MILWAUKEE -- At the end of the night, there are two types of Bucks games: Those in which Drew Gooden passes to himself off the backboard, Brandon Jennings dishes between his legs to Andew Bogut for a dunk, and Earl Boykins makes a sky hook, and those in which those three things don't happen.
Fortunately, this game did, did, did.
The Bucks score more points in the first quarter (41) than they did in the previous game's first half (35), and carried a double-digit lead for the final 43 minutes of the game.
Sometimes it's all in the timing.
The Bucks made 13 of their first 15 shots from the field, and teams just don't lose when they shoot like that. The Knicks can relate: Five days ago, New York made 16-24 threes while romping over the Bulls. And tonight, four days after scoring 30 points in the second half against the Bucks, the Pacers made 20 straight shots to open the second half and scored 54 in the third quarter (just in case you were worried that Milwaukee's offensive fireworks would steal headlines).
So while this was sort of just one of those night for the Bucks, it's not like everyone was simply shooting straight at the same time and it was as simple and aberrational as that. After all, they made just 5-16 (.313) three-pointers. Milwaukee, to a man, moved the ball, they drove-and-kicked with purpose, not just to get rid of the ball, but to bring the defense with them and away from a shooter.
They were bound to start making shots eventually, but there was some swing, a newfound flourescence to the offense that made the Knicks (who entered the game ranked eighth in the NBA in defensive efficiency) look like a bad defensive outfit even when they weren't. Whether or not the Bucks made themselves look like a good offensive unit even if they aren't will reveal itself soon enough.
Brandon Jennings. The first game after declaring that he felt he "needed to shoot a little more," Jennings shot 8-13 from the field on balanced mix of composed drives and squared jumpers. Hardly the stuff of going out of your way to shoot more, especially considering he's averaging 14.6 shots per game in his career.
He is dunking more: Jennings threw down a third quarter two-handed slam for the second dunk of the season, matching his 82-game rookie total. More (most) importantly, Jennings pushed the tempo, and did so under control, as his zero turnovers attest to. The offense really buzzed in that first quarter under Brandon's direction.
Andrew Bogut. This was not a numbers game for Bogut -- though his 5-5 field goal line is nice to look at. This was about Andrew setting the pace, and making a couple plays that lifted the stadium.
Also: Made Timofey Mozgov look like Timofey Mozgov.
Luc Mbah a Moute. The Prince missed both of his jumpers on the evening, but head-faked, pump-faked, and pivot-foot shifted his way to 3-4 at the hoop, including an and-one. Starting at small forward in place of Carlos Delfino (neck strain), Mbah a Moute excelled on both sides of the ball, and finished with an earned +26 differential.
19-18. The Bucks may have outscored the Knicks 107-80 (full disclosure: they did outscore the Knicks 107-80), but despite that the Knicks out-assisted the Bucks 19-18. New York also totaled more fastbreak points (13-10) than Milwaukee. Curious.
1. "Technical foul on... Knicks trainer Anthony Goenaga." It took a few seconds for the PA announcer to find his name, but the Knicks trainer was most certainly hit with a technical.
52. Bench points for the Bucks. Maggette (14), Ilyasova (12), and Boykins (10) led an inspired pack, and Boykins is doubly fun to watch when he is working so efficiently.
Play of the season.
Balance and rest. The Bucks entered the game as the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 89.3 points per game, and they had the lowest-scoring leading-scorer in Andrew Bogut (14.8 ppg). And through the whole offensive explosion, the Bucks maintained the type of offensive balance that we envisioned when reading this roster in the offseason: Despite piling up a season-high 107 points, no Buck reached 20 points, but seven players hit double digits: Jennings (19), Gooden (17), Maggette (14), Ilyasova (12), Bogut (10), Boykins (10) and Mbah a Moute (10). And that doesn't include last year's leading scorer, Salmons (9), who added five assists.
Relatedly, Milwaukee's effective bench allowed the team to play the bench extensively while maintaining the big marging of victory, giving rest to some of the regulars on the first night of a back-to-back before flying to Atlanta. Ringleaders Bogut (24 minutes), Salmons (24), and Jennings (27) in particular got time off.
Gooden the first quarter. In that poll to the left of you, three of you have voted for Drew Gooden as your favorite player. Now that actually seems like a bit much, but it also has left him last among the 15 eligibles (including twice as many Darington Hobson fans).
Understandable, considering the guy known for nothing if not being consistently decent while playing for nearly a third of the teams in the NBA had been pretty (and admittedly) bad for the Bucks. So it was refreshing to watch an invigorated Gooden star in the team's best quarter of basketball of the young season, scoring 11 points on 4-5 shooting while driving under control to the basket and making that spot-up jumper we all heard about but had yet to see.
Badden the last three quarters. Gooden managed to shoot 1-10 in the final three quarters.
SkyWalker. In a game full of Bucks highlights, the Knicks had a couple highlights (keyword of compound word: high) too, namely Bill Walker's baseline blam on Bogut's world. Two ACL operations were supposed to effectively ground him. Not so much. So this is kind of a nice story. Just like the Goods are sometimes sort of Bad in losses, the Bads tend to contain hints of Goodness in wins.
Also: Landry Fields floated up and up and slammed a rebound-dunk in the third quarter in the midst of the Knicks pretending to make a game of it in the third quarter.
Running out the clock. The Bucks started the second half like they had a three touchdown lead. Granted, they were in fact up by 21, but they started the half with a shot clock violation that foreshadowed a pretty lame start to the half that saw the lead cut to 12 in two minutes and twenty-nine seconds. And now the good news: Milwaukee ended the quarter on a 12-3 run. Sorry for being so positive, but when Scott Skiles can't find much of anything wrong, don't expect me to. Skiles, post-game (and I quote him here because he isn't one prone to blanket flattery):
Really good all around effort at both ends.