Following consecutive road losses in Dallas and New Orleans, the Bucks couldn't have asked for a better tonic than a home matchup against the cellar-dwelling Wizards. Despite coming off a surprisingly solid 23-point drubbing of the Bulls last night, the Wiz seemed to have precious little in the tank and the Bucks jumped on them early with a 30-17 first quarter and coasted from there on out. Some games have complicated stories; this one didn't. The Wizards just aren't very good and the Bucks took advantage of the ample opportunities provided by Washington's defense to shoot better than 50% from both three and overall.
Charlie Villanueva scored 11 of his 25 points in the opening stanza and Luc Mbah a Moute was all over the place early on, shadowing Caron Butler and beating the Wizards to seemingly every loose ball. Richard Jefferson added 22, Ramon Sessions was steady with 12/10, and Dan Gadzuric added a 10/11 double-double. Antawn Jamison eventually got it going a bit and led the Wizards with 21/14, while Butler (6/15 fg, 19 pts, six dimes, six TOs) began to find his way a bit as the game wore on.
But the Wizards got almost nothing from their supporting cast, save for a couple acrobatic efforts from JaVale McGee, while the Bucks' bench was again solid. No doubt this was a game the Bucks needed to win to keep pace with the teams chasing them for the eighth spot, and they did so without much drama.
- Luc Mbah a Moute. Sure, his numbers weren't huge, but Mbah a Moute set the tone early on. He blocked Butler's first shot and picked up a handful of offensive rebounds early. His final numbers: 13 points (6/9 fg), nine boards, two dimes, two steals, and a block in 32 minutes. That's his first double-figure scoring effort in a month, by the way.
- Charlie Villanueva. I'm not a big fan of Villanueva's three-rebound efforts, but he was so efficient from the field (9/13 fg, 25 pts) that it's tough to overlook yet another big offensive night. Foul trouble held him to just 28 minutes and he gave up his share of points to Jamison, but his game-high +20 rating reflects a simple fact: when he was in the Bucks were good. Besides, if I'm going to acknowledge Mbah a Moute for doing the little things early in the game, then it's only fair to note that CV was the offensive force behind their excellent first quarter.
Dan Gadzuric. Gadzuric posted his first double-double since December 3, a stat that's all the more depressing when you consider how long Andrew Bogut has been out. I'm not going to make the mistake of thinking this is somehow indiicative of things to come, but Gadzuric has always had a penchant for putting up numbers against disorganized teams and this is certainly consistent with that.
.526/.579/.800. Good shooting and bad opposing defense are a beautiful thing, aren't they? The Wiz did a pretty good job containing Sessions, giving him a hard double early and often. But the Bucks were patient and worked the ball around for open looks. Villanueva stroked four of five from distance, while Jefferson, Charlie Bell (5/8, 13 pts), and Keith Bogans each drained a pair of threes.
- +6. The Bucks with Bogut were one of the league's best rebounding teams, but that's gone out the window now. Lately the boards have been perhaps the team's biggest issue, so it's kind of a big deal that the Bucks managed to beat the Wizards 37-31 on the glass.
- 30. As noted, the Wiz decided from the outset to double the Bucks on the ball, looking to force turnovers and keep them out of their rhythm. It didn't work. The Bucks dished out 30 dimes and turned it over 15 times, compared to 21 and 17 for the Wiz.
D + O = W. The Wiz offense got better as the game went on, but the Bucks held them down early and never let them get on a prolonged run in keeping them an overall efficiency of 103.3 pts/100 possessions. The Bucks on the other hand were hot early and kept it up with a 121.1 efficiency mark, well above their season average.
- Skiles. There have been plenty of good coaching stories this year, so I'm not that surprised to see Scott Skiles' name absent from most of the coach of the year speculation so far. Still, it's hard to argue with the results he's brought so far. Many predicted the Bucks would struggle to amass 30 wins all season, yet even with all the injuries Skiles has them at 29 with 20 games to go. Tonight eleven guys saw the floor and none of them had a negative +/- for the night.
- Madison/DeKalb. You've probably already heard the story, so it was cool the Bucks went out of their way to acknowledge one of the best sports stories of the year.
Degree of difficulty. I'm not even going to try to pick apart the things that went wrong tonight; the Wiz aren't good but the Bucks did the job early and didn't let up. No, you don't get as much credit for winning games that you're supposed to win, but it's tough to complain too much given the Bucks' circumstances.
Bulls keep pace. The Bulls pulled off an improbable comeback, downing the Rockets at home after trailing by 17 at the start of the fourth. The Bulls remain tied with the Nets just a game back of the Bucks with two games in hand. Things get interesting next week when the Bucks get the Nets at home and the Bulls in Chicago.
- Nothing else. Enjoy the weekend, folks.