The Bucks gave up the back-and-forth theme altogether tonight. After trading wins and losses for almost a month straight, Milwaukee dropped its second in succession as the Blazers led from start to finish, winning 102-85.
Portland was as overwhelming inside as the Bucks were underwhelming outside.
Facing a Bogut-less and woefully defenseless Milwaukee frontcourt, Greg Oden played as if he were a number one draft pick en route to 25 points and 15 rebounds two days shy of his 21st birthday. Lamarcus Aldridge scored with ease and finished with 22/9/5.
January has been good for the Luke Ridnour/Michael Redd starting backcourt, but they'd prefer to forget January 20. They combined to shoot 9-21 with 23 points, two rebounds, and three assists.
Richard Jefferson. One thing is apparent: Jefferson plays aggressively. He doesn't always make perfect decisions, but he attacks the rim, and he gets to the line. Tonight he seemed to play with even more of a chip on his shoulder than usual, and his 23/7 was deserved.
- Charlie Villanueva. I had nice things to say about Charlie after the first few quarters: He drove to the hoop without relent during an early Blazers' blitz, once again picked up rebounding slack with Bogut out and against an ultra-intimidating frontcourt. But his defining moments came in the fourth quarter on an absolute mammoth block of Sergio Rodriguez and subsequent three-pointer to draw the Bucks within five points. That gave Milwaukee a final burst of hope, nice for those of us watching.
Tyronn Lue. We know he can shoot, and tonight Lue dished out four assists without a turnover, earning him important second-half minutes running the point.
- 5. Milwaukee's starters totaled just five assists, and the Bucks had only 14 overall. Portland's starting backcourt of Sergio Rodriguez and Brandon Roy had 14 themselves.
- 58. The Blazers piled up 58 rebounds, almost twice as many as the Bucks' 30. Greg Oden led the way with 15 and each Portland starter had at least six boards. Oden had six offensive rebounds and the Bucks had eight.
- 4. As in, the Bucks were outscored all four quarter, by 3, 2, 2, and then 10 in the fourth quarter.
- Reserves. Milwaukee's reserves fared fairly well (+15 differential overall), but Scott Skiles was cautious to call on his bench tonight. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his only shot, grabbed a couple rebounds, dished an assist, and had a couple steals -- in 11 minutes. That's the fewest minutes he's played in a month and a half. Tyronn Lue and Ramon Sessions both played better than Ridnour, and Malik Allen hit shots. Then again, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez were the real stars off the bench in this game.
- Better than a blowout. Milwaukee trotted into the Rose Garden with something of a Buck-in-the-headlights look. They opened by allowing layups, misfiring on long jumpers, even feeding Dan Gadzuric in the post. They fell behind early, and fell behind big: 19-8. Just a few blinks later, Milwaukee was within three points at 22-19. They never climbed all the way back, but at least the Bucks averted what looked like a blowout in-the-making. And yeah, the game was somewhat closer than the final score indicated.
Back in town. Milwaukee plays three of four at the BC after dropping two of three on the west coast trip. Good timing, because the Bucks could use a pick-me-up or three.
Front and center. The Bucks are always better off with Bogut on the floor, and this was never more evident than tonight against an excellent frontcourt and the league's best offensive rebounding unit. Portland had 19 offensive rebounds, Greg Oden (24/15) delivered one of his finest games as a pro, and Lamarcus Aldridge (22/9/5) was a real dynamo. Meanwhile, Dan Gadzuric was pretty much MIA (0 points, 2 rebounds in 15 minutes) and Francisco Elson was literally MIA, with a DNP. That won't work.
- Ducking out. Luke Ridnour returned to the state where he played college ball with the Oregon Ducks, but this wasn't a happy homecoming. Even with Portland point guard (and former Buck) Steve Blake out with an injury, Ridnour never commanded control of the position. He came alive in the fourth quarter a bit, but the overall body of work was more meager: 10 points, 3 assists, and a -25 differential in 30 minutes.
See Joe Dunk. On the same day it was announced that Rudy Fernandez won NBA.com's fan vote for the final spot in the dunk contest, we also had no chance to see Joe dunk due to the DNP following some recent good basketball by the rook.