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Recap: Blazers 96, Bucks 84

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Box Score / AP Recap / JS Recap / Blazer's Edge Recap

While the Bulls may also have lost, another night of not making up ground means the Bucks' fading playoff hopes are a bit dimmer.  The Bucks had their chances--not to mention a 43-39 halftime lead--but their clueless start to the second half was all the Blazers needed to build a lead that the Bucks simply lacked the ammo to overcome. The Blazers might be good, but keep in mind this was also their fifth game in seven nights--a fact which seemed evident as the Bucks stormed to a 9-0 lead in the first.

But in the end it was largely a story of matchups, and the Bucks came up on the short end of nearly all of them.  The Bucks sent their two best defenders at Brandon Roy all night but the Blazers' stud methodically broke down Luc Mbah a Moute and Keith Bogans, scoring 30 on 19 shots along with eight boards and seven dimes. It's not that the defense was bad, but Roy was simply better.

As Alex noted in the pregame, former Buck Steve Blake came in hot and tormented the Bucks with 21 points and six assists, hitting six threes (five in the second half)--most of which were spot up looks that started with Roy penetration.  In contrast, Ramon Sessions completely fell apart in the third quarter after a decent first half, leaving Scott Skiles no choice but to send in the slightly less ineffective Luke Ridnour.  Richard Jefferson didn't help either, putting up 16 points on just 5/14 fg with four turnovers and getting marginally outplayed by the infinitely cheaper Travis Outlaw. The Bucks finished the homestand a disappointing 2-4.

Three Two Bucks

  • Charlie Villanueva.  Villanueva started quietly but came alive with the Bucks down 11 late in the third.  Relying heavily on his righty push-shot, he scored seven in the final two minutes of the quarter followed by 13 of the Bucks' 24 fourth quarter points.  With Lamarcus Aldridge looking a bit out of sorts (4/16 fg, eight pts, seven rebs) in his first game back following a concussion, CV easily won the battle of the sweet-shooting young PFs and was really the only Buck playing with the appropriate urgency.  Down the stretch the Bucks went small with CV able to go to work on the bigger Przybilla, but that also allowed the Blazer big to grab a couple big offensive rebounds over the smaller CV.
  • Bob Dandridge.  No one aside from Villanueva looked ready to go 48 minutes tonight, so we might as well pay tribute to the former three-time all-star who the Bucks honored with his own bobblehead night. 

Three Numbers

  • -13.  The Bucks might as well have been tweeting at halftime, because they clearly didn't do anything constructive in the locker room.  The Blazers walked all over them to the tune of a 30-17 spanking in the quarter, including a 23-8 run to start the period.  The Bucks looked more like a wide-eyed 16 seed than a playoff contender, starting the period 0/6 with four turnovers before Bogans finally buried a triple from the right wing four minutes into the period. 
  • 7.  Sessions matched his assist total with seven head-scratching turnovers.  More on that below.
  • 1.  If you're wondering what a good role player looks like, how about Portland's number ten.  Przybilla took just one shot (and made it) in 37 minutes, but it was his 14 boards, two blocks, and a number of other alters that made him so valuable on a night when Greg Oden spent 40 minutes sitting on the bench with foul trouble.

Three Good

  • Plucky Bucky.  It seems like I'm always having to resort to silver lining BS lately, but that's how this game went.  Despite looking ripe for another tail-kicking late in the third, the Bucks--or Villanueva at least--showed enough fight to scrape back within five late in the fourth.  Bogans even had a decent look at a three which would have trimmed the lead to just two.  But given how poorly pretty much everyone played it seemed fitting that the Blazers pulled away in spite of their tired legs.
  • Bulls lose.  We'll have to settle for Schadenfreude tonight: the Bulls blew a 14-point halftime lead against the Lakers and remain just 1.5 games up.
  • I got to watch NBA basketball again.  Not sure if I mentioned it previously, but I spent the past week in Japan--which was pretty damn cool except for the lack of internet connectivity in our hotels (you'd think a country like Japan would be on top of that, but our hotels were fairly bootleg). 

    That meant only the occasional checking of box scores, and certainly no LP broadband access.  In the grand scheme of things a break from the Bucks was probably in order but I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.  On a night when there was little to feel good about, it sure was nice to watch NBA ball again.  

Three Bad

  • Outmanned, outgunned.  The Bucks' defense and the Blazers' poor shooting contributed equally to a promising first half.  The second half...eh, not so much.  While Roy and the Blazers were taking it at the Bucks, Milwaukee seemed completely outclassed on the other end.  With Przybilla protecting the paint especially well, the Bucks' forays into the lane seemed more like vain attempts to draw a foul than real shots.  It was just kind of...sad. 
  • Sessions' second half.  Sessions finished with a nice flourish in the second quarter, scoring eight points in the final five minutes and bringing a 10-point, six assist line into the half.

    Then the wheels came off.  In fact, I'm not sure Sessions has ever looked worse than he did in the game's final 24 minutes, starting with a disastrous 65 seconds early in the third.  It started with a drive and errant kickout that caused a backcourt violation.  Then a routine pass out to the wing went inexplicably wide of Richard Jefferson.  Then he fumbled a ball away, only to get a chance for redemption when the Bucks got it back on the other end.  Taking the outlet pass, Sessions swooped in for a layup only to have Przybilla's harassment force a miss.  Skiles had justifiably seen enough, sending in Ridnour after a Blake three capped a 7-0 run to start the period.

    Still, Sessions got another chance late in the third when Skiles inserted him back into the game at shooting guard.  It didn't help.  Aside from having trouble keeping Sergio Rodriguez in front of him, Sessions' night ended early in the fourth when he had another pass picked off followed by a charge on the very next possession.  Let's hope he has a short memory.
  • Outlaw vs. RJ.  Similar box score lines for the two starting small forwards tonight, but one number that's not similar: Outlaw will make a non-guaranteed $3.6 million next year while Jefferson will earn $14.2 million with a further $15.2 million due the next year.  Ugh.  On nights like this it's very obvious why Kevin Pritchard opted against swapping Outlaw and Raef LaFrentz's expiring deal for RJ.