MILWAUKEE -- There is a new guard in town.
By the time Dwyane Wade led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, this city had fully embraced the Chicagoan as one of their own. A couple years later in 2005, the Bucks locked up Michael Redd to a six-year, $91 million deal. The next year, in 2006, Wade won Finals MVP. And in 2007, Milwaukee finished 28-54, as many Bucks fans increasingly pinned the franchise's troubles quite personally on Redd, as though Mike shouldn't have accepted the team's offer to pay him copious amounts of money. Meanwhile, Wade remained on a firm trajectory toward all-time great status, and he remained revered by basketball fans (not just Bucks fans) throughout many corners of Milwaukee.
Fast forward a few more years to tonight, and the sold-out Bradley Center is filled, but Redd is out for the season (again), and Wade is still in the hearts of plenty Milwaukeeans judging by the pregame introductions.
But for the next two hours and 11 minutes, a new guard outplayed and defeated the old(er) guard, eventually scoring the final six blows to lead Milwaukee to its sixth straight in Milwaukee.
City: In Brandon you should trust.
Andrew Bogut. The Bucks won this game by halftime, and while it's not what the lede reads, that was because Bogut owned the painted area, owned Jermaine O'Neal, and he owned the night by that time.
We referenced the positive correlation between Andrew's increased production and number of days of rest this season in the pregame notes. Bogut was best on two days of rest coming into the game, and he certainly was the best on two days of rest tonight.
He scored eight points in the final four minutes of the team's dynamite second quarter, when they effectively pulled far enough away so that Miami could not come back.
The future All-Star (not in a couple weeks, probably within a couple years) also made the paint an unwelcome place for opponents in the first half, blocking four shots as the Bucks held Miami to 39 going into halftime.
Bogut tied a season-high with six offensive boards, and totaled 17 points on 6-11 shooting with 15 rebounds, two steals, and four blocks for the night. And 5-6 at the stripe.
A richly deserved +14 differential for the Aussie.
Hakim Warrick. Despite an energetic and effective start to the month, Warrick entered tonight having played just 31 minutes combined in the previous five games. Somehow, just six minutes per night on average in those last five.
Tonight he was sixth man extraordinaire, filling up the basket on a mix of those awkward-looking but occasionally (tonight was an occasion) effective jumpers and put-ins around the hoop, filling up the stat sheet with a team-high 22 points along with six rebounds.
He also carried the team offensively in the fourth quarter with 10 points, enabling Milwaukee to stifle a late comeback attempt by the Heat, who drew within single digits after trailing big for most of the game.
Carlos Delfino. Another terrific game by the Argentine, who may or may not have been spurred on by a youngster sporting a Leo Messi jersey sitting courtside.
In the past two weeks, Delfino has played well in the wins, he's played well in the losses, he's just played very well. You couldn't keep Carlos off the floor, as he led everyone with 40 minutes of scoring (16 points), defending (nice job on Dwyane), rebounding (seven tonight, averaging 8.3 boards in last eight games), and dunking (a rarity on this team in transition).
81.6 % After his 5-6 night at the line, Andrew Bogut has now made 31-38 (.816) at the stripe over the last six games. Just in case Frank didn't jinx him already.
91. Just 91 possessions in the game, just the type of crawling pace Miami prefers. The Heat entered the game averaging 90.7 possessions per game, making them the third slowest team in the NBA.
Still Milwaukee adjusted just fine, and while the pick and roll wasn't working with great success, they moved the ball quickly, and attacked the hoop. The Bucks converted 15-27 at the rim compared to 9-20 for the Heat. The Bucks also made 20-25 free throws.
8. He didn't make it in Three Good or Three Bucks, but Jerry Stackouse was a very Good Buck in the second quarter. Stack totaled eight points, two rebounds, and two assists, and played an instrumental role during the quarter in which the Bucks won the game, the only quarter that either team really seperated themselves at all.
D. Wade. Not as in D. Wade the "nickname." I'm writing about the D on Dwyane.
Charlie Bell did a fine job staying in front of the shiftiest of shifty players in the league. And when I type "fine," I don't mean fair, I mean really swell. Carlos Delfino, too, was good when individually matched up. Moreover, the double teams came at the right times, and it's always a team effort when facing someone of Wade's caliber.
They didn't shut him down, but they also didn't let Wade win the game. That is tantamount to not letting the Heat win the game. Seriously, the Heat haven't won a game in which Wade didn't lead them in scoring in a month and a half.
And while he led Miami's way with 21 points, that is down from his season average by half a dozen, and he needed a lot of shots (6-20 shooting) to get even that many. He got to the line plenty (and when I say plenty, I mean he got more than enough calls from the refs despite complaining enough to pick up a technical) where he made 9-12, but the team's aggressive defense also contributed to Wade firing away from outside (0-6) despite not much historical success on threes.
I completely subscribe to the school of thought that a superstar player's offensive performance depends (a lot) more on the superstar than on the defense. So does Skiles:
We did a pretty good job on him, but also there were some shots maybe he would normally make. So you never take too much credit when you're playing against a guy who's that good.
But still, a superstar won't struggle so much without good defense either. Ultimately, you need both the player to personally struggle a bit and the good defense. So while Bell didn't make Three Bucks, he was awfully good defending Wade (so was Delfino), and Charlie chipped in offensively 11 points on 3-6 shooting and didn't turn the ball over in 33 minutes.
Loud crowd. Saturday nights always lend an attendance boost, and that coupled with a return to Milwaukee of guard
Rafer Alston Dwyane Wade assured a sellout crowd of 18,717.
The atmosphere was fairly festive and loud, and the Bucks gave them a lot to cheer about, just as they have all month, and all season long, really.
Milwaukee finished the month a spotless 6-0 at the Bradley Center, where they haven't lost since the day after Christmas to San Antonio
, and where they might just not lose ever again.
Encore. The Bucks get another shot at the Heat on Monday. Granted, the game is in Miami, but the Heat aren't much better at home than away, and the Bucks clearly match up very nicely regardless of venue.
And while they started the night seeded sixth in the East, the Heat are conceivably the most catchable team in the playoff race. And yes, the Stackhouse pickup was made with a run to the playoffs in mind. Whereas the Bobcats and Bulls are balanced clubs now starting to realize their potential, Miami appears vulnerable.
Wade should be
good great enough to secure a playoff spot the top-heavy East, but there isn't much room for error on a team that relies so heavily on a single player. They certainly couldn't withstand an injury to Wade, and as we saw tonight, they aren't in very good shape without Michael Beasley, who missed the game with a hyperextended knee. That turned Joel Anthony into a starter, not promising stuff for a team that starts Rafer Alston at point guard.
Milwaukee is three games behind Miami after this win, so another win on Monday would draw them very much within striking distance. Particularly since after the rematch, Miami then plays: at Boston, at Cleveland, at Chicago, vs Houston, at Atlanta.
D. Wade. As in D. Wade. A lot of superstar performances from superstar players at the BC this season: Dirk, Kobe, Duncan, and Bosh come to mind, but not Wade this time. He came into the game averaging 23.4 points on a robust 51.4 % shooting in 16 career games against the Bucks, so maybe he was just due for an off-game.
But I didn't much care for how he carried himself either. He complained to the refs early and often, eventually resulting in a third-quarter technical for dissent. And it's not like he wasn't getting calls. On the contrary, Wade shot 12 free throws, and got the benefit of a couple questionable ones, eliciting a "special treatment" chant from Squad 6 in the second half while at the line.
PF Starters. Jeremy at Bucksketball asked before the game if there has been a worse starting matchup all year than between the starting power forwards tonight, and Luc Mbah a Moute and Joel Anthony answered that question in resounding fashion by scoring a combined zero points.
Skiles, post-game, on Luc:
I didn't like his energy. I think something happened to him this morning in the shootaround or something. He was complaining about something, I'm not sure what it was. I just didn't think he was moving around that well today.
And while you may worry away, I don't think this is a big deal.
Luke Ridnour shows rare sign of imperfection. That, is news. 0-4, no points.