ridnour to play a game after that, but he went for 15 points, six assists, and no turnovers just for good measure.
If three is a crowd... Then I guess 12,637,
give or take a few thousand makes a crowd too. But still. I hope that the absurdly miserable weather doesn't keep too many people away, because the forecast for the next three months is... winter in Milwaukee. Which is to say, brutal.
Balls of fire. Water spilled all over me during a timeout when one of those red balls of fire shot from a "cannon" hit my cup. Hahaha, yeah. Although, the spillage avoided my computer, hence the recap. So that's nice.
Nets. No, not Joizey. Okay, them too.
That photo on top is of a ladder, which was used to help untangle the net after it just plain wouldn't cooperate. A pair of the kids on the baseline tried so, so hard, and with the ball in play on the other end of the court, time was of the essence. Toronto's bench was up encouraging, the entire crowd was fixated, it was high comedy all around. Maybe you had to be there.
This really wasn't even Bad. More of a laugher. You know, like the game.