Maybe we should start calling them the Milwaukee Rasputins; eventually you can kill them off, but it's never easy. Sadly, the Bucks' tough luck continued in Atlanta tonight as Al Horford led the Hawks past the Bogut-less but resilient Bucks 102-96.
Ramon Sessions. Sessions returned to his more familiar sixth man role and once again filled the stat sheet with 21 points (9/15 fg), eight dimes and seven boards in 37 minutes. Mike Bibby and Acie Law just couldn't keep Sessions from getting to the rack, and he not surprisingly led the Bucks with a +7 differential. He also had a costly travel with 2:02 remaining and the Bucks down just two, but then again this was also only his 32nd NBA game. So don't think I'm complaining.
- Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva couldn't handle Horford in the late going, but he was also carrying the Bucks offensively with 15 fourth quarter points, scoring every which way including 5/5 from the stripe. He totaled 19 points (7/12 fg) in only 22 minutes and certainly deserved to see more burn.
- Richard Jefferson. With Bogut and Redd out, Jefferson did a decent job trying to fill the Bucks' gaping offensive void with 25 points (9/20 fg), though Marvin Williams had a more efficient night (18 points on eight fga).
- 4/12. Joe Johnson entered the game averaging 24 points, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Charlie Bell did an excellent job bottling up the Hawks' go-to guy and holding him to just 15 points on 4/12 fg. Mbah a Moute's combination of length and footspeed gave Johnson little room to find a shot in the fourth, but credit JJ with knowing when to dish--his nine assists made sure that teammates did the damage for him.
- .417. The Hawks came into the game leading the league in three point percentage (43%) while the Bucks led in three point percentage allowed (29%). In the end the Hawks got the better of that subplot, as they made 10 triples including some big ones late from Flip Murray and Mo Evans.
25:17. With Bogut on the shelf, Scott Skiles went small much of the night as Dan Gadzuric and Francisco Elson totaled just 25 combined minutes. Gadzuric actually started well with six early points, showing some rare touch in the process. But following a lackluster start to the third, Skiles went small with a Jefferson/Mbah a Moute/Alexander frontline and stayed small the rest of the game.
More moral victories! Yeah, I'm kind of getting sick of these, but it's better than getting blown out, 'nahmean?
- Round mounds of rebound. Even with Bogut out of the lineup the Bucks won the battle of the boards, 35-32. That's now 10 straight games where the Bucks have bettered or matched their opponents in total boards. Only the Suns and Bulls have outrebounded the Bucks through 17 games.
- School is in Sessions. How amazing is it that Sessions has been this good this soon? Yeah, he's got rough edges and his decision-making can be questionable at times. But if you only knew he was 22 years old and nothing else about his background, you'd probably guess that he was a highly-touted lottery pick, right? How the hell did this guy slip through the cracks?
- Playing catch-up. A common theme of the Bucks' close losses has been their inability to play from the front; they generally fall behind early and then rely on their defense to keep them in the game until they can put together a bit of a hot streak offensively. Tonight they didn't dig themselves as big of a hole as in Orlando, but missing Bogut they didn't have the inside presence to counter Horford late.
- The education of Joe Alexander. This isn't purely a bad thing, but Alexander continues to be a tough guy to figure out. On most nights so far he's probably been too unselfish, but tonight he came out looking for his shot pretty much everytime he touched it. In the process of going 4/11 from the field he hit a couple nice shots, but generally left a fair bit to be desired in terms of shot selection (hint: don't try to post up Al Horford). Hopefully he'll find that happy medium soon.
- Luc's luck? Mbah a Moute has struggled with his shot since the Denver game, making just 10/32 shots over the past five games. Good thing his defense isn't so streaky.