Our coverage this weekend will be a bit muted since I'm in Montreal and Alex is in Mexico, which means I didn't get to see the great finish to last night's game until about 2 am (thank you, LP Broadband). Fortunately, Luke Ridnour's last second runner allowed the Bucks to overcome a huge night of three point shooting from the Nets, 104-102.
With Andrew Bogut again missing with back spasms, the Bucks showed once again that a) they could win--at home at least--without their big man as long as b) Villanueva and Redd get 20+ each but c) they still don't seem to have the firepower to win without going down to the wire. The Bucks led by three with 17 seconds left, when Vince Carter drove down the right side of the lane and whipped the ball into the left corner for a wide-open Bobby Simmons, who taunted his former teammates by hitting his fifth three of the night and then let them know about it on the bench.
The play rightfully left Jon McGlocklin speechless: Simmons had been killing the Bucks on open threes all night, yet Jefferson still left him all alone to help down low when Carter drove. Mbah a Moute was tangling with Brook Lopez in the paint and went to help on Carter, which led Jefferson to sag down onto Lopez--assuming Carter wouldn't be able to throw it all the way across to Simmons. Wrong. Rather than concede something around the hoop that would still give the Bucks a one-point lead, Jefferson's judgment error meant the Nets had an open look to tie.
Fortunately, Ridnour had his back on the ensuing possession. Villanueva set a screen at the top which put Simmons on Ridnour through a switch, and Ridnour's quick move left Simmons on the floor, clearing an open boulevard down the lane for Ridnour to front-rim, back-rim, and toilet-bowl it through the hoop. Ironically the time it took for the ball to settle was actually beneficial to the Bucks, as it left the Nets just a half-second to get a final shot off. Mbah a Moute then tipped Simmons' inbound pass and that was it.
I'm not sure I've ever heard Jim and Jon so stoic in a last second win--just goes to show you how close the Bucks were to unnecessarily blowing a game that they led by as many as 14 in the third. Redd was again all business in the first quarter with 15, but he was much quieter thereafter and finished with 24 (9/18 fg, 5/10 3fg). Still, he also hit an extremely difficult fadeaway that gave the Bucks a 102-97 lead inside a minute.
Villanueva was big again with 23 (10/16 fg), and his 12 in the second half led the Bucks. It's the first time he's scored 20+ in three straight games since March 9-12 of last season--I figured it might have been even longer ago given CV's tendency to follow one good game with a bad one. Either way the Bucks will continue to demand that sort of productivity as long as Bogut is out. And if he wants to keep it up even after Bogut returns, well that's cool, too.
CV also had a nice thing going in the second half with Ramon Sessions (11/10/4), who continues to play very well now that he's getting some regular minutes. Jefferson struggled with his shot all night en route to 3/15 shooting for just 13 points; it's never good when Simmons toasts you.
For the Nets, Carter took over playmaking duties for the injured Devin Harris and made it look easy with a near triple-double: 23 points on just 14 shots, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. As for the other former Buck, Yi Jianlian had a decent line with 16 points and four boards on 6/12 shooting, but he somehow managed to break his pinky on an alley-oop in the second half and is now facing nearly a month on the sidelines.
Like Simmons, Yi did most of his damage from distance, hitting 3/4 triples as the Nets made a whopping 16/30 threes and finished with a 52.8% mark from the field. That's now three straight games the Bucks have allowed their opponent to shoot better than 50% from the field, which is somewhat a product of not having Bogut, somewhat a product of the other team getting hot, and somewhat a product of the Bucks not playing as well as they should. It's a worrying trend they'll need to address sooner rather than later.