MILWAUKEE -- Fitting, that for the first game of a new decade, the team's top two players of the last decade finally got it right together on the same night for the first time in a long time.
Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd teamed to lead the Bucks to their first win of the new year and what seemed like the first win in about a year. Eleven days, really, since Milwaukee last won, but that's all in the past anyway.
The Bucks started crisply, connecting on six assists before a first turnover en route to a first quarter lead. Kevin Durant led the Thunder back with ease, dropping 21 mostly undefendable points in the first half and as OKC went into the break up by a point.
Milwaukee withstood an 11-2 Thunder run to start the second half, Michael Redd lit the fourth quarter on fire with a couple quick threes, the teams went back and forth, and the Thunder wound up with the final possession and the ball in the hands of a superstar. Yeah.
But Luc Mbah a Moute defended Durant into a long, contested, three point miss, pushing the game to overtime. And after netting just 17 points in the fourth quarter, the Bucks fired in 15 points in the five-minute overtime, led by Redd's three jumpers to start it, as the Bucks pushed far enough ahead in the extra time to avoid drama.
Because last-second Bradley Center losses are so 2009.
Andrew Bogut. Lots of touches early for Bogut, and he was good all the way to the end. 'Drew was a colossus in the paint for most of his 40 minutes on the court, decisively winning rebounds (15 total, five offensive) and scoring efficiently (9-17 shooting for 23 points).
A very smooth offensive night for Bogut, scoring the team's first four points of the night, making a pretty hook to give the Bucks a 98-95 cushion in overtime, and plenty in between. Included: 5-6 from the line, and they really did look nice. But I've been tricked before.
Bogut finished with a couple blocks and a steal, though that doesn't fully explain his sterling defensive effort.
Michael Redd. Everyone finds their own offensive niche. Ridnour has the pull-up jumper and floaters in the lane. Bogut has the mini-hooks going either way. Jennings hits threes and Warrick dunks from anywhere inside 12 feet. Mbah a Moute is to be determined.
Redd? Well, for one, he has the (closely-guarded) dribble/crossover, turn-around fadeaway long jumper. The degree of difficulty makes it so far beyond what anyone else on this team would even consider. And that is liable to frustrate me, you, anyone still watching the team.
But Mike sometimes still carries remnants of the star quality that enables him to make those shots, like he did three times in a row to open overtime. Redd was just as integral to start the fourth quarter, when he opened the quarter with a pair of quick threes to turn a 71-74 deficit into a 77-74 lead. The Bucks never gave up that lead.
It's weird to still feel uneasy about how he fits on this team after such a fine game. So for now let's just enjoy the 43 minutes of 27 points, seven rebounds, and zero turnovers.
Brandon Jennings. After a pretty organized and thoughtful first half, Milwaukee came out of the locker room looking a bit too much like they have in the past couple weeks. The Thunder pushed a one-point halftime advantage into a 60-50 lead in less than three minutes. In that time, each Buck starter took a turn missing (mostly contested, long) shots: Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute Jennings, Redd, Bogut. And this is when the team looked primed to lose it again.
Young Buck picked things up and calmed things down though, scoring six straight on two driving layups and a pair of free throws.
This was a rare game in which Jenning didn't make a three, and not such a rare game in which the overall shooting (4-15) wasn't pretty. This nod could go to Luke Ridnour, whom Skiles gave the nod to in the clutch to run the point. Or Luc Mbah a Moute, who defended like mad (and gets his own Good, so relax). Or even Hakim Warrick. But Jennings contributed in a few more ways, putting up a solid 13/7/5 line, making 5-6 free throws, and since this is the whole point of it all: the team played very well (+15 differential) in his 36 minutes.
106. The Bucks attempted 106 field goals. Right. One-hundred and six. The only made 42, leaving them at .396. Just enough.
13-0. Russell Westbrook dished out 13 assists without a single turnover. He has 20 and two total in the two matchups this season.
9. Milwaukee only committed nine turnovers in 53 minutes, barely more than Kevin Durant (7).
D on Durant. I can't imagine anyone in the world can guard Kevin Durant with any sort of consistent success. It neither follows logic nor is fair that someone so tall and long is so fluid and skilled with the ball -- and he showed that with 21 scintillating points in the first half.
Luc Mbah a Moute, with a little help from his friends, held Kid Delicious in check thereafter. Following halftime, Durant shot 4-10 for 10 points and turned the ball over four times. Mbah a Moute made the expert decision to foul KD with the game tied and 4.8 remaining in regulation and a foul to give. Durant had looked primed to step to the same place Kobe did on his game-winner at the BC not long ago. Instead, OKC inbounded from side-court and some more good defense (and a rather botched effort, truly) resulted in a badly missed three by Durant.
He shot 1-3 with a turnover in overtime, and finished the game with zero assists and seven turnovers.
Redd/Bogut. Elaborating on the lead: While peaceful, they haven't exactly boasted a recent thriving coexistence. So it was enlivening to see both Redd (27) and Bogut (23) score big on the same night.
The last time they both scored 20+ in the same game was a year and three days ago in a 100-98 win over the Spurs. Coincidentally, from my recap of that game:
Michael Redd. Add extra-credit for degree of difficulty on field goal attempts, and Redd would have netted about 45 points tonight, but his real-life 25 will work. Mike's hundred-dollar shots usually only counted for two points at a time, but he piled up enough of those fadeaways to build a Bucks' lead the Spurs ultimately couldn't overcome. 25/10/4 without a turnover for Redd.
Still with the impossible shots, still without any turnovers. Mmmhmm.
Clutch City. Durant entered the game shooting 30.0 % in clutch situations, so maybe there was more reason to hope that the Bucks wouldn't suffer yet another game-losing shot. Still it's usually been Clutch City for visitors to Milwaukee this season, but this time the Bucks made just enough right moves at the end. Mostly on the defensive end, sure, but that counts too. Even if it wasn't always pretty...
Pretty... much not. Let's just say we still deserve a well-played game that ends with a last-second game-winner (or three) in favor of the home team at the BC this season. Though an overtime win or win of any sort will suffice, this one only got to overtime in the first place because neither team could score for the last 2:31 in regulation. The Bucks scored an (easily countable) four points in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter! Only style points in losses, or?
Perspective. The Bucks won the first game of 2009 even more convincingly, a 103-75 drubbing of Charlotte. And that pushed them to 16-18, better than current 13-18 squad. And we all know how last season turned out.
Nenad. Opposing starting center Nenad Krstic managed to start, be seven feet tall, play 22 minutes, and not gather one rebound. Or one assist, steal, block, free throw attempt...