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Bucks 115, Nuggets 109: Recap

Where did that come from? Trailing 58-35 with four minutes left in the first half, the Bucks looked well on their way to their second blowout loss in as many days. But somehow the Bucks managed to pick themselves up off the mat and come all the way back to shock the Nuggets 115-109 (recap / video). Possibly the best win of the year and certainly the most improbable.

Three Bucks

  • Mike Redd. The Bucks' leading scorer reminded us of his offensive explosiveness, scoring a season high 42 (14/28 fg, 11/14 ft) along with seven boards. He was seemingly the only guy awake in the first half, scoring 13 in both of the opening quarters to keep the Bucks vaguely in the game. And while Redd's crunch-time mojo has been mostly MIA this year, he came through with 13 points in the fourth to clinch it.  
  • Andrew Bogut. The Aussie scored a ho-hum 12 points (5/11 fg), but it was his 20 rebounds (seven offensive) and solid interior defense that helped key the Bucks comeback. Bogut continues to struggle offensively, shooting sub-50% for the sixth straight game, but he generally outplayed Marcus Camby (6/10) and helped the Bucks finish with a dominant 53-40 rebounding edge, including 20-9 on the offensive glass. Bogut finished a game-high +13.
  • Mo Williams. Mo's night closely paralleled that of the Bucks, as he was a defensive turnstile and offensive non-factor in the first half before turning it all around in the second half. He scored 20 of his 26 points after halftime and also chipped in seven dimes and five rebounds.

Three Numbers

  • 96. The Bucks' offense just kept getting better as the game went on, scoring 96 in the final three quarters: 31 in the second, 32 in the third and 33 in the fourth. That sort of scoring has been all too rare this season, and was especially surprising given that Milwaukee spent the first quarter looking short on ideas offensively. Redd scored 13 of the team's 19 points in the opening stanza.  
  • 29-25. The Nuggets lead the league in made free throws (23.3/game) while Milwaukee ranks just 25th in that category (16.8/game), yet when all was said and done the Bucks claimed a 29-25 edge. When the Nuggets weren't getting layups in transition in the first half, they were imposing their will physically, blowing by defenders and grabbing rebounds to force the Bucks to put them on the line. The Nuggets were +10 from the line at halftime, but then seemed far more passive in the second half, as the Bucks became the aggressors and it paid off with a big night from the charity stripe.
  • 53-40. Bogut's 20 boards led the way as the Bucks' rebounding played a huge role in turning the game around. If memory serves me correctly, the Nuggets led the rebounding battle 30-24 at halftime, yet the Bucks completely reversed that in the second half, destroying the Nuggets 29-10 on the glass. Starved of second chance points and transition opportunities, the Nuggets potent offense suddenly looked fairly predictable.

Three Good

  • The other side of the comeback. When it comes to blowing leads, the Bucks have rarely been on the positive side of the equation, and with the boo-birds out in full force in the first half it never seemed like a Bucks comeback was in the cards. But the Bucks chipped away to close the first half, outscoring the Nuggets 15-6 to turn a 23 point lead into 14 at half. They then outscored the Nuggets by 10 points in each of the remaining quarters, starting with a 13-4 run at the outset of the third that saw the Bucks relentlessly crashing the boards while the Nuggets settled for jump shots. The Bucks saved their best for the final five minutes (how often do we say that?), when they used a 10-0 run to turn a 99-92 deficit with just over five minutes remaining into a 102-99 lead with just three minutes left.
  • The Chucks. It was a rough first half for Charlie Villanueva, as he got a quick hook after starting 0/5 in the first six minutes of the game. However he rebounded by scoring all 14 of his points in the second half, adding seven rebounds and finishing +9. Meanwhile, Charlie Bell's triple gave the Bucks a 100-99 lead with 3:34 left, their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, and his defense on Carmelo Anthony late was about as much as you could ask for given Anthony's considerable size advantage. With 59 seconds left and the Bucks clinging to a two point edge, the Chucks combined on the biggest defensive play of the game, as VNuv came to double Anthony in the post and stole the ball.  
  • Larry K. Coach has been the target of plenty of criticism this year, but tonight he had a chance to shine in helping orchestrate a terrific comeback. In spite of playing for the second time in two days, LK wisely road Redd (47 minutes) when no one else was producing, and similarly gave major minutes to both Mo and Bogut (44 apiece). When Villanueva stunk up the first quarter and was making Kenyon Martin (15/14) look like an all-star, he sent in Gadzuric, who performed competently with four boards and a couple blocks in 11 minutes. But with CV producing in the second half he wisely gave him only a short breather. Krystkowiak also gambled by sending in Charlie Bell to defend the much bigger Anthony in the waning minutes, but it paid off as Anthony managed just four free throws in the decisive period.

Three Bad

  • Lost in transition. Key to the Nuggets' 64-50 halftime lead was a staggering 17-0 edge in fast break points. The Nuggets generally play at a lightning-quick pace keyed by forcing turnovers, and tonight they blitzed the Bucks in the first half by pushing the ball at every opportunity; stealing the ball (13) and blocking shots (8) certainly helps.  
  • The first half. Shooting just 29% in the first quarter and then seeing the Nuggets race to a 58-35 edge with four minutes left in the half, the Bucks looked like a beaten team. They couldn't take care of the ball, couldn't make shots, and their body language just plain sucked. Iverson (26 points) was particularly dangerous, darting in and out of traffic to score on his patented assortment of floaters and midrange shots. However, a 9-2 run late in the second quarter trimmed the lead to a more manageable 14 at half, setting the stage for a frenetic second half.
  • Too little, too late? We hate to dwell on the negative, but where has this sort of effort and intensity been all year? OK, we'll shut up and enjoy a win for a change.