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Recap: Rockets 85, Bucks 81

Winning in San Antonio was sweet, but pulling off back-to-backs over the Spurs and Rockets?  Apparently a bit too much to ask.  The Bucks twice overcame double-digit leads, including an 11-point deficit with seven minutes remaining, but Houston made enough free throws down the stretch to take an 85-81 decision.

Yao (22 pts, 10 rebs) was a bit much for Bogut (11 pts, nine rebs, six fouls), but the Bucks still had their chances as Houston's perimeter players struggled all night long.  The Bucks closed to 78-77 on Redd's jumper with 2:16 remaining but then both teams sputtered to the finish line.  Redd and Ridnour missed threes while McGrady missed a pair of freebies.  McHowever, the Rockets got to the line and made seven free throws in the final 37 seconds to ice it.

Three Bucks

  • Luke Ridnour.  Ridnour wasn't on fire shooting the ball (5/12 fg, 1/5 threes) but did everything else with 11 assists, seven rebounds, and no turnovers.
  • Michael Redd.  Redd scored 20 and hit 7/13 from the field, the first time since December 3 that he's connected on better than 50% of his field goal attempts.  While he didn't put together the all-around effort we saw in San Antonio (three rebounds, two assists, three turnovers), Redd's first job will always be scoring and he looks to be improving in that department after a substandard start to the year by his standards.
  • Charlie Bell.  After sitting out Saturday's loss against the Pistons, Bell's ankle (and shot) looked pretty good in Texas, following up his 5/7 shooting night in San Antonio with a 6/9 effort (and 3/4 threes) in Houston. Just as importantly, he helped contain Tracy McGrady to 3/10 shooting.  Four turnovers negated some of that, but Bell gave the Bucks a boost off the bench on a night when the rest of the bench had just eight. 

Three Numbers

  • 7.  It's been a tough year for McGrady, and not even a visit from one of his favorite opponents could rouse McGrady from his offensive slumber.  McGrady made just 3/10 shots and finished with seven points, as Charlie Bell and Richard Jefferson helped coax him into another poor shooting night. Still, McGrady made up for it some with 10 assists and not a single turnover.
  • 14-1.  If there had been any chance the Rockets might still be interested in a deal involving Carl Landry and Charlie Villanueva, it's probably gone now.  Landry was his usual productive self, making 5/6 shots and finishing with 14 points and four boards in just 22 minutes.  Unfortunately for the Bucks, Villanueva's recent slump continues with just one points on 0/6 fg. 
  • 40-34.  The Bucks don't typically outshoot their opponents (45% to 41%), but they don't typically get outrebounded either (Houston +6).  Both happened in Houston, and the Bucks' inability to get as many second chances as usual offset any advantage they had in shooting the ball.

Three Good

  • Two out of four ain't bad.  A week ago the Bucks were staring at four straight games against winning teams: at home against Utah and Detroit and on the road for the Texas two-step.  I'd have certainly taken two out of four, and that's what the Bucks got.
  • Ridnour.   I'm not sure if he can keep it up all season, but Ridnour is balling right now.  Ramon who?
  • Bell's health.  You knew that Scott Skiles would appreciate Bell's industrious style of play, and Bell might finally be getting healthy enough to reward his coach's patience.  Bell played well on both ends and even got some time at power forward in a microscopic four guard lineup of Ridnour, Lue, Sessions, Bell, and Gadzuric that Skiles used near the end of the second quarter.  That's right, Skiles played all three of his point guards and the 6'3" Bell at the same time...and they actually were +4 in a couple minutes of action.

Three Bad

  • Charlie Down.  It's now been seven games since Villanueva logged more than 18 minutes, and in his last three he's shot just 4/22 from the field.  Inconsistency is nothing new, but you wonder if there's more to Villanueva's recent slump.  Aside from last weekend's trade rumors, he left Saturday's game with back spasms and hinted last week at being annoyed with his playing time as well.
  • Mbah a Moute.  The Prince was a major factor in San Antonio even without filling up the box score, but he didn't have nearly the same effect against the wily Luis Scola (11 pts, 10 boards).  Mbah a Moute missed both of his shots and didn't register a single rebound in 18 minutes.  Add that to Villanueva's 0/6 effort and the Bucks' primary PFs contributed 1 point (0/8 fg) and four rebounds in 32 minutes.
  • Outrebounded.  Rebounding has been a key all season for the Bucks, but a -6 rebounding deficit and a -6 turnover margin afforded the Rockets too many extra possessions.