MILWAUKEE -- This is not the first time this season that the Bucks have strung together back-to-back wins against Washington and Cleveland. Or even the first time they have easily beaten them in back-to-back games.
They topped the Wizards 100-87 and then the Cavaliers 102-88 back in late-January. They were the worst teams in the East then, and they are the worst teams in the East now. Since those wins, the Bucks have gone 9-14 through the heart of the "easy" part of their schedule. Yes, these are all major qualifiers.
But the Bucks could do no more than win tonight, and they did so convincingly. And when I type "the Bucks" I mean all of them. All 11 active Bucks played against Cleveland tonight, and all of them contributed to the team's Bradley-Center-season-high 110 points. Earl Boykins (18/2/3, 8-9 fg, 2-3 3pt in 23 minutes) and Brandon Jennings (18/2/4, 7-10 fg, 2-3 3pt in 24 minutes) played identically (offensively) as Boykins tore through the second quarter and Jennings wrapped it up in the third. Andrew Bogut scored the fewest points (3) of any player on either team, but his passing (one night after recording seven assists) boosted the Bucks during the irresistable second quarter which Milwaukee won 39-22.
On consecutive possessions in the third quarter, the Bucks scored four points with Bogut under the basket -- under his own basket he was defending. That was just how quickly Bogut outletted and how quickly the team converted on the break. Those plays, by the play-by-play:
4:01 37-49 Andrew Bogut defensive rebound
3:59 37-51 Chris Douglas-Roberts makes slam dunk (Earl Boykins assists)
3:31 37-51 Alonzo Gee misses 4-foot jumper
3:29 37-51 Andrew Bogut defensive rebound
3:26 37-53 Earl Boykins makes layup (Andrew Bogut assists)
Cleveland full timeout
The Bucks aren't about to mimic :07 Seconds or Less anytime soon, but they managed these consecutive scores in :03 Seconds or Less, and they piled up 14 fastbreak points in the quarter alone, in case you are curious how the worst offensive team in the NBA scored 39 points in 12 minutes. After the game, Bogut told me he has always been comfortable making those long outlet passes, also adding that Cleveland did not play well in transition. Which is true. They didn't really play well anywhere defensively -- that is why they are the worst defensive team in the NBA. The question is, were these just back-to-back wins against Washington and Cleveland, or are the Bucks not still the worst offensive team in the NBA?
Earl Boykins. Not necessarily his best season, but it is worth pointing out that the 34 year-old is shooting a career-high 43.8 % from the field this year. Actually, make that 44.9 % after drilling 8-9 shots against Cleveland tonight. That gives him easily the best shooting percentage among the team's three point guards -- and even better than Derrick Rose (44.2 %). The best that Boykins previously shot in a full (or mostly full) season was 42.9 % back in 2002-03 for the Warriors. Earl's surprising effectiveness has dulled the pain of losing Luke Ridnour somewhat, who also shot a career-best 47.8 % last season. Something about backing up Brandon Jennings?
Boykins was the point guard in lineups that included Keyon Dooling, but really made his mark as the shooting point guard, dropping 18 points in 23 minutes. And these really were shots -- he made all but one of his nine makes from outside of the painted area.
Brandon Jennings. Boykins had just scored 13 points on a perfect 6-6 mark from the field in the second quarter, but Jennings was so good in the third quarter that he played the entire third quarter and Boykins didn't play at all. Indeed, Coach Skiles mixed and matched his lineups to pinpoint timing, as Jennings one-upped Boykins with 14 points on 5-7 in the third quarter alone.
After going more than three calendar months without making at least half of his shots, Jennings has hit the mark twice in as many nights after hitting 10-20 against Washington and now 7-10 versus Cleveland. Jennings, post-game:
The team is picking up, but these are games we should win. So we can't be parading around here like we've done something.
. Tied a season-high with 11 points thanks to a weird 7-8 night from the line (all in the second quarter) for the 63.7 % career free throw shooter. And in addition to drawing all of those fouls on the offensive end, he drew three charges. Pulled down three offensive rebounds -- which isn't a huge number until you consider that there weren't all that many misses for once, and that his three were more than half of the team's five total offensive rebounds. Brockman was on the floor for all but less than a minute of the second quarter, and earned a +14 differential for his efforts. Ideal.
19. The second quarter notably featured 61 pretty points, but there were also 19 fouls (10 committed by Cleveland and 9 by Milwaukee).
3. After failing to register a blocked shot the night previous against the Wizards, Andrew Bogut blocked three Cavalier shots -- all of them in the first quarter.
0. The team actually lost the first and fourth quarters, but exactly zero Bucks had a negative differential in the game.
Backup. A sluggish and sloppy start by Milwaukee's starters (four turnovers in first 10 minutes of the game) allowed Samardo Samuels and Friends to jump to a 21-16 lead. Coach Skiles called a timeout and subbed in Earl Boykins, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Larry Sanders, and Jon Brockman to join Keyon Dooling in a starter-less lineup. And those were the stars of the second quarter in which Milwaukee outscored Cleveland by a 39-22 count. The bench scored 33 of the 39 points in those 12 minutes that turned the game.
Point gods. Brandon Jennings (7-10), Earl Boykins (8-9), and Keyon Dooling (4-6) shot a combined 76.0 % from the field. So that will do.
And while Jennings and Boykins deservedly light up the headlines, Dooling also was highly effective offensively and led the club in assists (5) and steals (2).
Postseason watch. The Wolves hammered the Pacers (who have lost six straight now) tonight while the Bulls bullied the Bobcats (who have lost seven straight). As such, the Bucks now trail Indiana by 1.5 games for the eight spot and trail Charlotte by just a half game. After the game, Coach Skiles freely acknowledged that he follows all of the other games around the league (after the Bucks play), while Andrew Bogut cautioned that the team not get to into worrying about what other teams do. And that is the right coach/player balance on the topic.
Sked. The Bucks host the Sixers on Saturday, a team that has already beaten Milwaukee twice this season. And right when Milwaukee finally figured out how to beat bad teams, they follow the home game against Philly with trips to Boston and Atlanta before returning home to face Orlando.
Geez. That "4-foot jumper" referenced near the top of the story... that was actually Alonzo Gee (-29 differential) airballing a finger roll in the second quarter.
Four starter. Again, not a bad game by The Prince -- just another subpar offensive game (including in airball) in consecutive starts. And his 2-6 shooting effort falls in line with his season's starter/reserve splits coming in: shooting 52.6 % off the bench in 27 games and 42.8 % in 32 games as a starter this season. This probably makes sense for the ideal role player, though he actually played much better offensively as a starter last season.