Two years ago in Milwaukee, Jrue (21) and Brandon (3) were throwing each other alley-oops
North/South. Back on January 27, the Sixers came to town in what was then a battle of playoff outsiders: the Bucks were 18-25, Philly 15-29. Since then? The Bucks are 21-5, including 11-2 at home and a downright shocking 10-3 on the road, launching them to fifth in the East. Meanwhile, Philly has barely been treading water at 9-18 while continuing to be slightly better on the road (5-9 since Jan 27, 13-23 overall) than at home (4-9, 11-24).
Back in January the Bucks edged the Sixers by just a 91-88 margin, relying on a late Jennings runner and point-blank miss from Elton Brand to pull out the win. Of late the Bucks have been similarly dramatic, with the Bucks' last eight games all decided by eight points or less. Still, don't call the Bucks lucky: on the season they're still just 7-10 in games decided by three points or less and 3-5 in OT games.
The Flying Fish. Following his 32-point outburst against Atlanta, John Salmons is now averaging 26.5 ppg over his last four and 20.3 ppg since being acquired from Chicago. In case you were curious, only some dude named Kareem and Terry Cummings scored more in their first 17 games as a Buck than Salmons (h/t TheJay)--not bad for a guy the Bulls were desperate to get off their hands.
Basically, Salmons is doing what we always hoped Michael Redd would do: create shots, score efficiently, play defense, and not throw the rest of the offense off-kilter. Before his injuries, Redd definitely delivered the first two of those things consistently, but the latter two? Eh, not so much. And the fact that Salmons costs a third of what Redd does? Well that might be the best part.
Overall, the Bucks have now won 15 of 17 with Salmons on board, and not surprisingly, their effectiveness with Salmons on the court has been rather remarkable. In just under 650 minutes as a Buck, Salmons' +/- is an excellent +165, or over 12 pts/48 minutes. Yeah, that works.
On Holiday. One of the few bright spots of late for Sixers fans has been the emergence of 17th overall pick Jrue Holiday, whom the Bucks nearly selected over Brandon Jennings at the ten spot. With Allen Iverson out of the picture, the 19-year old is averaging nearly 36 mpg this month and has responded with solid numbers--13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 4.5 rpg on .496/.500/.714 shooting. Nothing mind-boggling, especially given he's also turning it over 2.9 times per game and Philly's now dropped 11 of 13 this month. But Holiday's marksmanship and point guard development represent major progress for the youngest player in the NBA. The numbers also don't reflect his tremendous defensive potential--Dave Babcock didn't have much doubt about that when Holiday worked out for the Bucks in June.
Meanwhile, a clunker against Atlanta and a quiet night in Denver have brought Brandon Jennings' March stats back down to earth: 14.5 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.7 rpg, and 2.7 turnovers on .394/.462/.840 shooting. Thankfully, the Bucks still have Luke Ridnour around to fill in when Jennings' game goes south. After shooting a more historically Ridnour-ian 43.9% and 42.3% in January and February, Luke's stepped up a number of times this month, most notably in Monday's win over Atlanta. Ridnour handed out eight assists and scored 18 on 7/9 shooting from the field, upping his fg% this month to 51.7%.
Big guns playing small. Perhaps the most impressive/confounding/modestly worrying aspect of the Bucks' wins over Denver and Atlanta? How little production they got from Bogut and Jennings. The two combined for just 11 points in each of the two games, with Bogut scoring two and Jennings nine in Denver and then the reverse totals against Atlanta. It's less surprising from Jennings, who's been a high volatility scorer all season--as his three point shot goes, so goes the little guy's scoring. And when he's afraid to shoot there just isn't much reason to play him over Ridnour. There, I said it.
Bogut meanwhile had foul trouble in Denver and faced regular double-teaming against the Hawks, but the reality is he also didn't play well apart from those extenuating circumstances. The two straight single digit games represented the first time he'd been held under ten in back-to-back games since it happened in three straight from December 2-6. Will Wednesday be his bounce back game? Hopefully, but don't forget that Sammy Dalembert has generally given Bogut problems over the years, and this season has been no exception. Bogut scored just eight points on nine shots in the season opening loss in Philly and managed a modest 11 on 3/9 shooting in the January game at the BC.
Trade revisited. Former Buck Jodie Meeks hasn't gotten much opportunity to prove himself since the deadline deal that sent him to Philly, having logged just 44 minutes and shooting an Ivey-esque 4/19 from the field in the last month. Meanwhile, Francisco Elson still hasn't played following hernia surgery almost two months ago, but I suppose that's not exactly hurting the Sixers on the court (like, say Primoz Brezec might). As for the Sixers' 2nd round pick which the Bucks got in the deal, Philly's seventh-worst record in the league currently has the Bucks picking at #37 in the second round, in addition to their own pick (currently 48th). Considering the non-impact of the four players in the deal, the pick is probably the only thing worth paying attention to at this point.