Now playing: The Scott Skiles Smoke and Mirrors Show!
Another game, another offensive exhibition from the Bucks. No, it doesn't make much sense that a team full of young guys and scrappy journeymen are more dangerous offensively without Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, but let's just go with it, OK?
While Richard Jefferson's 32 points will get the headlines and Ramon Sessions' stat-stuffing continued (15 points, 17 assists, seven boards), it was as much about the unknowns doing their thing as the big names in the 122-110 win. Charlie Bell, Eddie Gill, and Keith Bogans were among the quiet stars, helping the Bucks overcome a spread-'em-out attack led by the T.J. Ford/Jarrett Jack backcourt (35 points, 19 assists) and Troy Murphy's three point shooting (5/9 threes 23 points).
- Richard Jefferson. Jefferson's been one of the few constants in a lineup that seems to change daily, but it seems like he's been a third banana no matter who is on the court with him. Villanueva and Sessions have been the stars since Bogut and Redd went down, but at least for a night we saw superstar production from the Bucks' $13.2 million small forward. Perhaps it wasn't vintage RJ--he was largely doing his damage from the perimeter including 4/6 from three--but he still put the pressure on Indiana's all-star small forward. Both Granger and Jefferson took 18 shots, but RJ doubled up Granger's made field goals (10-5) while adding seven boards and four assists.
Ramon Sessions. Unlike the previous two games, Indiana came prepared to help on defense against Sessions' penetration. So Ramon did what any good point guard would do: find his open teammates and pile up a ton of dimes. Sessions took just six shots (making half) but again did damage from the line (9/13) in addition to grabbing seven boards.
In four February games, Sessions is now averaging 26.0 ppg and 10.5 apg while shooting .547 from the field and getting to the line 14 times/game. Damn.
- Charlie Bell. A game after notching a season-high 21 against Houston, Bell again came out hot and finished with 20 on 8/13 fg. You know Bell is going to play harassing defense--he helped contain T.J. reasonably well tonight--but when he's providing efficient scoring then you've really got something.
53.8%/64.3%. After shooting 52.8% against Houston, the Bucks were again on fire in hitting 53.8% overall and a blistering 9/14 from deep. I don't see this as a sustainable way of winning games--I mean, these guys have to come back down to earth at some point, right? Then again, the up-tempo approach the Bucks are taking is also meaning a lot of good looks.
26. Not that they set a high standard in 07/08, but the Bucks have now equaled their 26-win total of a year ago--with a full 27 games to spare. Things won't be easy given the makeshift roster Skiles has to work with the rest of the season, but for the moment it seems like you can stash away any talk of tanking for draft picks.
- 32. Good passing make for good shots. And good shots make for good shooting percentages. That's what the Bucks did tonight in amassing 32 assists, largely thanks to Sessions' 17. Maybe it's the lack of a superstar which is helping the Bucks flow so nicely, but this is an awfully fun team to root for right now.
- Unsung heroes. Aside from Bell's effort off the bench, Bogans scored nine along with six boards in 22 minutes and Gill made an impact with seven points and two assists in 12 minutes. We know that neither is more than a role player at best, but for now they're playing the part perfectly.
- Sessions' versatility. A year ago we were marveling at Sessions' 24-assist effort against the Bulls. A week ago he was scoring at will against the Pistons. Tonight it was back to more of the old school Ramon, as he simply took what the Pacers gave him en route to another extremely productive line.
- Back in 8th. They're not going away quite yet. With the all-star break this weekend, the Bucks will have the eighth spot in the East for at least another five days or so. Can they keep it? New Jersey is just two wins back and the Bulls are hanging in just three wins back, both with 29 losses like the Bucks.
- Stretched out. Both teams were content to go small for much of the night, and the early action saw Troy Murphy raining open threes thanks to Ford and Jack's penetration. I suppose it's likely that the Bucks simply won't be able to win when they don't shoot exceptionally well from the field, but it'd be nice to see them win a grind-it-out game at some point here. Ah, screw it. Let's stick with the shootouts.
- Breaking too soon? The Bucks have played more road and total games than any other team in the league, so you won't be hearing them complain about a well-deserved break. But given they seem to have caught lightning in a bottle here of late, maybe an extended rest isn't such a good idea.
- Bogut's couture. Oh man, Drew, a white suit? The big fella was rocking his Sonny Crockett look on the Bucks bench tonight, and while I think there may have been a hint of irony behind it...well, I'm not so sure. I can only hope the guys are calling him on that one.