Like so many games before, the Bucks found themselves in a close-and-late one. Unlike most before though, they had the game-changing players, big and small, both playing big.
Andrew Bogut was the biggest, headlining the show with a career-high 31 points (14/19 fg). And surrounded by players on both teams mighty determined to lose, Brandon Jennings carried it in the clutch.
In a game that looked like the 84-81 final score, the Bucks and Pacers slopped through Indianapolis. The game was fittingly capped by seven straight misses at the free throw line by the Bucks and two wayward T.J. Ford three-point attempts in the last five seconds, underscoring a rough game for both teams.
The good news: The Bucks were barely better.
Andrew Bogut. The only player to really stand out in all good ways, Bogut scored the first basket of the game, foretelling a breakout not only from his three-game shooting slump but also a point-scoring breakout half a decade in the making.
He scored 20+ plenty prior to tonight: 37 times. But just now the Aussie made it into the 30's scoring for the first time in his career, with 31 points on a tremendous 14-19 shooting night.
Andrew's only first-half miss was an atypical jumper perhaps spurred on by a long j that Hibbert had just knocked down on the other end. He made the other eight. And unlike so many times before when he started hot, Bogut looked for the ball, the Bucks found him, and he attacked. So rare that those three things come together at once for two hours.
And while I'm not really okay with Roy Hibbert going for 16, Bogut (18 rebounds and three blocks) pretty much controlled the paint from start to finish. Another level, tonight.
Brandon Jennings. The point guard of Bucks' future haunted the point guard of Bucks' past with a few dagger-swishes late in the fourth.
Jennings made three of Milwaukee's last four shots from the field, all long, tough shots, each one better than the one before. He capped it with a
Iversonish dribble-around, step-back jumper in T.J. Ford's face to give the Bucks an 84-79 cushion that they very much needed.
A slow start, but he finds a way to put up the points, and tonight he finished with 16, good enough for second to Bogut in the game. Not a stellar shooting night (7-19) again, but also again, he didn't get the benefit of calls and added six assists, four rebounds, and two steals against just two turnovers.
. Hard to tell if he deserves this, but rather than talk about him in the Good and Bad, I'll just cover Mike here. And for Mike, it was a mixed showing, which is simultaneously an upgrade.
This looked like a Redd-not-Reddy-redux return to the starting lineup early on. Seemingly slower than ever, he had three of his first six shots blocked. And he almost gave it all away late, missing two free throws.
But in between, Mike was alright. He swished some shots (5-12 from the field, 2-3 on threes) on a night when the Bucks couldn't shoot from the field (.422), from deep (.312), or at the line (.450). Needed that bit of offense he provided tonight.
11.5 % Best known as tall guys who can shoot the ball, Mike Dunleavy (2-17) and Ersan Ilyasova (1-9) combined to shoot 3-26 from the field, or 11.5 %.
1. The Bucks only made it to the 20's in scoring in one quarter, when they threw down 29 points in the third quarter. Not something I'd usually sponsor, but they made it work.
0. Second scoreless night for Delfino in four games. He got blanked against the Lakers and was a zero again tonight. Odd. This time, he went 0-3, all on threes.
On the road. The Bucks won for the first time on the road in a month and won for the first time at Conseco in ten tries. All in the past.
Young Buck. On the same night when the former star (Mike Redd) returned to the starting lineup and the current star (Andrew Bogut) had his most productive offensive game ever, it was the current/future star (Brandon Jennings) who made the plays down the stretch, sinking eight points in the final 5:22 when everyone else on the court for both teams was thoroughly convinced that scoring was against the rules.
Some experience he's getting in these late-game situations, and I always like how he handles it, win or lose, coming back for more.
Bogut. I remember Frank called out Bogut (Brogut, actually) in the preview of the Celts game. And I highlighted the center's issues of late before this game. Both times, huge games followed.
[Bonus Good/Humor: Completely off-topic, but the Kings outscored the Bulls 33-10 in the fourth quarter in Chicago tonight to win 102-98 tonight, and yeah, I'm thinking about the division and playoff implications a little bit in December. At least I get to think about such things these days.]
45.0 % Just when you thought the Bucks had hit the bottom of the earth at the free throw line, they fall all the way through into a previously uncharted Galaxy of Ineptitude.
The only time Milwaukee's tragic free throw shooting can avoid Three Numbers is when it becomes so Bad that it must be singled out here.
And tonight is one of those nights.
The Bucks missed their final seven free throws of the game. First it was Luc, then two from Charlie Bell. Two more from Redd, capped off by two misses from Bogut. In all, 9-20, much like middle school teams might shoot.
The... game? In the end, I'll take a sloppy win over an exciting loss. In the end. During the game? That's another one.
All the usual suspects were present: the orange basketball, the hardwood floor, the nets, the rims, the unreasonably tall humans. And so on.
But it was generous to call most of what happened "basketball." This is one of those times when the only logical explanation is that everyone contracted H1N1. Airballs, shots thrown off the side of the backboard, bricked free throws in the clutch, the refs fitting right in with the whole thing.
This was the bad kind of
41 minutes? Skiles has been so on this year, but did Mike Redd really just play more than anyone else tonight? Delfino was off, but a little more from Luc Mbah a Moute (21 minutes) or Luke Ridnour (12 minutes) perhaps? Both played fairly well when they had a chance.