Richard Jefferson returned to New Jersey wearing a new jersey, but former teammate Vince Carter (15/10/12) netted a triple double to doom the Bucks, 99-85.
The Bucks (0-7) and Nets (0-6) combined to miss 13 straight shots to start the game, foretelling an evening at the Izod Center that was not pretty. Especially for the road team.
Indeed, Milwaukee looked far too much like itself: a club missing its top two players. Still they hung around and were down by just four at 74-70 midway through the fourth quarter before running out of defensive gusto. Along with Carter, two big reasons for that were Brook Lopez (22/12) and Ryan Anderson (19/7).
Richard Jefferson. Noticeably inspired throughout his homecoming, RJ was always a part of the action in his 46 minutes on the floor. Sometimes it almost seemed like he was trying too hard however. His tenacity paid off with 16 free throw attempts, but the normally good shooter from the stripe made just 10. He led everyone with not only 27 points, but also with four turnovers. Lots of effort though, and even some big shots from outside (3-5), but altogether far from a picture-perfect return to where he played for seven seasons prior.
- Dan Gadzuric. Danny! It's been far too many cold minutes since Gadzuric last contributed. He hadn't scored in a week, and was held out of the previous two games altogether. In 17 minutes off a very thin Bucks' bench, he scooted in seven points and hauled down nine (four offensive) boards, along with a steal and a block. So, despite his very Gadzuric-ish 1-4 from the line, he earned a +2 differential and some renewed confidence from coach Skiles.
- Ramon Sessions. Despite shooting struggles on offense (5-17) and facing players far too large (Vince Carter, Jarvis Hayes) on defense, Ramon is the type of player who can contribute anyway. And contribute he did, with 19 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals. Last year it seemed like the assist was this second round's ticket to a regular role. Now his tendency to get to the free throw line (9-10) appears to be one of his most redeeming qualities.
- 4. This is a bad recipe for a Milwaukee win: The Nets beat the Bucks in each of the four quarters: 23-16, 22-21, 29-26, and 25-22.
36.5 %. The way they were shooting, the Bucks had no shot in this one. Making 27-74 (.365) won't work. The Nets took one less shot, but made seven more.
70.8 % Instead of making up for their own shooting woes, the Bucks let a pair of rookies in the form of Brook Lopez (10-14) and Ryan Anderson (7-10) to shoot a mind-boggling 17-24 (.708) from the field. Again, from the field.
Rest. After running out of steam late in the fourth tonight, the Bucks hopefully will get not only rest, but healthy in time for Detroit on Saturday at the Bradley Center. The three days off should help regardless.
- CV is Consistent Value. Not much good to glean from this one, so let us instead look back over the past couple weeks: Tonight marked the first time in nine games that CV was not among the Three Bucks -- not bad for a guy known mostly in both Milwaukee and around the league as wildly inconsistent. It wasn't in the cards tonight, but in a predictably unpredictable season in which Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut suffer major injuries and Jefferson doesn't live up to expectations, Villanueva has done well to quell critics.
The optimist's view: The Bucks weren't terribly careless with the ball (11 turnovers) and made some plays defensively (9 steals). That's what they need for a chance to win without their best inside and outside threat. They just need some shots to fall, and less Keyon Dooling on the other team.
Rooks cook. A pair of rookie post players (Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson) started for the Nets, and both were excellent. Big Brook was forceful down low, taking full advantage of a Milwaukee team so obviously missing its Center piece. The Nets utilized Lopez wisely on a series of high screen and rolls, which often freed him for easy layups and emphatic dunks. Anderson amazed, showing limitless range and a soft touch around the hoop. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's pair of first-year youngsters (Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) weren't terribly impactful, to understate the situation. I'm not exactly sure why Mbah a Moute only played 9 minutes though.
- Dive hits five. The Bucks dipped to 0-5 with very valuable players Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut out of the lineup at the same time. That doesn't bode well considering Redd is done for the year and at best, Bogut is very gimpy, and at worst, is out for a long while. And really, most teams wouldn't be in good shape faced with the same situation.
A tough road. It's no wonder they are trying to move to Brooklyn: The Nets are part of a very rare NBA breed who perform better on the road (12-12) than at home (10-15). Nonetheless, the sparse crowd cheered Jersey on to a comprehensive victory in which the home team outscored the Bucks in each of the four quarters of a game with playoff implications.