At last, the encore.
This time, the Bucks entered their matchup with the Warriors on a three-game losing streak. And with Jennings having scored 50 in the past five games combined.
He came out looking like someone well aware of the history here, of his history. Jennings started aggressively, most comfortable with the ball in his palms, a real contrast from some of his recent passive nights.
But this turned out to be a night not for one player, but for a collection of players. Seven Bucks scored at least 12 points, as the injury-ravaged Warriors went from having eight to seven to six to five players due to injuries and fouls. And they would have finished the game with four, but Stephen Curry was allowed to stay on after picking up his sixth foul so they could field a full team.
Milwaukee didn't shine early on, but they stayed close enough. Close enough so that their balanced, 36-point third quarter brought them a slim lead going into the final quarter.
And late in that final quarter, Jennings corralled an offensive rebound with the Bucks up 105-102 with 38 seconds, the game hanging in the balance, the ball in his hands. And despite scoring 77 points in less than two games against this particular foe, he dribbled himself free for a three, which naturally went straight in. That gave the Bucks a comfortable six-point lead with 19 seconds to go. That gave the Bucks the game.
Composite numbers for Jennings in two career games against Golden State: two wins, 40.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg 6.0 apg, 2.0 spg, on 56.0 % from the field, 76.9 % from outside, 82.4 % from the line.
The Bucks will want to schedule the Warriors more often next season.
Andrew Bogut. The biggest player on the floor seemed to realize that.
Jennings quite reasonably received most the headlines, subheads, leads, paragraphs, sentences, and footnotes after the first game against the Warriors, but 'Drew also went for 19/12 on a sizzling 9-12 shooting in that game. Between Brandon and Bogut, it was Brogut at its best.
Against the undersized, undermanned Warriors this time, the Bucks wisely went to Bogut early. But he missed his first four shots. That didn't discourage him, and he delivered a big block and bigger dunk in the first quarter, foreshadowing a pretty legit night on both ends of the court.
'Drew stayed strong, going for 15/16/5 without a turnover. And that last part is a pretty big deal for a guy who had a lot of touches and made a lot of plays for others.
Luc Mbah a Moute. A few minutes into the fourth quarter I was prepared to write about how this was one of those ever-so-rare games in which Mbah a Moute was arguably more effective offensively than defensively. At the time he was 5-6 from the floor, all of those makes right around the hoop, where he belongs. Meanwhile, he was unable to shut down, or even really slow offensive genuises Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette when matched up.
That is the result of good offense beating good defense, which happens every night with the star players.
Regardless, Luc proceeded to brick a corner three, which he followed with a magnificent block against Ellis on the baseline. And all was right in the world.
He wasn't done either. The Principal expertly blocked Ellis again with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game. Two game-changing defensive plays, as the Bucks hung on for a much-needed road win.
Jennings called Mbah a Moute the team's best defensive player after the game, and it's true. And it's also a pretty sizable compliment when Bogut is doing his thing. Despite recent struggles, the Bucks remain one of the better defensive teams in the league, and that is only going to help grow Luc's deserved praise from opponents and teammates alike.
Brandon Jennings. That obvious early confidence occasionally led to overdribbling or one-on-one play. But mostly it resulted in the best of things. For instance, he made seven free throws in the first half, more than he'd made in any full game in almost a full month (7-7 against Cle. on Dec. 18). Jennings also dished out six first-half assists, including a few pretty ones.
The playmaking included tons of turnovers (7), but Jennings made plays, offensively and defensively both. The game-sealing three was the play of the game, but he also gave the Bucks a 103-96 lead just as the Warriors were seizing momentum.
Jennings was just all over the place, accumulating four steals, dueling fellow rookie guard Stephen Curry, who snatched six steals of his own. In all, 25/4/7, and it came pretty naturally.
0. After Milwaukee made a spectacularly silly 14-24 from outside in the first matchup, they shot 0-9 on three-pointers in the first half while the Warriors made 4-11 from deep. And the Bucks made 6-12 from outside in the second half.
31. The Bucks made 31-39 free throws, not a misprint or mistype. 31. Of 39.
42. Forty-two bench points for the Bucks, after 49 versus Portland. Supersolid. More on the bench here...
Reserves. The Three Bucks went to three starters, but three off the bench made strong cases too. Hakim Warrick, Carlos Delfino, and Luke Ridnour lifted the Bucks early and late.
Delfino still can't find the range on those corner threes (he missed all from outside), but added 12 points on 5-9 shooting in addition to pulling down seven boards. He led the bench with 23 minutes, and those 23 minutes didn't drive me crazy, so that is novel.
Ridnour hit a couple big threes, chipped in 15 points and eight assists in just 22 minutes, and made all five free throws to end finish up the game.
Warrick meanwhile continued his stellar play this month with 15 points on 5-9 from the field and 5-7 from the line.
The third. So it doesn't compare to the third quarter in Milwaukee when Jennings dropped 29 points and the Bucks outscored the Warriors 43-26, but tonight wasn't too far off. Milwaukee turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead thanks to a 36-23 third quarter.
Eight Bucks (Bell, Bogut, Mbah a Moute, Jennings, Bogut, Ilyasova, Delfino, Ridnour) contributed points in the third quarter, as the team effectively got up and got out in transition. Milwaukee stole five passes in the third, helping lead to 13 fastbreak points in the quarter.
One to win. The preceding three losses were disappointing in their own ways, but also expected. Every long road trip is daunting, but the Lakers, Suns, and Trailblazers comprise three of the toughest draws in the west.
This game was circled as bright and red on the calendar as Milwaukee's "Milwaukee" jerseys they wore tonight: because of the opponent's record, because of their injuries, because of the first matchup, because this was so obviously the one game to win.
So this was a big deal. The Bucks move back above .500 this month at 4-3 and at least salvage something from this trip.
...Next up. To Salt Lake City and Houston, where the Jazz and Rockets are a combined 27-11. Precious little time to celebrate, as the Bucks play the Jazz on Saturday night and then the Rockets for a day game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday.
Beating up the beat-up. Golden State suited up eight. Barely.
Raja Bell, Kelenna Azubuike, Brandan Wright, Vladimir Radmanovic, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, C.J. Watson, and sort of Devean George were all out. Until the banged-up George came in.
Then, less than two minutes into the game, Anthony Morrow clanged his knee into Maggette and went down and into the locker room. He came back but eventually left and didn't return, with a sprained right knee. A player called "Cartier Martin" was also bloodied with a laceration above his eye before the end of the first quarter.
The bandaged Warriors soon ran (and run they do) with a barely-seven-man lineup, at least one of them (George) not feeling fully spritely.
Midway through the third quarter, another player, this one called "Chris Hunter," fouled out. In 11 minutes on the court. Down to six-ish. Later in the fourth, Biedrins fouled out, and the Warriors had five eligible players.
Then Stephen Curry picked up his sixth foul. And he still got to play. Because Golden State, well, they ran out of players, and the rules allow a team to keep five players (including the last one to foul "out") on the court in such a situation.
This all qualifies as Bad simply because Golden State's literally ill fortunes are so cruelly Bad. But they played quite a game given the circumstance, so kudos are in order.
And this of course all came after the Bucks got the Blazers minus Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw.
No complaining about injuries from me after these two games.
Jodie? This is just nitpicking, but zero points on 0-1 in 13 minutes for Meeks after his coming-out-party against Portland. It's all good, I am stretching for the Bad here.