OK, breathe a big sigh of relief: after two uninspiring losses on the road, the Bucks gritted out a hard-fought 78-72 win over the Bulls in their home opener (box score, video highlights). Knee-jerk reactions:
- OK, so maybe all that defense talk wasn't for nothing. Don't kid yourself, neither team shot well, but both teams played some tight defense, which might be the norm for the Bulls, but for us it's something brand new. I looked over our schedule from last season and couldn't find a single game where we held an opponent under 81 points (the Bucks beat Toronto 94-81 on March 2nd). The Bucks played slightly less ugly than the Bulls, outrebounding them 47-45 and turning the ball over four fewer times (19-15). Also key was the free throw line, where the Bucks made 23/28 compared to 13/17 for Chicago.
- Can we get some love for Mike Redd? Like everyone else he missed a lot of shots (only 8/24 fg) but he did connect on 3/7 from deep and made 8/8 ft for a game-high 27 points. More importantly, he also led the Bucks in rebounds (9), assists (5), and steals (3) with only one turnover. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's never done that before.
- Yi Jianlian was all over the court in the second and third quarters, scoring 14 in that span and injecting some life into an offense that had been absolutely lifeless. While he was mainly scoring off jumpers (and was only 6/15 fg), he hustled on both ends, blocking some shots and getting a couple trips to the line off offensive rebounds. I was ready to lose it when he took Thomas off the dribble and went up for a dunk against TT and Wallace, but alas, it looked like Ben got a piece of it. OK, so he's not quite there yet. Still, it was easily the most confident Yi has looked, and his play on both ends showed it. My dad was at the game and the first thing told me on the phone afterwards: "Yi's for real."
- Foul trouble was a problem for both teams, with Hinrich and Deng missing a big chunk of the first half and Bogut playing sparingly until the fourth. Bogut again looked spooked that Ben Wallace was in the building, scoring only 6 along with 3 rebs in 18 minutes. However, Wallace continues to look really old, with only 5 points and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes.
- Charlie Bell again outplayed Mo Williams, and this time Bell finished the game while Mo spent the final minutes as a cheerleader (though to his credit he looked as happy as anyone as the Bucks iced the game). That said, Bell was actually a -3 compared to Williams' +3 for the game.
- Joe Smith was the Bulls' best player, notching 14/10 on 5/6 fg against his former team.
- I've gotten the FSN Wisconsin broadcasts the last two nights, and let me say that I love Scott Williams. After Paschke said Williams' former teammate B.J. Armstrong used to get carded at bars in Chicago, Scott chimed in, "I think he got carded one time trying to buy glue." I don't even know what that means, but I like it.
- According to the Blog-a-Bull commenters, Bulls' broadcaster Johnny Kerr thought Yi was Japanese.