Milwaukee made shots made of silk, delivered regal passes, piled up golden baskets, and Redd glistened ruby -- all on a Kings' court.
And then, the fourth quarter commenced.
The Bucks boasted comfortable leads of 19 points after one quarter, 20 at halftime, and 15 at the end of the third. But the Kings chipped and then slashed into the lead in the fourth quarter, pulling to within two points with under four minutes and three points with under a minute.
However, Charlie Villanueva finished what Michael Redd started: a winning night for the Bucks, 129-122 at ARCO.
Michael Redd. This was Redd in purest form: Buckets and baskets, hoops and swishes, jumpers and drives, free throws and threes, points and more points. Outscoring the Kings by his lonesome in the first quarter (19-18) was just the tip of a very Redd iceberg for Milwaukee. I'm not sure what's more amazing: that Redd didn't score in the fourth quarter, or that totaled 44 points despite not scoring in the fourth quarter. Either way, the Bucks certainly needed, and got a huge night from Redd, to avoid an embarrassing loss.
Luke Ridnour. Luke sort of blended into the game, in a good way. Not many mistakes, pretty bounce passes, a pretty solid shot, and good enough defense for the point guard. Ridnour's touch pass to CV for a three-pointer was a thing of beauty, and it gave Milwaukee an all-important 117-112 lead. 17 points, 10 assists, and not a single turnover.
Charlie Villanueva. So maybe this is why Charlie isn't a part of the most recent trade talks. Villanueva carried the Bucks in the fourth quarter, striking for 15 points when no Buck was playing defense and few others were interested offensively either. Equally important, he was great on the glass in the absence of Bogut, with 12 rebounds, four of the offensive variety. Many thanks, CV.
- 0. Here's a strange one: Milwaukee committed 30 fouls, the Kings shot 51 free throws, and yet not a single Bucks fouled out of the game. Five (Gadzuric, Villanueva, Jefferson, Mbah a Moute, Elson) got to five fouls, but they all avoided number six. The Kings were in a fouling mood too, with 25 fouls, yet none of them fouled out either.
- 30. The Bucks reached at least 30 points in each of the four quarters, with 37, 30, 31, 31. And really, that's the only appropriate way you roll against one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
15. Milwaukee hadn't won in ARCO since March 23, 2004. The Kings were 0-14 against Eastern Conference teams this season. Something had to give. The Kings are 0-15 now.
Man, Francisco. Play of the night: Francisco Elson stuck a turn-around three at the halftime buzzer, the third triple of his NBA career and first since Nov. 4, 2005. It didn't seem like it at the time, but the Bucks really needed that minor miracle. And Elson's +14 differential was second only to Redd's +17.
- The anti-rookie. Luc Richard is the anti-rookie, rookie. Defensively, he plays team basketball and disrupts anything within a ten-foot bubble. Offensively, he decisively moves the ball quickly and plays within his limits. Sometimes his efforts are validated with flowery box score numbers, sometimes not. Tonight: 16 points on 6-8 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and a steal in 30 minutes. That's about right.
Stepping up. Redd recovered nicely from an unsightly shooting display on Wednesday, to say the least. And with Bogut not making the trip, this road trip is a great time for him to carry the club and make sure they don't lose to inferior opponents. Villanueva stepped into the starting lineup and supporting role in high fashion. Maybe it's RJ's turn tomorrow night?
Trouble brewed. Sure, Bogut was sidelined. But playing against arguably the worst team in the league, with a Redd explosion leading to a 23-point lead early in the second quarter... and this was a nervous finish? I'm talking an allofasudden 114-112 game. Even then, I didn't think the Bucks would lose, but that sinking feeling in the stomach started to set in. Milwaukee's second half defense was rather offensive. Kudos to John Salmons though; he was truly excellent in the fourth quarter.
Backs. With Bogut already out with a bad back, my grimace matched Ramon Sessions' when the backup point guard slammed on the floor back-first in the third quarter. A real relief when Ramon popped up pretty quickly and ran the offense the next play, somehow with no problem.
A foul display. The west coast game meant this was a late start for Midwest folk in the first place. So the 58 fouls and 84 free throws added up to a long, though ultimately enjoyable night.