Around here we have a little saying: any road win is a beautiful thing. A 22-point road win? Even better.
Nevermind that the New Jersey Nets are the most gracious hosts in the NBA: they entered the night with a staggeringly bad 2-14 record at home, which remarkably was even worse than the Bucks' 3-11 record on the road. We know the Bucks well enough to take absolutely nothing for granted, so taking care of business and then some at the Izod Center is still something to feel good about, especially off a quality win Saturday against the Thunder. Considering where they were a week ago, 14-18 doesn't feel so bad.
Even so, it took a little while for the Bucks to feel good about their night at the Meadowlands. As you'd hope, the Bucks went early to Andrew Bogut, but two turnovers and a bad miss were symptomatic of an early 8-0 deficit that earned the Aussie a quick hook just four minutes in. The ancient Kurt Thomas and the struggling Carlos Delfino made early appearances, but so did the Nets' carelessness. Eight Nets turnovers and some rare transition offense got the Bucks quickly back in it, and a 6-0 run to end the period had the Bucks in front 22-16. That turned out to be the story of the night as well. Despite some nice pieces on the roster, the Nets never seemed capable of executing offensively with any consistency, and defensively they're as soft as you'd expect a 3-31 team to be.
A six point lead in hand, the Bucks methodically built their lead in the second, taking a 52-41 lead into the intermission. Bogut and Warrick began to attack the hoop, while Meeks and Ridnour stroked a pair of jumpers each. Meanwhile, the Nets drew some fouls but never got into a real rhythm offensively. Devin Harris probed but never found much daylight (0/4 fg), and Brook Lopez was surprisingly starved for touches in the post (2/6 fg, 11 pts, 7 rebs). And while Chris Douglas-Roberts took it to Delfino and Mbah a Moute early (5/6 fg), he got just two shots (missing both) the rest of the way. Fittingly, leading scorer Yi Jianlian (7/12 fg, 22 pts, 2 rebs) was mostly uninvolved until the Bucks had already built a big lead.
Any doubt over the game was resolved early in the third, as the Bucks simply went at the Nets and found little resistance. Leading the way was Bogut, who scored eight points in less than four minutes. And while his numbers were uninspiring (9 pts, 3 ast, 3 stl), Brandon Jennings--sporting the high top fade we last saw in the McDonald's All-American game two years ago--was creating good looks all night. The Bucks again finished the quarter strongly, as Delfino made another couple hoops to stretch the lead to 78-59.
Andrew Bogut: 22 min, 18 pts, 9/12 fg, 5 rebs, 1 blk, 2 to, +9
Bogut's night couldn't have started any worse, but he turned it around and then some against a very worthy foe in Lopez. As you'd expect the key was getting the ball in different spots, rather than simply trying to back down and shoot over the tall and long-as-all-get-out Lopez. A drive and dunk got him going early in the second, and in the third he put it away with 12 points that featured hard work inside and some nice passing from Jennings and Mbah a Moute as well.
Carlos Delfino: 37 min, 17 pts, 7/11 fg, 5 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl, 0 to, +32
If anybody was due for a big game it was Defino, and give credit to Skiles for giving him a chance after his first DNP-CD of the season on Saturday. Delfino got his chance just four minutes in, and started things off on the right foot with an aggressive hoop and harm on his first shot. Delfino stroked a couple jumpers as well, but it was his willingness to take it to the hoop which was key to getting him out of his month-long slump. The only downside came defensively in the first half, as CDR burned him once off the dribble and once backdoor for easy dunks. All told it was a well-deserved game-high 37 minutes to go with a ridiculous +32 differential.
Luke Ridnour: 24 min, 11 pts, 4/9 fg, 5 ast, 2 stl, 1 to, +18
It really didn't seem like Ridnour missed a majority of his shots tonight, but he's not a 41% career shooter for nothing. Still, Ridnour provided his now-usual spark off the bench, scoring seven in the second quarter as the Bucks built a double-digit halftime lead.
21. The Nets came into the game having been outrebounded in 21 straight contests, dating back to (surprise!) their early season loss at the BC. Fortunately the Bucks got it right this time, outrebounding the Nets 44-37. That included an 11-6 edge on the offensive glass that wouldn't have been as close if not for four offensive rebounds in the final six minutes when the Bucks were leading by 20+.
22-9. The Bucks outscored the Nets 22-9 off turnovers and 15-6 on fast breaks. As usual, turnover differential was a key factor with the Bucks turning it over just nine times, compared to 16 by the Nets. More on this below.
+13. The Bucks didn't shoot particularly well, but they had their customary advantage in terms of total shots (79-66) and made a better percentage of them as well (45.6% vs. 37.9%). Just as importantly, the FGA advantage wasn't due to a big disadvantage from the foul line. They still didn't win that stat (what'd you expect?), but a 24-23 deficit in makes and 28-27 deficit in attempts is something I'll take any night with this club.
Pushing it. Though they play at an above-average pace and force more turnovers than any other team in the league, the Bucks are actually one of the league's worst in terms of transition points. Blame it on a lack of athleticism or a lack of finishing instincts, but it's something of a waste when you consider all the other statistical ingredients are there: defensive rebounding, fast pace, and lots of turnovers created. Tonight was a different story, and helped the Bucks rack up big offensive efficiency numbers even without red-hot shooting (.456/.214 from the field/three). Especially with Jennings around and the Bucks' frequent struggles in the halfcourt, you'd hope the Bucks look to push the tempo more the rest of the season.
Bogut vs. Lopez. The fates of the two big men will be forever intertwined, at least from a Bucks perspective, so it's encouraging to see Bogut get the better of the talented Lopez for the second time in two meetings. After all, the Bucks passed on Lopez in the 2008 draft in large part because they felt he couldn't play with Bogut, who was on the verge of signing a $60 million extension.
At this point it's not clear which of the two will end up being the better player, but you can certainly make good arguments for each. Tonight it looked like the younger Lopez would win the evening's bragging rights when Bogut was benched just four minutes in, but the Aussie responded exactly the way you'd hope. His first shot of the second quarter was an aggressive double-clutch drive and dunk, and his 6/6 third quarter put the game out of reach. I doubt any GM would prefer Bogut and his contract over Lopez and his rookie deal, but nights like this suggest the Bucks won't have to lose too much sleep over it.
The Bench. Every Buck played and scored tonight, but it wasn't just garbage time contributions from the reserves. Ridnour and Delfino played key roles in blowing the game wide open, while Hakim Warrick got a fair share of his 13 points after the game was decided. Overall the Bucks' reserves outscored their New Jersey counterparts 53-19.
Easy pickings. The biggest downside of this road blowout is the competition: it doesn't get any worse than the 3-31 Nets, which makes winning a relief as much as anything. The Bucks now get one more very winnable game at home on Friday against the Bulls before a potentially brutal six game Western swing. Either way, let's appreciate the Bucks' ability to take care of business and keep up the improved play we saw on Saturday night.
Redd. With so many other guys stepping up, Redd's quiet night (2/9 fg, 9 pts) wasn't quite as obvious, but it was yet another reminder that he's not back to his best. Redd had three quiet games in a row after his big scoring nights against the Lakers and Wizards, so we'll see if the pattern continues Friday against Chicago--if all goes to schedule, he'll be an offensive no-show in that game and the first game of the Western swing.
On the plus side, Redd's hustle forced a Nets' transition miss, which marks the second straight game that his defense has helped stymie a fast break. Not quite as impressive as forcing a turnover on a 3-on-1, as he did against OKC on Saturday, but still. This is Mike Redd we're talking about.