Playing without Michael Redd (strained knee) and Charlie Villanueva (sore back), the Bucks blew an 11 point lead with 1:34 to go in regulation but somehow managed to regroup and beat the Wizards in OT, 105-102 (recap / video). Midway through the first quarter the Bucks looked so out of sorts that I couldn't imagine them pulling out a victory. But to their credit they fought their way back into the game and should have put it away before they collapsed at the end of regulation, only to stage their own comeback in OT to win in dramatic fashion. Easily the strangest, least predictable game of the season thus far.
- Mo Williams. Mo looked like the goat near the end of regulation, as he turned the ball over twice in the final 90 seconds and missed a potential game-winner at the regulation buzzer. But trailing 99-95, he responded with three pointers on consecutive possessions and hit two freebies with 2.3 seconds left to provide the final margin of victory. He finished with a team-leading 25 points (9/22 fg, 5/8 3fg), five rebounds and five assists but also turned it over six times.
- Andrew Bogut. After his first invisible game of the month in Toronto, Bogut bounced back with 18 points, 15 rebound and six assists. Saddled by foul trouble, Bogut logged just 4 points on 1/5 shooting in the first half, but made up for it in the second half with 14 points and 10 rebounds on 7/12 fg. Brendan Haywood has been having a career-year, but Bogut held him to 4/9 fg for 11 points.
- Royal Ivey/Charlie Bell. Let's tip our hats to both for their work in filling in with Mike Redd out. Ivey started at point guard and racked up 17 points, six assists and just one turnover, and his off-balance 22-footer with six seconds left gave the Bucks a four point lead that they would not relinquish. Bell meanwhile had 22 points, six boards and six assists while finishing +10 for the game.
- 11-0. The Wizards' scoring run in the final 99 seconds of the game, turning a seemingly impossible 90-79 deficit into a 90-90 game heading into OT. That kind of run can only happen with a perfect combination of luck and skill, and the Bucks certainly didn't help themselves either. DeShawn Stevenson shook off a horrible shooting night to drill a triple with 1:34 left, and when Mo Williams lost the ball trying to break the press, Stevenson responded with a second three to make it 90-85 with 1:25 left. After Ivey and Butler exchanged misses, Mo's speculative pass for Bogut was picked off and led to free throws for Antonio Daniels with 24 seconds left. Daniels made the first but missed the second, only for Antawn Jamison to grab the rebound, score and draw a foul on Yi. Jamison missed the ensuing free throw, but Butler stole in and putback the miss to seal the comeback. The Bucks called timeout but Mo pulled up for a long three that bricked badly at the horn.
- 40. Playing in front of 30 friends and family members, Racine native Caron Butler set a new career-high with 40 points on 13/27 fg and 10/10 from the line; he's now made 70 straight from the line. I was surprised at his final shooting line because for much of the second half he seemed simply unstoppable, scoring 16 in the fourth quarter and OT. If you gave me a choice of either Butler or Gilbert Arenas, I'll take Butler.
- 27. After an almost unwatchable first quarter (17-15 Wiz), both teams decided to play a little less like D-Leaguers, and the Bucks' 27 assists were reflective of the improved ball movement they showed for much of the game. Ivey (6), Mo (5), Bell (6) and Bogut (6) combined for 23 assists.
- Overtime. The Bucks came into the game having lost their only two previous OT games this season (@Portland, @Cleveland), and given the deflating way regulation ended, they didn't exactly have much momentum heading into the extra frame. But Yi stuck a long jumper and Bogut tipped in a missed free throw to give them an early lead, only for Butler to score six straight to make it 99-95 with 2:17 left. However, Mo redeemed himself for his fourth quarter showing with his two big triples, and the Bucks defended well enough to come away with the win.
- The scrubs. The Bucks' scrubs have been just that for most of the season, but tonight the shorthanded group of Bell, Storey, Voskuhl and Ruffin did their part by outscoring the Wiz bench 37-12. With Ivey starting and Villanueva unavailable, you knew the Bucks would need some uncharacteristically good efforts off the bench, and Bell's 22/6/6 night was the most obvious. But don't overlook the contributions by former Wizards Michael Ruffin and Awvee Storey. Storey finished with eight points on 4/6 fg, including six in the second quarter when the Bucks rebounded from a dismal first quarter to take a 40-37 halftime lead. Storey had a couple of athletic reverse lay-ins and was generally all over the place, while Ruffin collected five rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes. Ruffin was so on fire that he even made 3/4 free throws in addition to making his only shot from the field.
Mike Who?. The Bucks are now 4-1 in games without Redd, not including their win in Miami where Redd missed the final quarter. While it's interesting (I'm choosing words carefully) how well some players have played when Redd is out, it's also worth noting that the four wins have come against Washington, Miami, at Charlotte and at Philly. So not exactly the toughest schedule in the world, but in the big picture you love to see guys stepping up when the team is shorthanded. Before the game, Charles Gardner even had some curious quotes from Eddie Jordan after learning Redd was out:
"It's going to be other guys stepping up (for the Bucks)," said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. "I felt good about where we were coming in here today, and we were preparing to play this game with Michael.
"As soon as they said, 'No Michael Redd,' I got more nervous. Andrew (Bogut) has been going pretty darn good the last six or seven games. Royal Ivey is not the player he was in Atlanta; he's become a lot more efficient. We know they have capable guys that have big confidence, whether it's Bobby Simmons or Mo (Williams) or Charlie Bell. They can step up and have good numbers and have a good game against us."
Is it a good sign if opposing coaches profess to be more worried when Redd isn't in the lineup? I don't see this team competing consistently without Redd over the long haul, but that doesn't mean the Bucks wouldn't be better off exploring their trade options.
- Choke artists. If choking were an artform, then the Bucks were looking like a team of Picassos at the end of regulation. Blowing an 11-point lead in under 75 seconds took much more than just bad play on the Bucks' part, but it was still somewhat fitting given the way the Bucks have been unable to close teams out this year. The Bucks have won only three out of 45 games by double-digits, and they should have made it four after Charlie Bell's dunk made it 90-79 with 1:39 left. It's easy to shake your head after a win like this, but considering the Bucks' struggles and the short bench they had today, it's hard to be disappointed.
- Bobby Simmons. Simmons was probably the only Buck who played notably worse than usual, making just 1/5 shots with no rebounds and three turnovers in 26 minutes. He watched during crunch time as Bell, Ivey and Mo played in a super-small three guard lineup. Still, Simmons was at least an enthusiastic onlooker: no one was more excited than Simmons and Storey after Bell's dunk gave the Bucks their 11-point lead, and Simmons was dancing on the bench as Mo made his clinching free throws.
- No love for Yi. Not that Yi has given the Bucks much reason to feel confident in his post offense, but there's still something kind of sad about watching him constantly flash to the post only to be uniformly ignored by his teammates. Shouldn't someone say something to him? Yi actually had a nice night defensively and chipped in 10 rebounds (five offensive), but his 3/7 shooting night was similar to many recent performances, where he gets a couple buckets early only to fade into oblivion for the rest of the game. He also got rejected twice down low in the first quarter, keeping up with his trend of being incapable of finishing around the hoop. No one seemed very interested in getting him the ball on offense for the rest of the game, but he still made a tough 22-footer from the wing early in OT. Head up, Yi.