[For nights that I report at the game on media row, like tonight, a photo.]
MILWAUKEE - The New York Knicks tonight continued their six-month national tour benefiting a positive cause: bringing cheer to dozens of cities across the country. The benefactor on this evening was the Milwaukee Bucks organization and the 15,486 strong at the Bradley Center. So, thanks for that.
In just the type of game that the Bucks need to win if they are to be taken at all seriously, the Bucks won. And they won big. At least as big as the final scoreline; probably bigger. Milwaukee led by 30 at halftime, and while New York shaved that lead in half by the end, they never really were in the game after the first quarter.
The Bucks were positively tyrannical to the Knicks in the first quarter, owning every bit and every facet of the game to stake a 40-22 lead. Really powerful stuff, and it continued that way for a while. Active, aware, team defense and criminally good shooting. A lot to be happy about, even if the second half usually felt more about waiting to win than anything else.
Jodie Meeks. By virtue of being a second-round Bucks draft pick, it was only a matter of time before Meeks did this. Following in the footsteps of Michael Redd and Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and So On and So Forth, Meeks made a mighty nice impression and gave reason to think that the good second round vibes are still, well, good second round vibes.
After looking mostly out of sorts in 21 minutes over the span of the previous two games, the shooting guard played a bench-leading 27 minutes tonight. And he earned each one of them. Meeks sank his first three pointer as a Buck, a pure corner shot with a few minutes left in the first quarter. The form was nice as usual, only this time he was in form too. That we found out when he buried a couple more threes in the next couple minutes. And then, to beat the first quarter clock, another. First Bucks possession of the second quarter? Again. When you make 5-7 from outside, that's rightfully the focus; but Meeks did well in transition and defensively as well. A happy 19 points in a great sixth man role for this no longer end-of-the-bench rook'.
Ersan Ilyasova. There wasn't a certain play or moment that was the turning point of this game. Ersan Ilyasova was the turning point. It's sort of unbelievable considering how the first quarter ended, but the Knicks jumped on the Bucks 10-4. The Rooster did what all good roosters do, made mad three pointers, and allofasudden it looked like the Knicks were ready to D'Antoni the Bucks back more than a few notches in the defensive efficiency column.
Scott Skiles came to coach too, though, and offered as evidence that the Knicks weren't the only team prepared to utilize a sweet-shooting, European power forward. And so he subbed out the defensively guilty Hakim Warrick out barely two minutes into the game. Enter Ersan Ilyasova, who instantly impacted a little bit of everything, always in a good way. The poor start for Warrick and Milwaukee was really a blessing in disguise because this was a night that Ilyasova needed to see the floor, and not just viewing it from the bench.
And it's only a good thing that Ilyasova (0-2 on threes) didn't make his mark in his best game as a Buck in years by hitting shots from outside. No, he was aggressive, smart on both sides of the ball, and finished with 6 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists. And he led everyone with a +21 differential in one of those games that the differential stat proved illuminating.
Andrew Bogut. Lots of heroes on a night like this, but Bogut really stood out from the beginning. I was optimistic that 'Drew would take it to the solid but undersized David Lee, who at 6-9 really shouldn't be playing center. Well, no Emo Bogut tonight, and that correlates pretty strongly to a Bucks win.
Bogut went 4-4 from the field in the game's first five minutes, keeping the Bucks afloat before Jodie Meeks and co. ever-so-accurately shot the team out of this world. And this wasn't one of those games when Bogut hit a couple shots early and then disappeared. He gained the team's attention, and they found him enough so that Bogut led all scorers with 22 points on 8-14 shooting. Speaking of Andrew Bogut and shooting, get... this...
6. Andrew Bogut went 6-6 from the line. Like, the free throw line. Tall Andrew Bogut, basketball player for the Bucks, Andrew Bogut. I know many of you did not get the chance to watch the game and are probably skeptical when you see something like: Andrew Bogut 6-6 FT. Maybe not even skeptical, maybe you just assume it was an error in the box score and carry along happily because the Bucks won. But I was in the building, and those alleged free throws were legit. All six.
1. The Knicks missed many, many shots in the first half. They actually packed a tidy 25 misses into those 24 minutes. And with a quarter of a hundred opportunities for a second chance, New York managed to nab one offensive rebound in the first half. Just one.
.533. In the pregame back-and-forth, Scott Skiles remarked, "We beat the Knicks three times last year because we took away the three, we lost one time because we didn't." Well, the Knicks made 8-15 (.533) from deep, but the Bucks did so much else well (shooting, passing, drawing charges, etc.) that it didn't even matter.
One Love. I didn't even mention it in the preview (other than noting the straight stat on top), but The
Scott Skiles Disciples Bucks entered the game leading the NBA in defensive efficiency. First place, quite a feat even if only it was after four games. And in the face of a hot-shooting start by the up-tempo and offensively-capable Knicks, the Bucks allowed 35 first-half points. They gave up a few in the second half and that won't help, but they still held the Knicks to a season-low sum of 87. Number one on defense; love that. Let's get together and feeeeel alright.
27 Seconds. This game was filled with pretty shots (Jodie, looking in your direction), nice dunks (Hakim, nice comeback), and defensive hustle (thanks, you and you and...). Still there was a series of plays that didn't result in any points for the Bucks and in fact involved lots of missed shots worth truly celebrating: With nine minutes and change left in the game, Milwaukee hauled in four offensive rebounds in a row. This was rebounds from Mbah a Moute, Gadzuric, two from Ilyasova, and missed shots by Jennings, Meeks, Ilyasova, and Jennings again. Everyone on the floor for Milwaukee was a part of this. They didn't score and that's quite alright. One of the highlights of the game, for me. Four offensive rebounds in 27 seconds, just like that. Six offensive rebounds in 48 minutes, for the Knicks.
Bradley Center. The stadium came alive tonight. Happy fans are loud fans and there was a lot to cheer about. Really nice to be a part of that; to see, to hear, to feel the positive environment at the Bradley Center.
The revolution was not televised. Something of a shame that this was not shown on television because this was a fine night to watch the team. The good news (because on a night like this there is good even where there is bad) is that it will be more than a month (Dec. 19 versus Sacramento) before another game is not televised.
The Knicks. Sorry. But Coach D'Antoni might not disagree. This is the second game in a row that the Knicks have allowed 40 points in the first quarter. You can't make this stuff up. I mean, I could, but that would be awfully silly, and I didn't. After the game, the coach was a bit disappointed. There was this quote from D'Antoni post-game: "It seems like we've already played 55 games right now." And then this too: "It just seemed like they got into us, and we were four steps behind."
Duhon's Non-Scoringness. I noted in tonight's preview that starting point guard Chris Duhon didn't score in 39 minutes the last time out. Now, he did score infinitely times as many points tonight: He scored a point. 'Twas a free throw, and he shot 0-4 from the field with a -29 differential. So the actual Duhon Field Goal Watch (nearly 70 minutes, Jeremy at Bucksketball charts this streak) is still on. But the Knicks didn't really want Ramon Sessions or Brandon Jennings this summer.