Brandon Jennings still didn't look himself, and managed just 11 points on 3-12 shooting to go with 4 assists and 3 turnovers, but the Milwaukee Bucks still ended a painful three-game losing streak by knocking off the Toronto Raptors, 105-99. The offense leaned on 48 percent three point shooting (12-25) to overcome a poor performance in the paint -- they were just 30 points on 15-31 shooting in the lane, with just 10 of those coming in the second half -- while the defense played well enough to win when it mattered most.
A win over the Bargnani-less Raptors isn't exactly a feat fit to override a recent string of disappointing losses to the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns, but any road win is worthy of praise in the NBA. That theory goes double for a Bucks team that improved to 4-10 away from the Bradley Center so far this season.
The method for success in this win is hard to pin down, and for most of the game it felt like they didn't even deserve the victory. That's not to say the Raptors necessarily earned anything special on their end, but rather to point out that the game didn't really feel like it produced a winner. In many ways, the Bucks simply played well enough to not lose on Wednesday night. They committed more turnovers than the Raptors (19-14), dished out less assists (20-27), scored fewer points in the paint (30-40) and generated a deficit in fast break points (10-19). A three-point explosion by Carlos Delfino and a strong first half from Mike Dunleavy saved the day.
Dunleavy came out firing in the early action, scoring 16 of his 18 points before the intermission, while Delfino saved 17 of his team-high 25 points and four of his six made threes for a second half surge that put the game away. Drew Gooden continued his parade of really cool raw stats, really bad interior defense and really interesting decision-making by adding 20 points, 14 rebounds and six turnovers. Gooden has been feasting on that 18-foot pick-and-pop jumper that teams seem content to let him shoot since Bogut went down, but on this night he did most of his damage from the interior and on the line. That said, he still shot a healthy 3-5 from mid-range and beyond.
Brandon Jennings didn't look quite as disaffected as he did against the Suns on Tuesday night, but he certainly managed to lose the point guard battle against his counterpart again. He scored zero points in the first quarter on 0-3 shooting while Jose Calderon dished out 6 assists and added 5 early points, and only managed two points before the half. In fact, Jennings was 1-8 for three points entering the fourth quarter, but managed to salvage the night a bit near the end by hitting three of the six free throw attempts he saw during the late-game chase and foul routine by the Raptors.
It looked a bit better from the effort and mental engagement standpoint, but not much. Neither Jennings nor the Bucks are out of the woods on this one yet. If the situation has anything to do with Stephen Jackson, at least it isn't affecting his play. After to returning to the lineup against the Suns and providing 12 points and 4 assists (we won't talk about the failure to get off the last shot), S-Jax followed it up with 17 points on 6-11 shooting to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. To see the veteran respond to Coach's Decision - DNPs with more focused efforts is refreshing either because it pumps up his value on the trade market or because it makes him a serviceable option for the team moving forward. In any case, the development is welcome.
DeMar DeRozan did most of the damage for the Raptors with 25 points on 9-18 shooting, while Jose Calderon kept the offense humming along by distributing 15 assists on the night (more than all the Bucks starters combined). The only other impressive moment from a Raptors player came when James Johnson sliced down the lane on a third quarter dribble drive and buggy whipped a right-handed dunk around the outstretched hand of Drew Gooden. Any time the home crowd in Toronto wakes up is noteworthy, right?
The Raptors couldn't really capitalize on another meh third quarter by the Bucks, and then Carlos Delfino poured in 11 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good. It's anybody's guess what the Bucks do next, and that could easily be a reference to the trade market or the on-court action, but I will leave that last bit up to the reader.