It was all Yi all the time as the Bucks beat the road-weary Bobcats 103-99 Saturday night at the BC (box / video).
- Yi Jianlian was the man, scoring 29 points on 14/17 fg along with 10 rebounds. It was a career-high in points, a career-high in minutes (42) and his first career double-double as well. It seemed like all his buckets were either 20-footers or dunks; after starting 0/7 on Wednesday it was the exact opposite story tonight, as he got rolling with a couple long jumpers early and never looked back. Yi started with a 4/4 first quarter and then came back to shoot 3/3 in the second quarter en route to a 15/5 first half. He then made his next five shots in the third, taking him to a perfect 12/12 from the field after a steal and breakaway dunk. He finally missed a long jumper with 2:31 left in the quarter. With the Bucks' lead shrinking below 10 late in the fourth he added another long jumper and a follow-slam off a Redd miss to seal it. The fans were going nuts late, chanting his name in the hopes that the Bucks would get him the ball when the Bobs were fouling, but (shockingly!) Redd and Williams wanted the points instead. Seriously guys, give the rookie some love. Yi's first 30-point night will have to wait, but in the meantime we'll act a little giddy thinking about the rookie's best night yet.
- Charlie Bell started in place of Desmond Mason, yet in spite of the Bucks' lack of height the Bobs never made too much of an effort to take advantage. Yi guarded Gerald Wallace much of the game when the Bobs went small, daring Wallace to shoot outside jumpers which he did for the most part (6/11, 15 pts but most of them late). Still, the Bobs shot 50.4% in spite of their whirlwind 24 hours, edging the Bucks' 49%. The Bucks however won the battle of the boards 41-34, and their 15 offensive rebounds were likely the difference in the game, as both teams made nine free throws and turned it over 17 times.
- Jason Richardson has been a very poor acquisition for the most part, but he gave the Bobs a chance by scoring 30 (11/19 fg) including 5/9 on threes.
- Mo had 22 and nine assists as well as four steals to offset his four turnovers. Redd meanwhile had 27 including 20 after halftime but shot just 10/27 from the field while adding only three rebounds and three assists. He also definitely went into head-down chucking mode for a while in the fourth. Think he knew the rookie was threatening to lead the team in scoring?
- Nazr Mohammed had 14/11 but those six turnovers seemed more like the Nazr we know and love. Okafor had a quiet 17/8, finishing worst of anyone with a -15 differential.
- It was a fairly comfortable game for the Bucks before they decided to let the Bobcats have a glimmer of hope late. With the Bobcats' flight from North Carolina delayed until this morning and then diverted to Midway, the Bobs didn't reach the BC until about an hour before tip-off. The Bucks then jumped on them early, leading 35-26 after one and stretching the lead to 42-28 before the Bobs cut it to 58-47 at halftime. Williams had 17 points and five assists in the half as Bogut added 10 in addition to Yi's 15.
- The Bucks stretched the lead to 85-63 on Yi's breakaway dunk with three minutes left in the third, but the Bobs scored the last eight of the quarter to keep the door open, 85-71 after three. Redd seemed to realize the rookie was going to steal his usual team scoring lead, so he started shooting in bunches early in the fourth. After a seven point first half Redd scored his 19th point of the second half on a three point play with 8:06 left, pushing the Bucks' lead to 97-80. But again the Bucks let the Bobs back into it, as the Bobcats scored nine straight thanks to four Bucks' turnovers. cutting the lead to 97-89 on a Ray Felton jumper with 4:42 left. Yi then responded with a jumper and the Bucks managed to keep the Bobs at arms' length before two three pointers in the last nine seconds made the score seem closer than it was.
- In 32 minutes of action Bell didn't take a single shot, but he dished out seven assists and collected four rebounds while turning the ball over just once. Ideally Bell will start knocking down three pointers as well, but tonight he managed to apply defensive pressure while helping the Bucks' ball movement.
- The move of the night for my money was Yi taking the ball on the left block against Jason Richardson, who seemed so prepared to be backed down that he allowed Yi to spin baseline and then rise over him for an emphatic two-hand jam. It was a mirror-image of the move Yi had on Dirk last month.
- Again the execution down the stretch left something to be desired, as the Bucks again became guard-centric in spite of Yi's hot-shooting night. On the one hand much of the damage Yi does is on pick/rolls where he gets open jumpers, something that teams tend to be much more aware of later in the game. Still, when the guy's shot 14/17 you at some point have to make a more concerted effort to get him shots.
- Bobby Simmons is looking better, though he's still a ways away from even his 05/06 form. He had nine points in 17 minutes tonight (4/9 fg) and will need to be much better as the Bucks cope with Mason's injury.
- Plenty of big dunks tonight. J-Rich had one great dunk on the Bucks' bigs while Bogut delivered a couple of huge facials as well. After his 14/10 night he's now had back-to-back double-doubles and is looking a bit more aggressive on both ends again. He did look a little awkward at times, missing a couple chippies on his way to a 6/13 night from the field.
- Has Bogut ever missed a free throw long? It seems like every time he steps to the line he misses his first free throw short (and usually to the right).