Statistics can tell us a lot about a game: who played well, who played poorly, and which team won. But they can't tell us how these numbers came about. That's why we're going inside the box score and finding out the story behind the stats.
Today's subject: Mike Dunleavy and his game-high 8 assists
The faux-feud between Brandon Jennings and Ricky Rubio would be best settled by a friendly game of Jenga (as most feuds are), but a realistic way of settling the point guard debate is to see who can out-distribute each other. It would seem that Jennings won the day today (7 dimes to 4), but he didn't even have the most assists on the team. No, the best passer in Tuesday's win over Minnesota was Mike Dunleavy, and we're going to go to the tape to find out how that happened.
1st quarter, 7:22 - Andrew Bogut makes layup (assist by Dunleavy)
Dunleavy runs from the baseline and receives the ball at the left wing, with Bogut camped out on the block. The easy entry pass is made, and Bogut makes a quick dribble and drop-steps to the basket and, a few pump-fakes later, lays it in.
1st quarter, 3:21 - Jon Leuer draws foul, makes layup (assist by Dunleavy)
Dunleavy runs the floor along the left sideline with Jennings, Livingston, and a trailing Leuer. Dunleavy receives the ball on the left wing, throws a solid fake that gets Luke Ridnour to over-committ, then takes one more dribble before passing to the wide-open Leuer near the basket. A crafty up-and-under later, Leuer has a reverse layup and a free throw.
1st quarter, 2:31 - Shaun Livingston makes 4-foot shot (assist by Dunleavy)
In a half-court set, Dunleavy receives the ball in the left corner and dribbles in a wide arc, ending up at the left elbow. Jon Leuer has set three screens on the play, the third one freeing up a back-door cutting Shaun Livingston for an easy look. The pass is right through the defense into the hands of Livingston, who makes the shot.
2nd quarter, 3:04 - Brandon Jennings makes 25-foot 3-point shot (assist by Dunleavy)
Leuer comes up with a steal and pushes the ball up to Jennings on the right side. Jennings lofts the ball to Larry Sanders following on the left, but the timing is off and prevents the would-have-been-spectacular alley-oop. Sanders comes up with the ball on the way back down as the defense gathers. Dunleavy is wide open on the right wing, but notices the defense rotating before he even catches the pass. Instead, he quickly swings it to Jennings, who is waiting alone in the right corner. It may not have been as highlight-worthy as the attempted slam dunk, but the extra pass amounted to an extra point.
3rd quarter, 7:11 - Stephen Jackson makes 25-foot 3-point shot (assist by Dunleavy)
Dunleavy runs off a Larry Sanders screen and receives the ball from Jennings just to the left of the top of the key. After a few moments, Dunleavy dribbles right, using a Bogut screen to get space. The defender (Ridnour) recovers quickly, but the defense is slow to pick up Jackson, who is waiting for the swing pass back over at the left wing. This play was relatively unremarkable, except how Dunleavy is able to hit his teammate with the pass in the exact spot they are most comfortable with.
3rd quarter, 6:50 - Brandon Jennings makes layup (assist by Dunleavy)
After a few moments without possession, the ball finds itself in the hands of Darko Milicic, who tries to thread the needle to Derrick Williams. This is ill-advised, as it's easily intercepted by Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy quickly targets Jennings, who is already at the opposite free-throw line, and telegraphs a pass 3/4 the length of the court right into Jennings' hands. Jennings is able to navigate the traffic and convert the quick basket.
4th quarter, 10:56 - Jon Leuer makes 14-foot jump shot (assist by Dunleavy)
At the top of the key, Dunleavy takes a Bogut screen and drives right. Milicic meets him at the elbow, and Dunleavy picks up his dribble and looks for a pass. It actually takes a few seconds to find a teammate, but Leuer pops up at the left baseline with enough room for a jumper. The pass is crisp, as is the one dribble Leuer takes to his right before elevating for the quick shot.
4th quarter, 8:34 - Brandon Jennings makes dunk (assist by Dunleavy)
This is a perfect example of a generous home-court statistician. Dunleavy comes up with a Ricky Rubio turnover and quickly flips the ball to Brandon Jennings just before half court. Three dribbles later, Jennings throws down the uncontested dunk. This is definitely not an assist, but it counts that way because we're in Milwaukee.
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At the 4:48 mark, Skiles pulls Dunleavy in favor of a Jennings-Livingston-Jackson-Ilyasova-Bogut lineup, with the score at 89-81. While the more defensively-proficienct lineup works on paper, they couldn't stop the Timberwolves from drawing fouls. Bogut got his 6th at the 2:08 mark, thus allowing Leuer to come in and dunk his way into Bucks lore.
But Dunleavy had already left his mark on this game, even if his shot wasn't falling. His basketball IQ was widely regarded as one of his best attributes, and he showed it off by assisting on 19 Milwaukee points. He meshes well with everyone on the floor (provided they can catch passes), helping to stabilize the Milwaukee offense. More than anything, his pinpoint passing opens up the transition game. Not bad for a small forward.