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Bucks 110 Lakers 103: Recap/Rejoice

Not to jinx them or anything, but the Bucks are on a four-game winning streak after beating the Lakers 110-103. Last year they reeled off six straight in late December. If the Bucks can get by the Mavericks this Saturday they have two winnable road games against the Hawks and Knicks. The Mavericks will have something to say about the current streak but things are looking up right now.

Three Bucks:

  1. Michael Redd. Flirted with a triple-double, going for 26 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Leading scorer in each game of four-game winning streak.
  1. Charlie Villanueva. The 14 points were great, but the team-leading nine rebounds off the bench were even better.
  1. Mo Williams. Not the greatest shooting night but he keeps piling up the assists and continues to develop into a very capable court general. The offense looked smooth for a reason.

Three Numbers:

60.8. Percentage the Bucks' bench shot from the field.

Zero. Andrew Bogut turnovers. He came into the game averaging over two but played within himself, not turning the ball over while attempting 11 shots and dishing out five assists in 25 minutes

35. Fourth quarter points by the Bucks. They scored 17 in the first quarter. That's closing strong.

Three Good:

  1. Last night Kobe Bryant scored 32 against the Pacers, which doesn’t sound like that much until you realize he did it in 31 minutes. That’s offensive production on a Royal Ivey-against-the-Cavs level. In short, Bryant came into the game relatively rested and on a roll. Still, the Bucks managed to prevent the greatest offensive threat in the world from blowing up early or late. Desmond Mason even managed to annoy Bryant into a technical. And credit Redd for making Bryant work hard, and eventually get frustrated defensively. Bryant dropped 15 points in the third quarter alone, but didn’t take over in the fourth. In fact, he resorted to forcing some really difficult threes, which he’s been known to hit, but weren’t falling on this night. In a matchup of Team USA two-guards, Redd had the better overall game, finishing with one less point but double the rebounds and assists. On consecutive nights, Redd has gone toe-to-toe with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and come out on top both times.
  1. The Bucks didn’t take many bad shots. They consistently got into their offense early in the shot clock, and generally played smoothly against a very good defensive team. The Bucks also suddenly look like a very good passing team. Williams totaled nine assists, and Bogut and Redd combined for 11 more. It's great when your three best players are getting others involved like that. It’s not just about the raw numbers either; the actual passes were often creative and precise. Redd in particular seemingly is becoming a better team player and passer every day. The free-flowing offense reminded of the high points of last year; the difference now is the Bucks have learned to play a little defense too.
  1. Bobby Simmons going around the back and baseline before giving it up to Bogut for a big basket in the fourth quarter was a beautiful thing to watch. Simmons had looked like someone coming off an injury pretty frequently this year:  he hit open shots when presented with them, but didn’t show much aggressiveness. Based on tonight, he might be turning a corner. Desmond Mason’s hot start to the season somewhat masked Simmons’ sluggish one.  But tonight he came through with a huge three late in the fourth quarter and looked generally more like the Simmons of a couple years ago.

Three Not-So-Good:

  1. A night after dominating the Cavaliers from the free throw line, the Lakers got to the line 15 more times than the Bucks. You aren't going to win many games when you let the opponent shoot 40 free throws, especially when 35 go in. Thankfully, the Bucks converted on 22-25.
  1. The Bucks have had issues developing an offensive post presence early in games. Although they didn’t do the damage down low, it was encouraging to see the starting frontcourt of Bogut and Yi get the Bucks on the board with a couple jumpers.  Unfortunately, both fell into foul trouble before they had time to build on their quick points. It’s particularly worrisome that this bad habit is following the Bucks past the first couple weeks of the year. And the fouls were more understandable when they came against the Rockets and Spurs, but the Lakers hardly have an MVP candidate on their frontline, though Andrew Bynum is certainly a handful and a future All-Star. In any event, Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Bynum combined for 14 first quarter points compared to 17 total for the home team, necessitating another comeback for the Bucks.
  1. Mason was quiet again, scoring two points on 1-6 shooting in 20 minutes. His off-balance runner leaving five seconds remaining in the first half was particularly awkward, but he's converted on plenty of high-difficulty shots in the early going so he gets a pass this time.