High drama engulfed the Bradley Center for the second time in the same day, but the home team also came up two points short for the second time, as the Bucks fell 96-94 to the Spurs on Saturday night. The game followed Marquette's overtime loss to Georgetown, played in the same downtown stadium earlier in the day.
Thanks to Charlie Bell's one-on-everyone drive to the basket and layup, the Bucks improbably fought back to take a 94-93 lead with 20 seconds remaining, their first lead since the Spurs had taken control shortly after Mo Williams' third quarter ejection for arguing with the referee. Manu Ginobili gave the Spurs the lead back on a leaning jumper and then forced a Bucks' turnover. But Tony Parker's missed free throw left the Bucks just two points behind with eight seconds to go. Michael Redd drove to the basket and drew a foul, but missed his first attempt at the line, necessitating an intentional miss on the second try. Redd missed the shot as beautifully as he makes so many, with the ball landing directly in the hands of Andrew Bogut, whose bank shot at the buzzer hit all backboard and no net.
- Andrew Bogut. Bogut outplayed a visibly annoyed Tim Duncan tonight, racking up more points (17-9), rebounds (15-7), steals (2-0), and blocks (2-0) than the two-time MVP and Finals MVP. Bogut played some of his best defense of the year tonight, and played an excellent overall game, his free throw misfirings notwithstanding. Overtime would have been tons of fun, but we'll give him a pass because it's tough making a shot to tie the game with a second left on the clock, even if you're relatively open and close to the hoop.
- Bobby Simmons. The Cowboy continued his stellar play since returning from injury a month ago, but we'll give the nod here to Simmons, who returned from a DNP-CD by hitting three shots from outside, including one that pulled the Bucks within a point with a minute to go.
- Michael Redd. Okay, 8-19 from the field, one assist, and six turnovers isn't pretty, but Redd picked up the scoring slack left by Mo Williams' void, scoring 16 second-half points and getting to the line eight times in the fourth quarter.
- 15. Andrew Bogut's rebounds. He has a Dwight Howard-like 43 in the past three games.
- 3. Three was Bobby Simmons' magic number in the first half, denoting his number of assists, steals, and his two, big three-pointers.
- 0. We noted Michael Redd's six turnovers earlier, even more striking considering none of his fellow starters committed a single turnover in 108 combined minutes.
- The 4th and the Unusual Suspects. Mo Williams seemed to have exited the court with all the Bucks' energy and hope following his third quarter ejection. The Spurs turned a seven-point deficit into a five-point lead in six minutes following Williams' departure. Going into the fourth quarter the Bucks trailed by five and appeared doomed, with struggling backups Royal Ivey, Charlie Bell, Bobby Simmons, and Dan Gadzuric joining Michael Redd on the floor. But then we were blessed with sights all too unfamiliar recently. Bobby Simmons drained his jumpers like it was 2005. Dan Gadzuric nailed a couple clutch free throws. Honestly. Royal Ivey broke Tony Parker down off the dribble for a huge bucket late. And Charlie Bell drove the length of the court and gave the Bucks a lead with mere seconds remaining. The bench struggled mightily in the first half, but surprised and impressed repeatedly in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with a +7 net differential.
- Low Turnover = High Productivity. The Bucks entered tonight winners of three straight home games. But the Spurs had won 11 of 12, rounding into title-level form with still a couple months until the playoffs. So how did the Bucks take a 51-47 lead into halftime against the defending champions? Not because they stopped the Spurs’ big three; Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan combined for 30 points in the first half. Not because they shot well either, converting on just 18-42 (42.9 %) attempts from the field, while the Spurs made over half their shots from the field. The Bucks did play opportunistically on defense, something a collection of naturally mediocre defensive players must do. The Bucks forced 11 turnovers in the first half, collecting more steals (7) in the game’s first two periods than they average in an entire game (6.5). The Bucks meanwhile turned the ball over just twice in the first half.
- Bradley Center. The Bucks had their three-game home winning streak snapped, but played a thoroughly compelling game at the Bradley Center for the fifth straight time. If you've been at the BC any time for a Bucks game since Feb. 13, you've gotten your money worth and then some. The Bucks have sandwiched incredible home wins against the Pistons, Nuggets, and Cavaliers with heartbreaking but well-played and dramatic losses against the West's two best, the Hornets and Spurs.
- Yi. Tonight marked the third straight game that Yi has been held without a field goal. In fairness, he didn't have time to do much tonight, playing a season-low five minutes despite Charlie Villanueva's 1-9 clunker. Nevertheless, Yi is averaging 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in four games in the last week, a far cry from the Rookie of the Year contender we watched in November.
- Mad Mo. Mo Williams did his best Devin Harris impression early on, connecting on his first five shots from the field. He still isn’t the type of "pure" point guard that some prefer. You aren’t likely to ever confuse Williams with Jason Kidd. But he also doesn’t remind of Kidd with the way he coolly hits jumpers off the dribble. Unfortunately, he got frustrated after missing his last four shots, and was ejected after picking up two consecutive technicals for arguing in the third quarter. The ejection was a harsh and probably undeserved decision, so some of this "bad" is reserved for the ref. But going assist-less in 22 minutes and then getting thrown out isn’t what you want from your point guard, "pure" or not. His ejection wasn’t exactly timely either, occurring while ahead of the Spurs in the second half. The Spurs quickly overtook the Bucks after Williams departed, making his value obvious.
- Stopping Tony/Manu. It's hard enough to slow any of the Spurs' big three, so virtually shutting down Tim Duncan is pretty impressive in itself. But Tony Parker carried the Spurs in the first half and Manu Ginobili dominated the final two quarters, as the Spurs' starting backcourt combined for 56 points, carrying the Spurs to a win on a night when only Michael Finley joined them in scoring in double figures with 11 points of his own.