MILWAUKEE -- Four wins against the Pacers this season.
None of them particularly enchanting or inspiring, and this one certainly held to that form. A bit cruel to not have this one televised locally with the team on such a scorching run of basketball, but the Bucks and Pacers don't play the prettiest brand of basketball when they get together.
Even when it seemed like the Bucks could finally cruise to a win, they couldn't. Up by double-digits for almost the entire second half, Milwaukee turned on cruise control, and that was the problem, as they sputtered and stalled. The Pacers aren't much to begin with, and they weren't even on their game today, but they still came back and almost stole this one.
Neither team shot well, Indiana's offense was as bad as advertised through three quarters, and the Bucks turned a 16-point lead into a 92-88 ballgame with three minutes to go. The details are grim, and they include Solomon Jones, Brandon Rush, and Danny Granger giving it to Milwaukee's backups, starters, anyone.
Milwaukee made a few plays at the end, but they mostly had the clock run out in time. A.J. Price (as though the wins and losses don't matter at this point) got a technical and gave Milwaukee a point right when everything was going for his team down 91-86, and the Bucks ironically finished it off at the free throw line, where the Pacers spent just about the entire day.
Jerry Stackhouse (the fifth different leading scorer in a row) stepped up because someone always does during this run that has outgrown "nice" and "little." Some of the wins have been tremendous, some are just wins.
This was just a win, but it was. And it's not easy beating the same team four times. The Bucks are going to find that out all over again in about a month against an opponent much stronger than the Pacers.
Jerry Stackhouse. After a quiet, five-point night against Utah, Stack came back and masked his team's bad offensive start with a trio of three pointers in the first half that gave the Bucks an eight-point lead at halftime.
His outside shooting was really a story of the game -- without him making 4-6 from deep the Bucks would have an epically disappointing loss on their hands. But Jerry was on from outside, and he went inside went necessary: Early in the fourth quarter, he contorted through the lane and hung in the air for a gorgeous layup in traffic.
Team-high 20 points, the five turnovers are too many, but a very strong game overall.
Andrew Bogut. Following three smashing games against the Pacers, Bogut struggled from the onset in this one, making 1-6 from the field in the first quarter and just 2-10 going into the half.
And in the end, he finished with 15/12/3, three more blocks, and zero turnovers. The three blocks are pretty standard, you notice them like you notice seven rebounds from Ersan Ilyasova -- because that is an average day at work now.
In the (rather recent) past, when Bogut was off, he was off. Now when the Aussie is off, he is still one of the better players in the game. That's a telltale sign of a pretty good player becoming a very good one.
At least 12 points in 17 of the past 18 games for Bogut. Not surprisingly, 15 wins in those 18 games.
Luke Ridnour. For the first time this season, for the first time in his almost three seasons with the Bucks, Ridnour went scoreless in consecutive games, against the Celtics and Jazz. One of the real stars of the team of the first few months was devolving into barely a rotation player -- so it's good to have you back, Luke.
Nothing overwhelming, but 13 points on 5/8 shooting and connecting on his only three point attempt is reminiscent of his early-season success.
I thought he was very sharp tonight.
1. Indiana pulled down just one offensive rebound in the first half despite missing 24 shots in the first 24 minutes. They finished the game with six offensive boards, compared to 14 for Milwaukee.
50 %. The Bucks made 8-16 threes, and they needed them.
40-20. Milwaukee doubled up Indiana inside, scoring 40 points in the paint compared to 20 for the Pacers.
We've got backup. The Bucks have won recently more in spite of the bench, but the reserves returned to form this afternoon. Aside from Ilyasova, no one outside the starting five did much of anything in wins over Cleveland, Boston, and Utah. And while Ersan was back at it again, much of the second line gave the Bucks a much-needed jolt on Sunday afternoon.
The reserves scored the first 18 points of the second quarter, extending the lead from a slim four to a fat 11 point cushion that they held onto ever-so-narrowly throughout the rest of the game. Stackhouse was the most money, dropping 11 points in the first half and nine more in the secnod, and it was wonderful to see Luke Ridnour and Kurt Thomas contribute, just like old times.
Milwaukee's backups scored 46 points compared to 17 for Indiana's reserves.
D = T. Since coming home from the nation's capitol after annihilating the Wizards on March 5, the Bucks swept a four-game homestand.
And in each of those games, the visiting team has racked up at least one technical. Against Cleveland, it was Anderson Varejao, then Glen Davis for Boston, a couple in a row kicked out Utah's Carlos Boozer, and coach Jim O'Brien and then A.J. Price (particularly bad timing late in the fourth) both earned technicals for dissent today.
And the reason isn't that the Bucks are getting all of the calls. Rather, this has everything to do with how the Bucks are frustrating opponents, mostly on the defensive end.
The BC is not a fun place for opponents to play. Not when the home team hasn't lost there in what will be over a month, as they hit the road this week. Last BC loss? March 17 against Houston. And if that feels like a long time ago, that makes sense.
Just win. After all the physical and emotioinal energy expended in the last three wins, it probably wasn't easy getting up for the Pacers. Or getting up at noon. After daylight saving cut an hour off. And, indeed, it didn't look like they got up for the game, but they got the win.
Brandon Jennings, after the game:
I haven't played this early in the morning since an AAU basketball game, and that was about three years ago. That's when I was about 16 or 17 so I had a lot of energy. Now, I was a little sluggish getting up this morning.
The fourth. Milwaukee was well on its way to holding a sixth straight opponent under 90 points when they started the final quarter with a 76-62 lead. But just as both teams appared reading to admit the game was over, it all unraveled.
Soloman Jones and Brandon Rush led the comeback, and that is not a promising start to a sentence. Now, it got to the point where Skiles had to re-insert Bogut and Jennings into the game with over four minutes left when it looked like they would be able to rest the rest of the way.
But don't blame this one on the bench -- the Bucks had a nice lead in the first place largely thanks to its reserves. And after Bogut and Jennings returned, the Pacers still outscored them by two, so it's not like they closed it out that gracefully.
32 in the fourth for Indy. Just an uneasy way to finish such a tremendous run of basketball at home before the Bucks take to the road this week.
Solomon Jones. Big bad Solomon Jones was good, which was bad for the Bucks. Sort of like letting Earl Boykins beat you over and over, except seventeen times larger, Milwaukee allowed the seldom-used Jones to make the most of seven fourth quarter minutes.
Jones came into the game with 7:13 to go in regulation and the Pacers down by 14 points. And from that point on, he was the best player on the floor, I know most of you didn't get to watch the game, but he really was it. Jones was equally punishing on both ends of the court and he scored nine points, had a huge steal, and pulled down three offensive rebounds in a shockingly effective run. Good thing Roy Hibbert was out there for 29 minutes.
Free throw game. I hyped Milwaukee's free throw form in the preview, and TheJay posted an updated look at the Bucks losing the free throw battle this season just a couple minutes before tip-off. And free throws certainly proved to be a theme of the day, but not in a good way.
The Pacers shot 33-36 from the free throw line, while the Bucks made 18-24. Indiana is a terrible offensive team, and just about the only way they were able to hang was at the line. Danny Granger is an awfully tough cover, and he earned 11-11 at the stripe, but 36 attempts overall is just inexcusable. The Bucks have been good defensively from the start, but they have only been moving up as their foul-happy play has been toned down. Too many easy points.