The BC had kind of a retro feel Saturday night. To be clear, this wasn't a real retro feel--sadly, the crowd that braved the bilzzard wasn't treated to a '71 Bucks-type performance. It was more like 2006 or 2007 retro. You know, when Mike Redd was creating tons of offense, Charlie Bell still played some point guard, Andrew Bogut left you wanting more, and Brandon Jennings played like a high schooler...because he was.
And the feeling held for the Wizards, too. Gilbert Arenas was manhandling smaller point guards (18 pts, nine assists), Caron Butler (23/10) was making the Lakers feel like fools for trading him, and Antawn Jamison (25 on just 12 shots with 10 rebounds) was doing his inside/outside thing. And, oh yeah, the Wizards (still just 10-17) were a better team than the Bucks (12-15).
The outcome of this one was essentially foreshadowed by the first quarter, when the Bucks got a big start from MIchael Redd (13 points) but showed neither the shot-making nor defensive intensity to hang with a more focused Wizards team. Arenas set a physical tone by bullying Brandon Jennings to the bench, which is where the rookie spent much of his night thanks to an unfortunate combination of foul trouble and amateurish play. Luke Ridnour didn't fair any better with two quick fouls of his own, forcing Charlie Bell into the role of primary ballhandler.
The Bucks' reserves did their darndest to keep the Bucks in it, but most of the game seemed an uphill battle in spite of the Bucks slowly chipping away at the Washington lead. The 10-point first quarter lead was down to five at half, but the lead was still six after three. However, Bell scored six in a 9-0 run to start the third, as the Wizards started settling for long twos and also turned it over twice. The second came on a charge by Arenas, who slumped to the ground with a bum thigh that forced Earl Boykins (15 points on seven shots) back into action with seven minutes remaining. The Bucks suddenly had a three point lead and the Wizards were without their floor leader, but given what Boykins did to them three weeks ago, they probably should have known what was about to happen.
Trailing 86-84, the Wizards took the lead for good with a 9-0 run of their own, as Jamison scored five straight before Butler ripped a long jumper and Boykins stuck a mid-ranger in Jennings' face. Bogut was a spectator for all of it, as he let the Wizards goad him into foul trouble for much of the second half.
Immediately thereafter the Bucks ironically started getting to the line and taking full advantage (they made all six freebies on three straight possessions thereafter) but this time it was their defense that let them down. Jamison rose uncontested to bank in a short jumper and Boykins waltzed in for a layup shortly thereafter--and what had been a close game throughout fell well out of reach as the Bucks spent the final two minutes hoisting wayward threes.
Michael Redd: 32 pts, 8/21 fg, 1/5 threes, 15/15 ft, 6 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk, 1 stl, 1 to
Redd went cold from the field after a 5/5 start, but that made his ability to draw fouls (and actually, you know, make them) so much more important. And even when Redd was hitting shots it wasn't generally because of his jump-shooting--he was in attack mode all night long, terrorizing Randy Foye and Nick Young with dribble penetration. The Wizards may not be a great defensive team, but ti was great to see Redd taking it to the rack and creating offense all on his own. Welcome back, Mike. Now keep it up.
Charlie Bell: 14 pts, 6/15 fg, 0/4 threes, 2/2 ft, 1 reb, 0 ast, 1 stl, 0 to
Bell's box score ended up fairly non-descript, but in truth he was the only point guard who looked deserving of playing time. For starters, he didn't let Arenas walk all over him--a nice contrast to Jennings and Ridnour. And while he wasn't creating much for teammates (hence the zero assists) he had a nice stretch in the second half of the third and beginning of the fourth where he made 5/8 shots, effectively attacking the heart of the Wizards defense for buckets. Considering most of the Bucks' offensive weapons were watching from the bench at that point, I'll take it.
Luc Mbah a Moute: 11 pts, 3/6 fg, 5/8 ft, 5 rebs, 3 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 0 to
Another night with a little bit of everything from Luc. He couldn't be the Bucks' savior on defense--though Skiles did use him on Arenas, Butler and Jamison at various points--but his energy and aggressiveness (hence the eight free throws and three offensive rebs) alone made him stand out from his other teammates.
.529/.600/.886. Let's just lump the Wizards' superior scoring efficiency all into one. Blame it on good jumpshooting if you like, but the truth was the Bucks also had no ability to contain the Wizards penetration either and seemed a step slow rotating on help defense.
1. The Wizards nearly missed becoming just the second team to be held without an offensive rebound, as Brendan Haywood grabbed their first offensive board with just two minutes remaining. `The Bucks fared much better with 14, but the fact that MIlwaukee had only a 40-39 total rebound edge says a lot about the teams' relative shooting percentages.
15. Two nights after his free throw shooting demons nearly cost the Bucks a victory, Redd rebounded in style with a huge and perfect response.
Redd rebounds. It didn't end up as a great shooting night for Redd, but the hop in his step was an extremely encouraging sign for the longer term.
Jesse White Tumblers. Always a halftime treat.
Seniorgee. The second of two acts that provided infinitely more satisfying performances than the Bucks. Old people dancing: one standing ovation. Bucks playing basketball for 48 minutes: no standing ovations. Not a good sign for the main event.
Starting frontcourt. Delfino and Ilyasova continued the poor play that started in Indiana, as they combined for a horrid 2/15 shooting. While he still looks to be working hard, Ilyasova has made just one field goal each of the past two games and his usual semi-wreckless, "bend but don't break" style of defense has been closer to "bend and snap in two." While Hakim Warrick wasn't much better in his meager 11 minutes, you have to think he's feeling pretty demoralized that he's playing so little even as Ilyasova struggles.
And then there's Bogut. It wasn't quite as bad as the 4/14 night he put up against Brendan Haywood last month, but he was again mostly ineffective offensively with a 5/13, 12 point night in 28 foul-plagued minutes. Unlike Roy Hibbert, Haywood didn't let Bogut back him down or get especially deep catches, forcing Bogut into too many of those 10 foot hooks which are a foot or two out of his range.
Though he had just five points and looked hilariously clueless on the two post moves he tried, Haywood made up for it with nine boards and excellent defense in the paint, swatting six shots including at least a couple of Bogut hooks. Bogut did add nine boards and his now-customary two blocks, but there were also a couple plays where he basically watched the Wizards make layups.
Jennings. This loss probably represents a new low for the Bucks, and the same is certainly true of Jennings. The rookie was held to a season-low seven points, three rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 16 minutes--the kind of performance you might have expected a lot of before the season started. Arenas looked like the older brother toying with his younger sibling in the driveway in the first quarter, backing the smaller Jennings down with ease before a second foul sent him to the pine. I'm surprised we haven't seen more of this, but that may be something to what out for going forward.
But as it turns out, Jennings didn't fare any better against one of the few PGs in the league he does have a size advantage on. In the fourth quarter Boykins toasted him for the second time in a month, as the mighty mite scored 10 in the decisive period to embarrass the Bucks in front of their home fans. More and more we're seeing Jennings' defense exposed, and it's forcing Skiles into gimmicky reactions--like running Bell at the point or having Mbah a Moute guard the 1.
Wake up. For the first time in a few weeks the Bucks had no excuses; this game wasn't about free throws or referees. No, this was about playing flat against a team you're supposed to beat, one that was finishing a back-to-back no less. The Wizards are talented and should certainly be better than their record suggests, but a poor road team like the Bucks simply can't give away games at home like this. The loss now puts them at three straight at home, a worrying sign that leaves us still wondering what this team is really about.