Milwaukee Bucks: road warriors? Two days after a disappointing loss in Philly, the Bucks marched into MSG and blew the doors off a sloppy-looking Knicks team 105-81, the third time in four games they've won by 15+ points. The Bucks jumped on the Knicks early and never relented, winning every quarter and leading by 20 or more for the majority of the second half.
I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the upper reaches of MSG tonight--the first time I'd taken in a game in New York. Needless to say I was thoroughly enjoying myself, but the rest of the MSG crowd? Yeah, not so much. The only time the fans got remotely into it was when Jerome James made a garbage time appearance and started shooting indiscriminately (making 2/5). Hey, they've gotta amuse themselves somehow until LeBron arrives in 2010.
Andrew Bogut. Bogut wasn't able to exploit his size advantage against David Lee, in part because the Knicks were quick to double and deny him shot attempts (4/7 fg, 10 points). But he otherwise played a complete game, pulling down 13 boards, dishing out six assists, and blocking three shots without a turnover. Bogut seemed much better prepared for the doubles tonight than in Philadelphia. He was taking a peek at his passing options as soon as he caught it, and found a number of cutters facing up. Awareness is good.
- Luc Mbah a Moute. After a stretch of rookie-like games, Mbah a Moute put in his third straight strong performance with 16 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Mbah a Moute also spearheaded the Bucks' containment of New York's forwards, which held Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson, and Wilson Chandler to 10/35 shooting and 29 points.
Mike Redd. After his 2/13 game Wednesday, Redd led six Bucks in double figures with 21 points--and also chipped in six assists, his fourth straight game with 4+ assists. When the Bucks share the ball they are a pretty good team, and Redd is obviously something of a bellwether of the team's unselfishness. His points were also fairly timely, scoring six points in a 10-0 second quarter spurt just after the Knicks had used a 15-2 runStill, his shot was a bit off (7/20 fg), but fortunately his teammates shot an even 50%: 35/70.
8. Mike D'Antoni's crew is as trigger-happy as they come from distance, but the Bucks were actually the ones who attempted and hit more threes tonight. While the Knicks made 7/21, the Bucks hit 8/23 from deep with Redd and Jefferson each hitting three. Even with the Bucks leading by double-digits most of the game, I couldn't help but be a bit wary of the Knicks' three point attack--especially given that the Bucks blew 17 point leads twice at MSG last year. It's been a different story this year, as the Bucks have twice won comfortably in the Garden in addition to a blowout win in Milwaukee.
- 11. The Knicks were wasteful (23 TOs), the Bucks weren't (just 11). Both teams had nine offensive rebounds and 43 in total, and the Knicks were +3 in free throws made. Not much difference there. But the Bucks were +17 in points off turnovers...and that was all she wrote.
- 6. While Luke Ridnour led the Bucks with seven assists, both Bogut and Redd chipped in six. Funny how good the Bucks look when their best players are getting other guys involved.
Six days, three wins. Even with the disappointing loss in Philadelpha, it's been a good week for the Bucks. With Mbah a Moute back amongst the starters, the Bucks have been coming out with purpose and jumping out to early leads...and holding onto most of them. They beat Indiana by 18 even with a nervous fourth quarter and blew a 12 point lead in the final quarter in Philly, but balanced that out with dominating performances in Miami and New York. Sure, the Heat and Knicks also did the Bucks plenty of favors, but let's give the Bucks credit for keeping their foot on the gas and taking care of business. The win tonight also moved them to 6-12 on the road, a number that doesn't sound all that satisfying until you consider they were 7-34 in 07/08. Thank you, Scott Skiles.
Lue's clues. Tyronn Lue was the third point guard to see action in New York, but no one topped him in terms of scoring efficiency: 6/7 fg and 13 points in 20 minutes. We know Lue's a pretty dead-eye outside shooter, but tonight he was on fire even by his own standards.
'Tis the season for giving. A key part of the Bucks' improved play? A willingness by everyone to move the ball, exemplified tonight by their 25/11 assist/turnover ratio. Redd has been the most notable Buck to improve his assist numbers lately, shedding his usual blinders and finding open teammates when he draws attention in the lane. Nice to see. Meanwhie, Bogut also showed off the passing skills that we've seen so often the past few years. We've seen less of it this year because he's spending more time in the post and less facing up at the top of the key, but tonight he got the job done from both spots. That's a big deal because Bogut's passing from the post hasn't been particularly good, which means teams have every incentive to double him.
Quiet VNuv. The knock on Villanueva has always been that he doesn't have the consistency to do it every night, and tonight he provided more ammo for that argument with just two points on 1/5 shooting in 10 minutes. Fortunately, with Mbah a Moute around Skiles doesn't need to count on CV for 30-35 minutes every night.
- The BC. Even on a wintry night in the Big Apple and a spotty, apathetic crowd in attendance, there's something about MSG that's pretty awesome. Mainly it's the angles: I sat in the last section of the upper deck but still felt like I was kind of close to the action--and unlike at the Bradley Center, I didn't feel like I was going to fall to my death if I leaned forward in my chair a little bit.
- Let it snow. It seems like most nights I struggle to find three good things to say, so it's always nice when the opposite is true. Tonight NYC was an absolute mess, though Bucks fans in Wisconsin will know what that's like tomorrow morning. I lucked out in that I took the train into the city without incident, but a friend who took the bus from Boston ended up taking seven hours (about three hours longer than usual). The weather helped the Bucks slightly, however, in that Al Harrington missed the start of the game due to bad traffic. You're not in California anymore, Al...