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Recap: Nuggets 114 Bucks 105

The Bucks may have headed west, but their play went mostly southward in a 114-105 loss in Denver. They performed like an overmatched team missing key parts in a tough environment against a very good team, which should probably be expected since that was precisely their predicament.

Not all was negative though, as Joe Alexander (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 2-4 on three-pointers) led the Bucks in minutes and delivered his finest game as a pro, proving first-round picks can succeed in Milwaukee too. Andrew Bogut however, (2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls) didn't represent the first overall pick contingent very proudly.

Three Bucks

  • Joe Alexander.  Buried not too far down in the rubble that was the Bucks tonight was this shiny nugget of goodness. The rookie harnessed some excess athleticism and energy with three mighty blocks in the first half. Alexander showed off a series of offensive moves too, swishing a pair of jumpers on consecutive plays in the second quarter. The forced airball three with the Bucks down by nine with just over a minute left looked a bit "rookie," but he's most certainly growing.
  • Charlie Bell. Bell carried the Bucks in spurts, particularly during a slow, sloppy second quarter in which he scored 13 points. He filled in at starting shoot guard again with a pretty nice, Michael Redd-ish 25/3/2 and 3-6 from outside.
  • Austin Croshere. He equaled Carmelo Anthony's 17 points in just 17 minutes off the bench, mostly in "garbage time" that turned briefly into a real game thanks in part to Croshere's strong play.

Three Numbers

  • +2. Joe Alexander's differential in 31 minutes.
  • 48. The Bucks hacked the Nuggets into 48 free throws attempts, 26 in the first half alone. The fouls not only gave Denver easy points, but kept important Bucks sidelined. Linas Kleiza made 13-15 from the line himself.
  • 27. Dahntay Jones finished with the most minutes among Denver's starters, with 27. That's indicative of how easily the Nuggets cruised to victory.

Three Good

  • Getting closer. You might recall that the Bucks got blown out a lot last year. And while all losses count the same, it is refreshing to see the Bucks playing competitively even in losses. Their opening-night loss in Chicago by 13 remains their worst result and the only other double-digit loss was in Boston by 12. This game seemed very lost for a very long time, but then the scoreboard showed 110-100 with three and change to play, providing at least a few moments of hope down the stretch.
  • The bench. Austin Croshere, nice. It was largely a battle of the benches for much of the second half when the Bucks outscored the Nuggets by five. If the likes of Alexander and Croshere can contribute to some extent when Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva return, the bench might not be such a sore spot after all.
  • No average Joe. Alexander quadrupled his season block total and doubled his season steal total. He also showed some nice two-way potential, elevating not only on the shot blocks but on his pretty jumper.

Three Bad

  • Rocky start. The Bucks descended on Denver in good form, but the starters struggled early on. Consider: Luke Ridnour had two fouls and two turnovers before his first assist. Charlie Bell opened a quick 1-5 from the field, including a straightaway airball three-pointer. Richard Jefferson managed to pick up three fouls in under four minutes. Luc Mbah a Moute was solid until he also picked up two early fouls, forcing him to the bench. Andrew Bogut meanwhile knocked knees with Nene, sidelining him before taking a shot. The rocky start saw the second unit  playing major minutes, and Bucks behind early.
  • A foul showing. Somehow no Buck fouled out, but the team amassed an absurd 38 fouls, a sure recipe for disaster. Andrew Bogut continued a sort of crumbly early campaign by picking up bad fouls high and low, scoring two points in 16 minutes, while being thoroughly outplayed by Nene Hilario (13 points on 6-8 and six rebounds in 21 minutes). Bogut's performance against the Celtics feels like a lot longer than three days ago.
  • We've got the Jazz. Home is probably feeling like even more than 1,043 miles away for the Bucks. And they don't move in the right compass direction from Denver either. The Bucks head to Salt Lake City to face another Western power on Wednesday night in yet another back-to-back. To make matters worse, they face the Jazz, who are undefeated at home.