Wow. Now that is what Vegas is all about. Tyreke Evans was great (33/9/7...and 7 tos) but the Bucks' (kinda) big three of Jennings, Alexander and Meeks were enough to derail Sacramento's one-man show in a game that should have left every Bucks fan feeling pretty damn excited--even if it's just for a night. And yes, you read that right, Joe Alexander was big tonight. It's late, so let's go straight to the player highlights:
32 min, 5/13 fg, 2/3 3fg, 1/2 ft, 13 pts, 14 ast, 7 stl, 4 to, 5 pf
As good as he was yesterday, this may have been even better. Defensively Jennings had his rough spots--Evans overpowered him early and also drive right around him a couple times--but once again he was an agent of chaos all over the court. He finished with seven steals, pickpocketing Evans and Brian Roberts video game style in the backcourt a number of times. It was just like my SNES days on NBA Live '95...just pound the Y button and the ball is yours.
And while his streaky shooting was the story last night, tonight it was his passing which really stole the show. Sure, a number of them were your mundane, catch-and-shoot types (thanks, Jodie Meeks), but he broke out the serious stuff as well. On consecutive possessions Amir Johnson was on the receiving end of a pair of monster alley-oops, one from half court for crying out loud. And for good measure he fired a beebee to Alexander for a dunk on the next possession after that. Aside from that, Jennings had a number of other gorgeous looks inside lead to layups or free throws. THIS is why he's a point guard and not an Allen Iverson wannabe.
At 5/13 from the field he again struggled to get his outside shot working, but you can't accuse him of not having a sense for the dramatic. With the Bucks up two and ten seconds left, Jennings stroked an off-balance triple from the top of the key to ice it--apparently all that unnecessary body contorting does have its benefits.
32 min, 8/13 fg, 8/10 ft, 24 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, 2 blk, 6 pf
No one needed a big game in Vegas more than Joe, so I was pretty excited to see him get on track in a big way following two forgettable shooting nights this weekend. Perhaps the most important thing was that he got a couple buckets early, starting with a layup and foul a minute in. Then he popped in a short jumper and all of a sudden it seemed like the monkey was off his back. After a couple misses and an awkward block in the post, he got a break when he ducked his shoulder, nailed a fadeaway and got the block call rather than the charge. For once it seemed like it was going to be his night, and he didn't let up with 13 points in the first half and another 11 in the second.
Alexander again mostly operated out of the high post, running a lot of screen and roll with Jennings, and the slower Kings (Thompson, Brockman) simply couldn't keep him from either scoring or drawing a foul.. I don't think he has enough feel to operate with his back to the basket--his footwork and awareness of doubles simply aren't there--but facing up allows him to use his quickness and draw fouls going to the hoop. That's the one thing he's done in each of the Vegas games and will hopefully be something he can build on going forward.
Down the stretch the Bucks were content to let Joe go to work and he repaid them with a step back jumper and a pair of trips to the line. Joe also had a solid night defensively, blocking a couple shots and helping contain Jason Thompson to just 3/10 fg, nine pts, nine fouls and six turnovers.
23 min, 4/7 fg, 2/4 ft, 10 pts, 7 rebs, 6 pf, 2 blk, 2 to
Johnson showed his tremendous athleticism on a number of occasions, grabbing alley-oops from Jennings on consecutive possessions in the third and also throwing down a huge windmill after Jennings had triggered a breakaway. He obviously has amazing physical talent, the only question being how well he can harness it--which also will rely a lot on how the Bucks use him. He certainly seems to be building his chemstry with Jennings, his fellow Californian. Johnson also did well eating up space inside, and his six fouls actually seemed pretty reasonable given what we've seen the past two games.
31 min, 8/12 fg, 2/3 3fg, 2/2 ft, 20 pts, 3 rebs, 1 stl, 2 to
Jeremy called him a quiet assassin in the game thread, and he's absolutely right. With Jennings stealing the show and Alexander finally breaking out, it was easy to overlook another extremely efficient shooting night from Meeks. We also got to see more of Meeks range, as he drilled a pair of long, quick release triples. Meeks now leads the Bucks with 16.7 ppg on .600/.600/.833 shooting in Vegas. We know he doesn't do much else n the box score, but I can certainly live with drafting a lights-out shooter in the second round.