MILWAUKEE -- 55.
The number of shots the Bucks missed tonight.
One player scoring 55 in a win? Exhilarating, rare, nice. One team missing 55 shots in a win? Exhausting, rare, nice.
Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days after winning in their highest-scoring game of last season against Golden State, the Bucks won in their lowest-scoring game of this season against Golden State. Naturally, they did so coming off a couple breakout offensive performances against the Knicks and Hawks and facing a fast-paced, high-scoring team.
John Salmons scored the most points (26) by a Buck this season, and even though it was less than half of what Brandon Jennings scored (55) against the Warriors last season, the right team won all the same.
And while the seven-point margin hardly qualifies as a third straight blowout win, the Bucks led from a Brandon Jennings jumper that made it 2-0 all the way to the end of the game, and if that marks the least dominant game of the past three, then know that this team played dominant basketball all week.
The Bucks didn't coast -- that connotes far too much smoothness -- but they did control the game and led by double-digits often. By halftime, the Warriors had 30 points while Salmons and Jennings had combined for 25 themselves, and the route was seemingly on. But Milwaukee's offense reached a degree of ineptitude that wouldn't quite allow that, and a late Reggie-Williams-charged run (Reggie Williams charged a run) kept the Warriors within single digits for the final ten minutes of regulation. The Bucks wilted in a 3-21 shooting fourth quarter, but two plays and two players stood out, both fitting.
Salmons was the offensive savior, dribbling around for really quite a while, zigging and zagging not all that quickly but typically deceptively, and hitting a patented (though not yet trademarked) step-back seven-foot jumper near the key to make it 77-72 with 50 seconds to go. Those were the last of his 26 points.
Then, Andrew Bogut blocked Vladimir Radmanovic's shot with 43 seconds remaining. That was the final one of his seven blocks.
Please feel free to not consult your television guide for a replay on ESPN Classic tomorrow morning.
John Salmons. For a game that had many thinking about early last season before the tip, this felt a lot more like late last season after the game as Salmons led the Bucks to victory as the only Buck to make more than half of his shots from the field (9-17). Twenty-six more reasons (and points) to believe that his early-season struggles heretofore were more the result of getting back into playing shape and form after returning from injury than due to a disinterest after getting paid.
Brandon Jennings. Another home game against the Warriors, another career high for Jennings. The 11 rebounds lacked the mesmerizing quality of the 55 points, but get this: He is virtually level with Rajon Rondo in terms of rebound rate this season, and now has a higher rebound rate than Rondo did last year. He trails only Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul (absolutely the best player in the NBA so far this season), Tyreke Evans, and Rondo among starting point guards in rebound rate.
Not the best shooting evening (6-19), but he got some of those back with four offensive boards, and with 19/6/11 with two steals and two blocks, he continues to go all in every time against the Warriors.
Andrew Bogut. This game was a defensive win, and Bogut was the best on that end -- a good thing, because he was a touch disappointing offensively. Then again, pretty much everyone was.
Andris Biedrins started the game ninth in the NBA in rebound rate (19.8), just head of Ben Wallace and Tim Duncan for comparison. And starting frontcourt mate Dan Gadzuric entered the game second overall in offensive rebound rate (19.5), and I know readers mentally prepare themselves for a punchline whenever Gadz is mentioned, but that is a real statistic, he does have a history of rebounding the basketball.
But Bogut just owned the glass, from start to finish, against multiple seven-footers or not. He wrapped up seven boards in the first period and finished with 17 rebounds, five offensive. He also stuffed a season-high seven shots and altered many more around the rim, making life tough for Stephen Curry (3-14 shooting) and company, and pretty much erasing Golden State's starting frontcourt of Andris Biedrins and Gadzuric, who combined for two points in 39 minutes.
6. The Warriors didn't exactly help themselves on a dreadful shooting night by getting to the line. They made just 6-10 free throws, which isn't all that surprising given they entered the game with the worst free throw differential in the NBA (-11.73). To put into perspective just how bad that is, the Bucks were easily the worst last year with a -10.82 free throw differential.
Milwaukee fared well at stripe, making 17-21.
33.7 % After Wednesday's win over the Hawks, I noted here that the Bucks won despite Atlanta shooting an awfully good 49.3 % from the field. The fact that Milwaukee won tonight despite shooting 33.7 % might even be more improbable.
30. Milwaukee gave up 30 first-half points against against a high-scoring team. Thirty points in a half, for a team. Carmelo, all by himself, scored 33 in a quarter a couple years ago.
Shutting down.... everyone. Before the game, Scott Skiles talked about wanting to limit Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, understanding their importance to Golden State's success and the relative limitations of the rest of Golden State's roster.
They (Curry and Ellis) are at 48 (points) a game roughly. If we can get them down around 40, obviously that gets us a long way towards us hopefully winning the game. No slight against their other guys, but those two guys are very explosive.
Turns out, they not only ended up limiting Ellis and Curry to a combined 31 points, they also severely limited everyone else too: Curry and Ellis were the only Golden State starters to score for the first 23 minutes of the game (Dorell Wright made a transition layup with just under a minute to play in the first half). So the Bucks were less than a minute from allowing only two opposing players to score in the first half.
LA. Three wins in a row and the Bucks are hitting a stride with the Lakers on tap and in town on Tuesday.
Onward, Forwards. After starting frequently at power forward last season, Luc Mbah a Moute is looking more and more comfortable starting at small forward, which shouldn't surprise considering his versatility. Mbah a Moute delivered a classic Mbah a Moute performance, notching a 6/12/3 line on 1-2 shooting while guarding most everyone, including Monta Ellis.
And Drew Gooden was only 3-8 on jumpers, but aside from that he was quite good, pulling in six offensive rebounds (hurray, lots of missed shots, team), played mostly stout defense, finished with 16 points, and made some nice interior passes.
One particularly encouraging pass was a brilliant no-look to Bogut in the halfcourt offense, with whom he is beginning to show some on-court chemistry. Gooden also made the play of the night with a slam dunk off a rebound in the third quarter.
Not much in reserve. In their first matchup since swapping Corey Maggette for Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric, the Warriors actually received more (if ever so slightly and ever so little) production than the Bucks from their returns. Bell and Gadzuric combined to score four points on 2-5 shooting along with five rebounds and an assist. Meanwhile, Maggette followed his best game as a Buck with his worst game as a Buck. Maggette shot 1-6 from the field (missing all four jumpers), didn't attempt a free throw for the first time this season (previous season low was four free throw attempts), and neglected to gather a rebound in 14 minutes, setting the pace for a collective no-show by the entire bench. Sadly, Maggette's 1-6 effort made for the best shooting percentage (.166) among the reserves.
Keyon Dooling (0-5) and Ersan Ilyasova (0-6) missed from everywhere on the floor, Earl Boykins missed his only shot and turned the ball over twice in less than five minutes, and Jon Brockman took two more charges, and that is great, but he entered the game with the ninth worst turnover rate (22.52) in the NBA, and he turned it over twice in eight minutes tonight, so he either needs to stop coughing the ball up or also contribute in another area.
In all, four points on 1-18 (.555) shooting from the bench.
The disappearance of Turk Nowitzki. One game after the Return of Turk Nowitzki, Ersan Ilyasova lost the touch, missing all six shots and both three-pointers.
Not being able to score against Radmanovich, et cetera. The Warriors don't seem to be as bad defensively as they have been in recent years, but they aren't yet good on that end either. So while it was fantastic to shut down one of the better offenses in basketball, it was almost as disappointing to not score against one of the poorer defensive teams in basketball. Namely, the Bucks often failed to create or finish in the paint within the half court offense. They scored 32 points in the paint, but excluding the 4-5 conversion rate on fast breaks, they only made 12-36 (.333) in the paint.
We had great difficult posting up Radmanovich. Nothing against him, but he is not a defensive center. They had him out there quite a bit, and we tried to go down there, but we just couldn't get anything... Our defense saved us tonight, no question.
Bogut in particular made precious few power moves to the basket en route to nine points on 12 shots from the field and two free throw attempts (both missed), and Drew Gooden was really the only Buck to make an offensive presence in the paint.