Ideally these kinds of games would come a bit easier, but the bottom line remains: the Bucks really needed a win and they got one. After dropping four straight amid a series of injuries last week, the now-healthier Bucks claimed a 101-96 home win over Charlotte, extending their extremely modest win streak to two games as they gear up for a tough road trip next week. The Bucks led comfortably in the early going before a series of careless turnovers helped the Bobs to a two point halftime edge, with both teams hitting at over 50% from the field in the first half.
The second half was close throughout, though the Bucks pulled ahead at the end of the third and never allowed the Bobs to get much of a run, despite a series of D.J. Augustin triples to start the fourth. Charlie Villanueva's tough lefty banker gave the Bucks a five point edge with 1:09 left in the fourth, and Andrew Bogut took a big charge from Jason Richardson with the Bobs trailing by two with 21 seconds remaining. Richardson led the Bobs with 20 points, but it was Emeka Okafor (19 pts, eight boards) and Raymond Felton (19 pts, eight dimes) who were the threats most of the night for Charlotte.
Richard Jefferson. The funny part about Jefferson is that he always seems to be getting away with traveling, barreling down the lane recklessly or fading away too much on his jump shots, yet somehow he manages to pull things together when it matters. RJ again made a living at the line, hitting all ten of his free throws en route to a 22 point night that required just 11 shots and a single turnover. And while he wasn't always matched up with Gerald Wallce, his opposite number was completely stifled offensively, scoring just six points on 1/7 fg. Jefferson also sealed it in the final seconds, grabbing Charlie Villanueva's free throw miss with nine seconds remaining and the Bucks up three.
Michael Redd. We always expect more from Redd, which is probably why there was something unsatisfying about his 25 points (9/19 fg) and five rebounds. Still, he hit his usual array of tough shots, mixed in with some easy lay-ins off flex-cuts down the middle. Also good: no turnovers in nearly 43 minutes. The final minute was a bit worrying in that Redd seemed to be dribbling for about 90% of it, but he was at least credited with an assist on Villanueva's basket (even if he dribbled away most of the shot clock before finally giving it up).
- Luke Ridnour. On a night when Ramon Sessions' three turnovers in six minutes earned him a second half buried on the bench, Ridnour was solid if unspectacular (as usual). I'm not sure his defense is any better than Tyronn Lue's, but D.J. Augustin quieted down once Ridnour was reinserted for Lue early in the fourth, and Ridnour hit a monster three from the corner in the final two minutes as well as two late free throws to give the Bucks a four point lead with 20 seconds left.
.514. The Bucks' defense has certainly been better, but preventing penetration left plenty of open looks for the Bobs on a night when they connected on 10/19 triples. That boosted them to 51% shooting overall for the night, a number the Bucks wouldn't normally overcome given the way they have struggled with their own shooting. Tonight they weren't as bad (.479), but the two numbers below were also major factors in helping the Bucks overcome a less-than-stellar defensive effort.
14. With Bogut back the Bucks are once again dominating the glass. The number 14 represents both the number of offensive boards grabbed by Milwaukee (vs. seven by Charlotte) as well as the overall rebounding margin: 41-27.
- +11. Aside from rebounds, the Bucks also helped their cause tremendously by reversing their usual free throw deficit, making eleven more free throws than Charlotte. Having both Jefferson (10/10) and Redd (6/8) helps, doesn't it?
- Holding serve. After they dropped to 7-12 last Saturday against Cleveland, the Bucks had two must-win games at home this week and won both. OK, so maybe "must-win" is a bit extreme given it's only early December, but with three road games in four nights forthcoming against the Lakers, Suns, and Warriors, now was not the time to drop any further below .500. The wins weren't resounding but the mission was accomplished.
- Good health. They're not firing on all cylinders yet, but seeing the Bucks at full strength is certainly something to be thankful for. Now go knock on some wood.
Allen's start. I can't say I'm a fan of Malik Allen starting over both Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Charlie Villanueva, but Allen was solid tonight. He scored 10 points on 4/6 shots along with five boards and one turnover in 31 minutes before fouling out, and he bothered Sean May into a 1/5 shooting night. I'd prefer if he returned to the bench soon, but he did what was needed tonight.
- Okafor bests Bogut. In the battle of $60 million bigs, Emeka Okafor outshone Bogut with 19 points and eight boards on a super-efficient 9/11 shooting night. Heck, he even hit a couple elbow jumpers. Bogut meanwhile did most of his damage on the offensive boards and finished with 10 points and 10 boards (five offensive). Though Okafor has typically had a hard time keeping Bogut from outmuscling him in the paint, the former UConn man did a solid job holding his ground and forced Bogut into missing his last three shots from the post. It's unclear how much Bogut's recent migraines might have affected his play, but at the very least he seemed to be moving reasonably well following his recent knee issues.
Careless passes. The Bucks seemed intent on driving Scott Skiles (and me) crazy in the second quarter, turning it over seven times including a number of lazy passes that the Bobs turned into transition points. The Bobs were overplaying and looking to jump passing lanes most of the night, and the Bucks did get a little wiser as the night went on. Still, I was having some flashbacks to a couple seasons ago when Wallace had eight steals to go with 21 points and 15 boards in Charlotte.
- Three-fense. The Bucks came into the night ranked third in three point percentage allowed, but they gave up too many open looks as the Bobs were able to stay close mostly due to their penchant for nailing threes (10/19). Credit the Bobs (particularly Felton and Augustin) with hitting some tough shots as well, but the Bucks were also having problems closing out on the Bobs' perimeter shots.