The one where everything worked and nothing was a problem did not air on television.
The Milwaukee Bucks' 106-93 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night was perfect vindication for the team's embarrassing mid-November loss in Charlotte. With no television coverage in the Wisconsin area, practically everything the Bucks couldn't do three weeks ago (shoot threes, get to the line, rebound) was corrected as if someone had simply flipped a switch.
Milwaukee won the rebounding battle by 14, the points in the paint battle by 10, racked up 14 crowd-pleasing blocks, and hit more threes (3) and free throws (10) in 12 minutes Friday night than they did in 48 (2 threes, 8 free throws) on November 19th.
The Bucks forced Charlotte into the mid-range on most possessions, obliging every pull up jumper with soft help so as to prevent the much easier basket inside. The Bobcats hit on 11-20 shots from no-man's land, but all the open 20 footers in the world can't make up for a lack of production at the line (56%), along the perimeter (23% 3fg, 0/9 in the first half), and outside of the restricted area (33% from 3-15 feet).
"We were rebounding on both ends tonight," Scott Skiles said. "With our shooting percentage gradually going down as the game is going on, we were able to get some second chance point and stop them enough to build up that big of a lead."
Marquis Daniels. Daniels scored 10 points in the first quarter without taking a mid-range shot, and added another 8 in the third. He sunk three mostly wide open spot-up threes, and did the rest of his damage inside the paint on the way to his third double-digit scoring night in the last five games. Consider Daniels this year's Shaun Livingston, a consummate vet slaughtering low expectations once every few weeks.
Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova had his second good performance in the last week, notching a season-high 21 points and 12 boards. He hit a few shots early, made difficult jumpers look easy, and simple put-backs look painful. Ilyasova only shot 41%, but added five points on free throws and connected on 2-3 from behind the arc. In his last five games, the Turkish Thunder has averaged 11 pts on 44% fg and 36% 3fg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.2 apg coming off the bench.
Larry Sanders. Sanders had a relatively innocuous, yet effective night (8 pts, 10 rbs, 5 blks), save for a couple dunks and a volleyball-like swat that compelled him to give a pointing shout-out to Sector 7. In the last five games, Sanders has blocked 28 shots, while keeping his fouls to a minimum (2.8 fpg over the last five vs. season average of 4 fpg).
26-32. In their November loss to the Bobcats, the Bucks hit a meager 8-11 free throws. Friday night was a completely different story. Ilyasova (5-6) and Monta Ellis (7-9) were responsible for a large chunk of the Bucks' 26 free throw makes, but the team as a whole was consistently aggressive in and around the paint, often forcing Charlotte's frontcourt into uncomfortable "foul or else" moments. The Bobcats did match the Bucks' attempts (32), but converted just 16 times.
59. Milwaukee fell one short of collecting 60 boards, and shattered the season's previous single-game high for rebounds (48). The Bucks were extremely active on the offensive glass, collecting 23 offensive boards leading to 20 second chance points and a 52-42 advantage in paint scoring.
106. Just call me the basketball Nostradamus, including the ambiguity. Milwaukee snapped their seven game sub-100 point scoring streak by posting 106. That's not exactly a feat of strength against the recent iteration of the Bobcats' defense, but it's refreshing to know it is possible without the services of Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih.
Bum slayin'. If the Bucks' ultimate goal this season is to make waves in the playoffs, closing out clearly inferior teams in the first 24 minutes has to become a standard. It's how Milwaukee built up their reputation three years ago as a dark horse threat, finding their identity as a group while taking out the big fish in the NBA's small barrel.
Lineup shuffle. After the game, Skiles announced he would be using the Jennings/Ellis/Daniels/Udoh/Sanders lineup for the third straight game on Sunday versus the Brooklyn Nets. We discuss his daily minute allocations regularly, so it'll be interesting to hear the criticisms if and when a consistent lineup fails to produce.
"This team has a lot of depth, it's not an easy job on coach," Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "But I think guys have to ready all the time because you never know when your name is going to be called."
Drew Good-ness. Drew Gooden checked in at the 8:23 mark in the fourth, hop-stepping his way down the sideline to the crescendo of a crowd eager to light a human victory cigar. He certainly did not disappoint for good hustle theater, drawing a foul, blocking a shot, and registering a hockey assist.
Three Two Bad
No TV for you. If you watched this game, you either have NBA League Pass, live in Milwaukee, or are a criminal on the cyber lam. This one had it all: Larry Sanders volley-swatting a ball and hat-tipping Sector 7, Drew Gooden checking in, Tyrus Thomas giving Desagana Diop scoring advice, and Hakim Warrick's nostalgic return to the BC.
The final 6 minutes. Charlotte went on a 16-8 run to close out the game, salvaging some of the box score with a 32-22 fourth quarter advantage on 70% shooting (14-20 fg, 2-3 3fg). I expect more out of the world-beating Doron Lamb/Tobias Harris/John Henson/Drew Gooden/Joel Przybilla lineup.