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Recap: Bucks 121, Pacers 103

With the Bucks leading Indiana 70-49 in the third quarter, you might reasonably have turned off the radio and hit the town feeling confident of a Bucks' victory.  Afterall, the Bucks, for all their shortcomings, have been pretty much automatic against lesser teams this year, especially at home.  And if you came home and saw the Bucks' 121-103 win roll across the ticker, your first reaction would probably have been that it seemed about right.  Think again. 

A sudden fit of cold shooting allowed a presumed blowout to turn into a back-and-forth nail-biter down the stretch, as T.J. Ford's 27 and Brandon Rush's 16 helped the Pacers take a 103-102 lead with 4:41 left.  But then...well, you can do the math from there.  The Bucks suddenly woke up and scored the final 19 points of the game, as Richard Jefferson scored eight of his 20 in the final five minutes.

Three Bucks

  • Andrew Bogut.  Bogut has been candid of late about his need to improve offensively, and Saturday was a damn good start.  Bogut matched his season-high with 20 rebounds (six offensive), but also tied his season-high with 20 points--including a rather shocking 8/9 from the foul line.  Bogut again coughed it up four times, but two blocks and another couple charges drawn also helped. 
  • Charlie Villanueva.  It was vintage Villanueva, as CV went off for 15 in the second quarter and 24 by halftime, making circus shots and three of six from deep.  Naturally it didn't last, as Villanueva took just three shots in the second half and missed all of them, scoring his only two points on a pair of free throws with a minute left.  Still, when you get 26, 10 boards, and three blocks from your mercurial sixth man, you don't want to ask too many questions.  We know CV is going to be up and down, so at this point let's just take the good when we can get it. 
  • Richard Jefferson.  Not a huge game from Jefferson--20 points on a very meh 7/17 fg, three rebounds, three dimes, and three steals.  Fortunately he saved his best for last, helping the Bucks off the mat by aggressively looking for his shot and scoring 10 points in the final seven minutes.  Before the year Alex noted that the Bucks were likely to benefit down the stretch from having a second player who could create his own shot and get to the line, and tonight that's exactly what Jefferson did down the stretch.

Three Numbers

  • .512.  They did it!  For the first time since April the Bucks made over 50% of their field goals, a span of 25 games.
  • 19. Even with leading scorer Danny Granger saddled with foul trouble most of the second half, the Pacers managed to claw back into the game and even take a lead on T.J. Ford's jumper with 4:41 left.  Fortunately, the Bucks somehow flipped the switch and scored the next 19 points, with Villanueva's feed for a Bogut dunk and foul offering the perfect exclamation point to an eventful night at the BC.
  • 93.  The Bucks' top four scorers really brought it: Redd (27), Villanueva (26), Jefferson (20), and Bogut (20) simultaneously cracked 20 points for the first time this season. 

Three Good

  • 20/20 vision.  There's been justifiable concern over Bogut's offensive malaise thus far, so we can only hope that tonight's effort might give the Bucks' anchor a bit of a boost.  Bogut simply doesn't have the arsenal right now to be a consistent 18-20 ppg guy, but it's amazing what being active around the hoop and making free throws can do for a big man's game.  This was Bogut's second career 20/20 game, as he also scored 20 along with 24 boards in Philly two years ago.
  • Downright offensive.  The Pacers aren't known for their slow, defensive style, but it's still not every night that the Bucks put up 121 points.  In fact, there hadn't been any of those nights yet this year.  With Redd back in tow the Bucks don't have much of an excuse for being a well-below-average offensive team, so let's hope this is a hint of improvement rather than a one-game outlier. 
  • Closing time.  While this was an absolutely crucial game for the Bucks to win, for some reason I wasn't all that nervous when Indiana fought back to take the lead midway through the fourth.  OK, so part of that is just getting used to disappointment as a Bucks fan; it's been a long couple years.  But as mediocre as they've been overall, the 08/09 Bucks have been fairly reliable, too--since dropping two of their first three to the Bulls (10-12) and Raptors (10-12), the Bucks have beaten every sub-.500 team aside from their road setback against the Warriors (eight games by count).  So obviously they were going to figure out a way to send the BC crowd home happy.  I mean, did you have any doubt?  Yeah, uh, me neither.

Three Bad

  • Bogut's ups, Bogut's downs.  While it's true Bogut hasn't been getting as many shots this year, it has less to do with the guards and coaches (who have usually been the fall guys for Bogut's lack of involvement) and more with Bogut's struggles from the line and in holding on to the ball.  While he may make a tidy 54% of his shots, Bogut has shown no ability to harm opponents outside five feet--and that includes uncontested one-pointers from 15 feet.  Given Bogut's sub-50% ft shooting and struggles with double-teams, he's simply been too easy to guard. I doubt tonight's effort will magically change all that, but we know Bogut has more talent than he's shown offensively thus far in 08/09.
  • Drama.  Seriously, can we just have a regular blowout where the scrubs can come in with six minutes remaining and the impatient people can leave 10 minutes early without fear of missing something?  We could use a few of those. 
  • Give it away now.  For a free-scoring game, the Bucks still delivered plenty of frustrating moments, most of them involving careless turnovers.  Bogut, Redd and Villanueva accounted for 12 of the Bucks' 16 turnovers, and it seemed like the Bucks had a lot more than that.  But fortunately the Pacers did them one better in that department with 17 TOs.