MILWAUKEE -- Unstoppable force 1.
Immovable object 0.
The Lakers became the first team this season to reach triple digits against the Bucks in 48 minutes (the Celtics needed overtime to hit the century mark), and they got there in 41 minutes. Los Angeles glided to its 118 points -- they made shots from outside (so that's what you are doing over there, Shannon Brown), but for the most part the Lakers piled up points very naturally and easily. Which was a pretty extraordinary sight considering no team had even reached 92 points against Milwaukee since Nov. 3.
You probably should have guessed that things weren't going to turn out so swell when the Bucks made 18 of their first 25 shots from the field... and were tied 41-41.
The Bucks never really wanted a shootout with the Lakers, but there they were: Drew Gooden nailing threes, Earl Boykins dropping floaters, and Brandon Jennings working in mid-range jumpers. They hung around for a good while; they even led some. But Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were getting simple baskets while Andrew Bogut and John Salmons were making everything difficult on themselves.
Jennings ended the first half with a layup and started the second half the same way, giving the Bucks a four-point lead. But Kobe Bryant broke a 75-75 tie late in the third quarter with seven straight points after being hit with a technical, and the uphill fourth quarter felt all too much like a pretty good team playing against the best team in the league.
And so it was.
The Lakers came in having lost two in a row, and that may have seemed like a good thing this morning, but this evening we realized that the Bucks were up against a force that had been stopped three times in a row in the regular season just once in the last 1,023 days.
Drew Gooden. I really, really don't want Gooden's pair of three-pointers to overshadow what a terrific all-around game he played, because this was his best game as a Buck regardless of the threes -- he was all over the glass (13 rebounds), couldn't miss from inside or out (8-11 shooting, 4-4 at line) and even tried on defense. But those threes are hard to ignore, especially when he had made one all of last year, and especially after what he said post-game:
It's something I have been working on. Coach gave me confidence in there one day. He said you have three point range. If you are open, let if fly. So I had the opportunity to stay after practice working on it... just work on my game, and help this team out.
Gooden was shooting and turning and walking to the other side of the court of the court tonight, but this apparent three-point experiment? Let's just hope it turns out better than the first time around, when Gooden made 30-127 (.236) over his first five pro seasons before pretty much shutting it down the past three, when he made 1-18 (.055).
Brandon Jennings. Jennings made Derek Fisher look each and every one of his 36 years of age, zipping around the Lakers point man so freely you hardly even noticed Fisher trailing behind. And Jennings also bothered to check him on defense, and that stands out on a night when the Bucks didn't check anyone else on defense.
31/3/6 and 4-11 on threes, although two of those long-range misses in the fourth quarter (down by scores of 104-97 and 109-102) almost went in and almost brought the building down.
Andrew Bogut. The Lakers are the best offensive rebounding team in basketball, but Bogut grabbed more offensive boards (9) than the entire Los Angeles team (8). So that is a pretty good starting point. He hauled in 18 huge rebounds overall, and has totaled 35 in the past two games. He blocked four shots, and is just straight dominant on that end right now.
1. The Bucks scored 59 first-half points in spite of making (and attempting) just a single free throw in that span. The first half did prove to be a little bit too good to be true, because even as the free throws evened out a bit in the second half (Milwaukee shot 16-26 in the final two quarters), Milwaukee was only able to manage 48 more points after halftime.
20 % Speaking of free throws... is this 2-10 madness the result of lingering discomfort sustained from Bogut's injuries? Perhaps.
But this is who he is right now, and all throughout his career as a bad free throw shooter, he has never been this bad. He started the game at a career-low 54.8 % at the stripe and built on that with a disastrous 2-10 performance that had a very real effect on this losing result. He missed three more free throws than the Lakers (24-29) missed as a team.
31. Brandon Jennings and Kobe Bryant each scored 31 points, and in doing so, they became the first Buck and the first Buck opponent, respectively, to reach 30 points in a game this season. Before the game I argued (to little reception) with a pair of my distinguished colleagues that Jennings would be the first Buck to crack the 30-point plateau. So thanks, Brandon.
Squad Six 10. The Bucks now have six players (Jennings, Maggette, Delfino, Bogut, Salmons, Gooden) averaging 9.8+ points, which I think was the idea with this team. Each of those five that played reached double figures tonight, and they could all be averaging double figures by Friday if Gooden (who is at 9.8) keeps this up.
La la land. This game didn't live up to last year's classic at the BC, but between Kobe getting called for a travel and a technical foul on separate instances, Bogut missing more than twice as many free throws as Jose Calderon missed in the 2008-09 season, Gooden making not one but two three-pointers, the officials making a couple outrageous calls (that and-one against Mbah a Moute?), Larry Sanders getting in the game in the first quarter and actually doing some real work, and Ron Artest sitting on an extra-highly cushioned chair while at the end of the bench, this hyped Lakers game was, if not highly dramatic, at least sufficiently preposterous.
Sanders. I was pretty much resigned to the fact that Skiles didn't consider Larry Sanders ready to play meaningful minutes. Two weeks ago before the Portland game, Skiles was clear before the game when he said he did not expect to play Sanders. He ended up playing Sanders six minutes that night, but only because the Blazers were blowing out the Bucks. Since then, nothing to indicate anything really changed.
Tonight, Sanders checked into the game with 48 seconds left in the first quarter. The Lakers' length made his entry plausible, but I also didn't think he would start the second quarter. But he did, and he started it by stuffing Steve Blake's shot. A couple minutes later, he blocked Devin Ebanks. The good (blocks) came with some bad (defensive foul, offensive foul in 14 seconds), but he certainly made an impression in four minutes.
Luc Mbah a Mute. There was no "o" Luc Mbah a Moute tonight, in a troubling silent (read: Mute) offensive game even for his standards. And his standard is 6.7 points per game, so we aren't used to much -- but this was too much.
On a night when the Bucks couldn't stop anyone, Mbah a Moute couldn't score on quite literally no one. The Lakers were content to leave him wide open on three missed mid-range jumpers, and Luc struggled to find any of the garbage baskets he usually scrapes around the hoop for. Mbah a Moute entered the game shooting a career-low 40.0 % from the field, and he went 0-4 with zero free throws attempts, and zero points.
The Bucks went with John Salmons on Kobe Bryant early (that didn't work), and Mbah a Moute never made an impact defensively, hardly having his way with Ron Artest.
To his credit, this was the first time the Bucks lost when Mbah a Moute started -- they were 4-0. And he will have his hour in the sun another day.
But tonight, 24 minutes.
Just 24 minutes, really.
Missing Carlitos. On the flipside, the Bucks are just 1-5 with Delfino in the starting lineup -- all games as part of the opening night starting lineup of Jennings/Salmons/Delfino/Gooden/Bogut.
But they sure seemed to miss him in this one. And as is typically the case, we move on without much insight. Don't look to Scott Skiles for clarification on Delfino's riddle-like update on his website. Before the game, Skiles:
He is not in the building... Every day that goes by, it will probably take him a little longer to get back. He hasn't been on the floor. He hasn't done anything. So we are just waiting until he is. It could be tomorrow morning. It could be at any time.
He went on to say he was "not sure," but "didn't think" there was any hint that Delfino might have a concussion. Glad we got that one cleared up.
Weak fouls. John Salmons set the lame tone for a defensive night-off for the Bucks with a weak foul on Kobe Bryant for and-one for the first three points of the game. The touch fastbreak foul is usually a Jennings specialty, and Brandon did live down to it by committing the same lame act on Shannon Brown later in the game for an and-one. Just infuriating every time. Either let the layup, or don't let the layup.