MILWAUKEE -- After the first two head-to-head games this season the Bucks and Bulls each had one win, each team even had the same 180 points. Something had to give in this third matchup, because three, it's a magic number.
Okay, maybe more moxie than magic, but the Bucks won one of those dreaded three-point games tonight in a game that was up, down, back up, and tied 12 times in between.
This was a border battle game that felt like the players in red really could all have been from one city and the other team in white really could all have been from another city just north.
Familiarity bred contempt as the Bulls and Bucks combined for five technicals and at least as many stare-downs and pushes not called. There was some real basketball, too.
Milwaukee started fast, building a 15-point lead in the first period only to slow down from 29 in the first to 18 points in the second quarter and a rather fortunate 17 in the third.
The Bulls took the lead early in the fourth, but Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd sped things up by combining for 19 straight points in a 32-point fourth quarter that included a wonderful charge drawn by Bogut on Derrick Rose and an offensive-rebound-dunk by Hakim Warrick.
The difference in the game, just three points. The difference after three games, just three points. Three. Like when Luke Ridnour skied in a three from halfcourt at the third quarter buzzer, because three, it's a magic number of wins in a row too...
Andrew Bogut. Three top notch games in a row for 'Drew, who was positively oceanic among ponds with 27/13 and six blocks. Not the best shooting night overall (11-23), but he was an offensive force and a defensive ace for 42 minutes.
The most important, most impressive defensive play of all was inducing Derrick Rose into a charge with the Bucks leading by two with 33 seconds to go. Such a skillful play at just the right time. Not many NBA'ers make that play. The Bucks lead the NBA in drawing charges, and Bogut is the most masterful of all.
Bogut started the game right, scoring the team's first two points on a righty hook and netting 15 by halftime. The Bulls pretty clearly endeavored to stop him after that and he struggled to convert for a brief time before powering his way to eight straight points through the middle of the fourth quarter.
Michael Redd. Two minutes and forty-three seconds. That's how long it took Mike to sling in 11 straight fourth quarter points, turning a five-point deficit into a one-point advantage.
In all, 24/8 without a turnover in 36 minutes for Redd. He also made 6-8, and is now 29-33 in his last seven games at the line, where it appears safe to say that he is back in form. The older Mike looked more like the old Mike, and that's only good.
Hakim Warrick. Okay, so the Bucks still don't get out in transition -- they only tallied five fastbreak points against Chicago -- but Warrick ignited the crowd with a stylish slam on a pass from Jennings in the second quarter. At the time it was a good bet that would be his feature highlight play if the Bucks won, but Warrick topped it.
With ten seconds to go in the game and the Bucks up 93-91, a trapped Redd slung a nice pass to Charlie Bell, whose close-range shot bounced off the rim. Warrick went high for one of his five offensive boards and slammed in a most decisive dunk, because really that is what he does best.
Seems obvious, but please note that Warrick was in the game with the Bucks up by two and ten seconds to go. Lots of bounce in his step.
40.0 % The Bucks shot a typically-hazardous 40.0 % from the field but overcame the inaccuracy of Jennings (1-9), Mbah a Moute (0-3), Delfino (0-5), and Thomas (0-2).
11. Milwaukee's 11 blocked shots were courtesy of just three players: Bogut (6), Jennings (3), and Warrick (2). The Bucks stuffed Derrick Rose five times, with Jennings getting a few monster swats among them. You might recall in the first matchup between these teams of the season that Rose tallied a monster, game-changing block of Jennings with Chicago up by two in the final seconds of the game. Nice redemption song for Jennings.
7. Speaking of which, Young Buck started his NBA career with seven blockless games, so three in one is kind of a big deal.
Redd/Bogut. My last recap celebrated an overtime win over the Thunder in a game highlighted by the Grade A performances by Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. Less than a week later, they again forced me to write only praiseworthy things. Much to my contentment.
Redd and then Bogut combined for 19 points in a row in the team's 32-point fourth quarter, truly taking over the game together with a little help from their friends.
After going more than a year without scoring 20+ together in the same game, Mike and 'Drew have done it twice now in the same week. Not coincidentally, both wins.
BC. I didn't count to verify the 18,717 listed as the official attendance, but I could feel everyone was into the game. It's always a bit more fun when the Bulls are in town because Chicagoans travel well, contributing to an atmosphere that felt like something much more than a game between two teams battling for eighth place in the conference.
Cagers. That's an old-school term for basketball players.
And it works well on this night, when a slightly chippy afair turned into a hostile environment, as five technicals (Bogut, Warrick, Hinrich, Noah, Thomas) were dished out as the officials at least attempted to quell the tiff.
You could see the team really came together, really want this win. And before the skirmish, but definitely after. You saw it, if you saw it: Jennings fought through, Redd was fired up, Bogut mighty intense, Warrick threw it down.
After racing out to a big early lead and playing such a feisty game against a division rival standing right with you in the standings, this would have been a really crushing loss. Would have been.
And yeah, I would be awfully happy to have Luke Ridnour in my corner of the cage.
Losin' it. Granted, these two are pretty even matches -- they entered the evening with half a game separating each other in the standings and had split a pair of close games. But I'm liable to lose it the next time the Bucks lose it against the Bulls. The second "it" being a 15+ point lead in this case. I had the misfortune of watching them blow an 18-point advantage in the team's first matchup of the season, an 83-81 loss in Chicago.
Tonight the Bucks really quite unassumingly let an early 15-point advantage fade into a six-point halftime lead and then a deficit early in the third quarter. Business as usual. Losing it on the road was one thing -- this was quite another. All's well that ends well though.
Points of control. Point guard was supposed to be the problem area: Starting a skinny kid rookie coming out of a brief and underwhelming stint in Rome backed up by a career starter with the career production of a career backup.
So what a happy surprise so far that Jennings and Ridnour have not only been okay manning the point, but have rather factually led the team. Point guard is the only position at which the Bucks have a positive net PER, and it's a big one: +4.2.
But tonight they let down at moments. Luke packed four turnovers, five fouls, a technical, and a generally uncharacteristic lack of calmness (getting caught up in Hinrich's games) into 16 minutes on the court.
Meanwhile, Young Buck shot 1-9 for five points, and that happens. Except it's never happened before -- Jennings had made at least three shots in every game until tonight and had scored at least nine in every game prior.
Then again, both made huge plays, and both were vocal on the floor, so this will work as far as off nights go. They have set a high standard.
CD. Sure, Carlos Delfino grabbed four rebounds in 10 minutes, but apparently for the express reason of wanting to run the point.
Now, he can dribble a little and he can pass a little, and he can't shoot as well as his reputation suggests. Most of all though, he needn't bring the ball up the court over and over, particularly when Jennings was out there finding people in all of the right places to start the game. Delfino forced drives, overdribbled, chucked threes, and got benched. Disappointing to see such all-around imprudence right after letting it all come naturally in a great game against New Jersey.