With the Bucks bottoming out the past two days amid more home losses and apparent infighting, the team showed some moxie against one of the West's best. But in the end the Hornets made their big possession count while the Bucks did not, and New Orleans walked away 111-107 winners at the BC (recap / video). Yi Jianlian stroked a corner jumper to give the Bucks a surprising 107-106 lead with 28 seconds remaining, but the Hornets operated the following possession to perfection, with Chris Paul drawing both Yi and Mo Williams to leave Peja Stojakovic wide open for a three that gave New Orleans a 109-107 lead with 15 seconds left. In a fitting testament to the gulf in class between the two teams, the Bucks responded with an ill-advised three by Michael Redd with about seven seconds remaining, and the Hornets grabbed the rebound and made their free throws to seal it.
- Mike Redd. After scoring nine in the first half, Redd connected for 21 in the second to finish with a gaudy 30 point, five assist, six rebound statline. Despite hitting some big shots in the fourth, however, Redd misread the final play, as he curled around a wing handoff and seemed surprised at Tyson Chandler's imposing figure contesting his shot, forcing him into a fadeaway that was way too difficult given how much time was left on the clock.
- Mo Williams. Coming off three straight 30 point outings, Williams took just nine shots (5/9 fg, 3/6 3fg, 14 pts) but dished out nine assists and blocked a head-scratching three shots.
- Desmond Mason. Mason has been playing with purpose of late and continued that against his former team, hitting 7/10 fg to finish with 14 points in 28 minutes.
- 3.63. Not a bad assist/turnover ratio, eh? For a team dealing with some internal issues, the Bucks didn't have a problem sharing the basketball, as they racked up 29 assists while turning it over just eight times. Do that more often and you'll win far more games than you lose.
- .551. So given that previous number how did the Bucks lose? Well, allowing the Hornets 55% shooting from the field is a good place to start. The Hornets also made a sizzling 9/14 from deep, bettering the Bucks' own rather excellent 8/15 performance from three.
- 21/10. Ho-hum, just another night at the office for Chris Paul. I'm always impressed by how quietly Paul goes about his business, largely because he averages 20.5 ppg and 10.9 apg without seeming to really force anything.
- Yi showing signs. On Monday the rook scored in double figures for the first time since January 19, and he again popped in 13 points (4/6 fg, 5/6 ft) tonight in only 22 minutes. He looked aggressive scoring nine first quarter points, but then faded into the background as was often the case earlier in the season. With Simmons (10/5) playing well and getting most of the second half burn at PF, Yi then returned with a few minutes remaining to help guard the Chandler/Paul pick/roll combo, only to put up an airball with the shotclock running down. However Yi atoned for it by slamming home a Redd miss with 1:37 left and then coolly burying a baseline 20-footer to give the Bucks a one point lead with 28 seconds left. One thing that we don't talk much about is that Yi's showed a penchant for making shots in pressure situations, which is a pretty encouraging sign for one of your franchise building blocks.
- Taking care. One reason I think Krystkowiak has often favored a lineup with three guards is the ball protection it provides late in the game, which makes sense given all too frequently the team ends up having to improvise something--might as well have more ballhandlers around just in case. Unfortunately that often the leaves the Bucks undersized defensively, but at least tonight the Bucks bounced back from their 18-turnover loss on Monday to turn it over just eight times. Unfortunately, that sort of care can still be offset by bad defense.
- Introducing controversy. FSN Wisconsin's intro led with Krystkowiak's quote calling out players with their own agendas, so kudos to them for not ignoring a major albeit unpleasant storyline surrounding the team.
- Bogut needs a break. He's nursing a hip injury suffered last week, so we can only hope that the all-star break will let him recharge his batteries. A night after a dreadful 4/16 night from the field, Bogut again didn't have the touch early and scored only eight on 3/8 fg along with seven boards and four assists. While he's averaging an OK 14/8, Bogut is shooting just 41.7% from the field this month. Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler had no problems for the Hornets, scoring 15 on (5/7 fg, 5/7 ft) along with 16 rebounds.
- Last minute execution. Among the many criticisms leveled at the coaching staff has been the Bucks' inability to make plays or even get good shots down the stretch (see the end of the Knicks game), often floundering while taking bad shots on their end while conceding points in crucial situations on defense. That was again the case tonight, as New Orleans patiently worked the ball into Chris Paul's hands on a screen handoff on the right side with 20 seconds left. With Paul moving to the middle, Yi switched out on him, but Mo Williams kept coming around the screen, realizing too late that it meant two defenders on Paul and no one on New Orleans' most deadly sharpshooter. Paul found Stojakovic unguarded on the left wing, and he made no mistake. Stojakovic finished with 19 points on tidy 7/11 fg and 3/3 3fg. Then on the other end, Redd put up a wildly speculative three when he had time to work for a better look. Redd hit some big shots in this game, but in general he hasn't had much of any fourth quarter mojo this year. You can't blame the coaching staff entirely for that.
- 19 wins and only 29 left. That's right: even if the Bucks finish just over .500 (15-14) in their remaining 29 games, they still would finish with just 34 wins. Fortunately 17 of those games are at home, but there's no mistaking that the Bucks' hopes of putting together a decent record this year are rather shot.