No one will ever confuse the Bucks or Bobcats for offensive juggernauts, but there's one thing that holds true for all NBA offenses: give them enough chances and they'll score...eventually. You won't have to remind the Bucks after yet another nail-biting road loss, as they failed to grab a defensive rebound in the final three minutes of regulation and then all five minutes of overtime en route to a second heartbreaking loss in three nights.
Though more defensive in tone, most of the game had a similar flow to the Bucks' loss Wednesday night in Cleveland--neither team letting their guard down for more than a minute at a time, with John Salmons (28 pts/5 reb/5 ast) and Andrew Bogut (19 pts/12 reb/7 blk) leading the Bucks' efforts while the rest of the deer put very little fear into their opponents. Carlos Delfino did return to score 14 points, but he needed 14 shots and didn't do much else in his 41 minutes of action. And aside from those three, the remaining Bucks managed just 25 points on 33 shots. Stephen Jackson (32 points on 28 shots) got similarly little help from his Charlotte mates--Raymond Felton (12 pts on 4/15 shooting) was the only other Bob to score more than seven points--but all the 50/50 balls seemed to go Charlotte's way.
Despite 33% shooting in the first quarter, the Bucks managed to come away leading by two thanks to six offensive boards and some fairly stingy defense of their own. But like in Cleveland, the second quarter turned into a hackfest that underscored why the Bucks are last in the league in opponent free throw rate. The Bobs started attacking the paint at every opportunity and were rewarded with 19 foul shots in the second period alone, though they helped the Bucks out by missing seven freebies in the first half alone. Stephen Jackson was the prime suspect, scoring 21 in the half including 6/7 from the stripe. Fortunately, the Bobcats couldn't otherwise make a shot for most of the period, though a six point Bucks lead was trimmed to just one in the final minute when D.J. Augustin buried a three and Felton knifed past Jennings for a layup.
Salmons was back at his best in the third, scoring 11 including a tying three at the horn, but the Bucks would have been ahead if not for a late Bob run that coincided with Bogut going to the bench with just over two minutes remaining. Bogut scored the first four points of the fourth, but the Bucks then seemed to lose it on offense--something that tends to happen when teams play the Bobs. Bogut was called for a questionable offensive foul to kick off a streak of four straight possessions with a turnover, as the Bucks struggled to even get a shot. Salmons was stripped to start a Bobcat 4-on-1 fast break, then threw the ball out of bounds trying to find Bogut deep in the paint. And to cap it off, Stackhouse then threw it away on the next possession.
Fortunately the Bucks were playing some defense of their own, as Bogut blocked three shots in the fourth and took a charge on Jackson to boot. Still, a three by Jackson had the Bobs playing from the front in the final minutes, and the Bucks needed a clutch three from Salmons and some good defense on Raymond Felton in the final ten seconds to force overtime.
The Bucks twice took a lead in the extra frame, but Tyson Chandler slammed home a putback and Felton made two free throws after Diaw tracked down Jackson's miss. Jackson ripped the tie-breaking three with 52 seconds left, and Salmons' jumper with 41 seconds remaining was as close as the Bucks would get. After some good defense on Jackson, neither Jennings nor Mbah a Moute could track down a loose ball near midcourt, with Luc instead getting whistled for a foul in the scramble. Most importantly, that gave the Bobs a semi-fresh 14 seconds on the shot clock with only 18.5 seconds remaining and put Scott Skiles in the awkward position of having to decide if he would foul or play for the stop. He opted for the latter and the Bucks managed to force a Felton miss--but once again they couldn't grab the board. Bogut had been forced to help on Felton and challenge the shot, allowing Chandler the chance to backtap the ball to midcourt as time expired.
John Salmons: 47 min, 28 pts, 12/22 fg, 2/4 threes, 2/2 ft, 5 reb, 5 ast, 3 to, 2 stl, 1 bs
Even with Jackson shadowing him most of the game, Salmons put in another exceptional all-around night of work. He had less luck down the stretch, but his only three points of the final quarter fittingly came on a well-defended three with 10 seconds left that tied the game at 80. Before that he ran Jackson ragged with his usual combination of pull-ups and corkscrewing finishes around the hoop, while also tying Brandon Jennings with a team-high five assists. He also saw plenty of time guarding Gerald Wallace--Skiles opted to matchup Luc Mbah a Moute with Jackson--and helped limit the Bobs' all-star to just five points on six shots.
Andrew Bogut: 42 min, 19 pts, 8/16 fg, 3/6 ft, 12 reb, 7 blk, 1 stl, 2 to
Bogut was a bit off early on--2/7 fg and 1/4 ft in the first quarter--but he got better as the game went on, notably as the last line of defense. Despite foul trouble, he stayed aggressive on defense and showed again why he deserves some all-defensive team respect. Tyson Chandler and Theo Ratliff generally played him one-on-one but did well denying him deep catches, though he still managed to make six of his last nine shots.
Ersan Ilyasova: 18 minutes, 7 pts, 3/7 fg, 1/3 threes, 7 reb
Ilyasova offered a nice spark in the first half but barely played in the second. That was largely because Skiles used Mbah a Moute on Jackson and didn't seem willing to play Ilyasova ahead of Delfino against Boris Diaw. In retrospect that might have been a mistake, as Ilyasova's nose for the ball would have been rather useful on the boards--it couldn't have been any worse, could it?
8:09. It probably seems kind of surprising that Charlotte had only one more offensive rebound than the Bucks (16-15), probably because the Bucks didn't have a single defensive rebound in the final eight minutes of the game. The Bobcats grabbed eight offensive rebounds in that span, with nine of their final 14 points coming off second chances.
37.5%. Both teams lived up to their billing defensively, as the Bucks held Charlotte below 38% from the field.
7. Bogut blocked a career-high seven shots, a couple of them coming late in regulation while playing with five fouls. Beastly.
Two-man game. Don't blame the Bucks' modest losing streak on Bogut and Salmons. Salmons has dropped 28 points and at least five boards and five assists in both games while Bogut has dropped 19/12 in both. Sometimes it seems like everyone else on the court gets caught standing around a bit on offense, but it's tough to complain about consistency from the Bucks' two best players (yes, Salmons is easily better than Jennings at this point).
Every night. For a team that hasn't been great on the road, the Bucks sure come play. They haven't lost a road game by more than eight points in two months--February 2 in Miami. While the Bobs seemed to get all the loose balls down the stretch, I hesitate to blame it on a lack of effort on the Bucks' part.
No rebounds, no win. Do I really to explain this one?
Point guards. Felton and D.J. Augustin didn't light it up either, but the Bucks got below average nights from both Jennings (3/12 fg, 6 pts, 5 ast, 4 to) and Luke Ridnour (2/7 fg, 5 pts, 3 ast). A lot of that has to do with the Bobs' terrific defense--Jennings in particular had precious few open looks--but it's generally been rare that both guys lay an egg on the same night.
Sixth. With Miami's win OT win in Indiana, the Bucks dropped a half game behind the Heat for the fifth spot in the East. They also saw their lead over the 7th seeded Bobs drop to just one game, though they do still have the tiebreaker.