MILWAUKEE -- So Scott Skiles can coach a little offense (0.3 second minimum) after all.
The last moments looked like the final clip of a rehearsed scene practiced by everyone a hundred times (Pacers included). It turns out that is one of a few different plays the team practices for these 0.3-0.7 second scenarios according to Skiles. But it only took this once, and everyone played their role expertly: Mbah a Moute threw the overhead pass at just the right height, Brandon Jennings set the strong screen on Jeff Foster, and Andrew Bogut finished the volley-tip.
Foster, coincidentally, spent pretty much the entire game isolated from Indiana's bench stretching and taking the game in a few feet in front of me, seemingly getting ready for a big moment that felt like he would never be a part of.
The Bucks had that one final chance after Roy Hibbert missed a jumper much like the one he was practicing before the game in the photo later in this story. And so Hibbert lost to Bogut again, just like he had in each of the previous five meetings. Milwaukee has Indiana's number, and that is both more impressive and useful now that they look up to the Pacers in the division standings.
Indiana grabbed a 91-90 lead on a Danny Granger jumper with 2:33 remaining in regulation. At that point (imagine this) the Bucks had made one field goal in the previous six minutes. And yet Skiles just then inserted Mbah a Moute for Corey Maggette, as clear of a defense-for-offense trade as exists on this team. From there, Mbah a Moute went on to make a sideline jumper to tie it at 93-93, force Danny Granger to pass the ball away to Hibbert with a chance to win, and make the game-winning pass.
Afterward, the locker room was upbeat.
Andrew Bogut. For the sixth time in six tries, Bogut outplayed (and beat) Hibbert. Just in case people were preparing to crown Hibbert the top center in the division. A game after failing to get in good position in the post against Miami, Bogut really fought down low and pushed his way to the hoop against another team quite good at defending at the rim (Miami is first in opposing field goal percentage at the rim, Indiana is fifth).
Bogut got to the line the conventional way and ended up making his most free throws (7) in almost two years -- he made 8-9 at the line on Dec. 19, 2008 against... yes, the Pacers, in a 121-103 win.
His worst shooting night (5-14) of the year, but made a pretty important shot, too.
Five blocks, two steals, and I don't think he would have let Jeff Foster score with 0.3 seconds.
Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Bogut tied the Orlando Magicians with eight offensive rebounds. On Monday, Dwyane Wade and the Heat ripped the Bucks on the offensive glass, and I wondered aloud about the Case of Ersan's Missing Offensive Boards:
Speaking of offensive rebounds, what ever happened to Ersan Ilyasova getting all of those tip-offensive rebounds? The Heat seemed to get a bunch of resets on those tonight. Ersan? Three total rebounds in 22 minutes, one on the offensive glass.
Ilyasova responded by equaling all 10 Pacers put together with five offensive rebounds tonight, including the most important one of all when he gathered Andrew Bogut's missed hook shot with the game tied 93-93 with 49 seconds left. He went back up, got fouled, and made both free throws, striking more blows into his old reputation as an anti-clutch player.
Turk Nowitzki he was not, missing all four of his three-pointers, but he made up for that by doing a bit of everything else: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 7-14 shooting, 7-8 free throws, +12 differential.
Brandon Jennings. A sixth game of 20+ points in his last 11, he hasn't dropped 8+ assists since October, and here the "scoring point guard" label is writing itself again. But for a team last in points scored, I am grateful that at least someone is compelled to score.
And Jennings was compelled to score, as evidenced by his 9-13 night at the free throw line, a career-high for makes at the stripe. And while he shot just 6-16 from the field, he only took two long twos, and they weren't even that long -- he made a 16-footer and missed a 17-footer. Lots and lots of momentum going to the hoop.
Darren Collison got the better of him as rookies last year, but Jennings is 2-0 this season.
21. The Bucks scored their first 21 points (in 9:28) of the game without an assist. They came into game with the second lowest assist rate in the NBA, but this run was anomolous even for them. They finished with 19 dimes.
5. Milwaukee blocked five shots in the fourth quarter: three by Bogut and one each by Jennings and Dooling.
9-3. Indiana made 9-24 (.375) on threes while Milwaukee converted on just 3-13 (.231) from outside, including 0-2 in the fourth quarter. But they overcame yet another off shooting night by getting to the line (40 free throw attempts) and with some serious fourth quarter defense (they held Indy to 16 in the final quarter).
Drawing fouls. Remember how drawing fouls and getting free throws was the bane of the Bucks last season?
Now they are in the top ten overall in free throws made per game, and positively lead the NBA in drawing fouls. They came into the game drawing a league-high 24.6 fouls, and upped that average as the Pacers committed 27 fouls tonight. Jeff Foster was whistled three times in 10 minutes, and sure didn't want to take any chances picking up a fourth on that final play of the game. Especially the way Bogut was shooting free throws (7-10).
And speaking of free throws, the Bucks made 32 (and only two of those by Corey Maggette) tonight, including 10 that really spurred the team in the first quarter. They failed to make 10 in a game 12 times last year.
True, fixing this particular problem has not fixed the offense like many hoped, but it is a good sign for the offense going forward, especially for those of you who are holding out hope that the guarded throws (not free ones) will eventually start to go in.
Six straight. The Bucks have now beaten the Pacers six straight games, and have topped Indy at home five times in a row. Considering the Pacers are now apparently a threat within the division and the playoff race, Milwaukee's total ownership of them might prove critical. They meet again at the Bradley Center on Feb. 12 and then at Conseco on April Fool's Day.
Luc's lob. Score one for soccer, as Luc Mbah a Moute credited his youth spent playing the sport for the game-winning throw-in:
Throw in, man. Playing soccer, man... When I was younger... I used to just put it right on their head so they could head-butt it in. But I hadn't practiced it in a while. But that helped me out a lot.
Nice form, too, and a completely legal soccer throw-in, with the two hands on the ball over his head and feet on the ground.
Not from start to finish. Over their past three wins, the Bucks had not trailed for a minute, for a single second. After beating the Warriors, Bobcats, and Magic from opening tip to final buzzer, the Bucks had to be all dramatic with a buzzer-beating shot just to win. [/sarcasm]
Viewership. What a game to miss. For just about everyone. A real shame that this one was not televised locally -- yet that didn't drive too many to the Bradley Center either, as 12,789 (roughly the population of the Milwaukee suburb Glendale) marked the season-low for attendance.
Going down. The Bucks bursted to a 33-point first quarter, but then went for 23, 22, and 19, and as the game wore on, they looked worn out, increasingly like themselves offensively, and much closer to being the worst (thank Zach Lowe for confirmation) in history than the best. In the end, just another 36.0 % shooting night in Milwaukee.