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Bucks 80, Cavs 66: Sanders, Washington and Williams get it done

Call me a good luck charm.

Flight delays prevented me from watching the Bucks' fourth straight defeat on Friday night, but I was able to be in the building for the sparsely-attended finale against the J.J. Hickson-less Cavaliers. And if you're into meaningless victories, then the good news is the Bucks finally got one. 

The Bucks started well for the second straight game, with Larry Sanders (who else?) leading the way with a nice inside-out showing in the first quarter. After getting outworked by Miami on friday, the Bucks looked the more energetic bunch after a day off, and it showed immediately. Sanders, Tiny Gallon and Deron Washington all blocked shots in the first two minutes, setting the tone for a game the Bucks controlled from the outset.

Aside from the expected quality from Sanders, Sean Williams (16 and 10) and Deron Washington (17 pts) finished off solid weeks to help pace the Bucks to victory. The guards were also less of a liability, as they made up for a lack of scoring with better ball movement. Sun Yue and Dominic James each had five assists and only two turnovers combined. Hit the jump for more thoughts on Sanders, Gallon, and Williams.      

Larry Sanders - 33 min, 7/11 fg, 0/2 threes, 3/5 ft, 17 pts, 5 rebs, 3 blk, 0 to, 2 pf
Sanders again started well offensively, flashing his touch and quick hops on his way to a 12 point first half. He started the game by facing up his man on the left block, effortlessly using a step-back dribble between his legs to set up a 17-foot jumper that had everyone thinking...whoa. Raw is often a euphemism for "not good" but with Sanders it correctly implies some real-but-not-yet-fully-realized talent. He hit an open jumper shortly thereafter and added an 8-foot post turnaround in the second quarter, turning to his right in the lane and using a high release to finish despite a foul. Two tidy finishes around the cup and we had seen Sanders' complete arsenal.

Sanders was less involved in the second half, taking a "who cares, it's summer league" approach in chucking up a pair of open threes with the Bucks comfortably ahead. But he managed to get inside a couple more times when Sun Yue found him for an alley-oop and (if I recall correctly) Dominic James also gave him a nice lofted pass inside that he finished with ease. He had a couple awkward ball-handling adventures in the open court, but otherwise not much to complain about. He wasn't challenged much defensively with J.J. Hickson in street clothes, and in general we didn't see Sanders forced to play much post defense all week, allowing him to focus on roaming for shot-blocking chances. To be continued.

Aside from his speculative shot selection, the only downside you could nitpick was Sanders' rebounding, attributable mostly to his lack of weight. His length and activity make up for a lot--his 8.4 rpg is certainly respectable--but all you have to do is watch Sanders when a shot goes up to see how his wiry frame limits him somewhat. That wasn't lost on Sanders after the game. 

"These guys are really strong, one through five.  And they're really fast.  The speed is different at times...running down the court if you're not looking, the ball's going to be coming over your head for a dunk. So you always have to be alert."

Sean Williams - 20 min,5/7 fg, 6/8 ft, 16 pts, 10 reb, 9 pf, 5 to
No one's ever questioned Williams' talent, and he showed off a fair bit of polish this week as well, showing good range on his mid-range jumper and reasonable comfort operating out of the post. His effort was there as well this week, so hopefully he's realized that he can't afford to be a knucklehead if he wants a full-time gig in the NBA. Ironically the one thing we didn't see was his shot-blocking (two blocks in five games), though at this point that's probably the last thing you'd question with him. I don't expect him to end up with the Bucks, as he's a bit undersized for the five and the Bucks already have Sanders and Drew Gooden who fill that description.

Tiny Gallon - 23 min, 3/10 fg, 0/1 threes, 2/2 ft, 9 rebs, 3 blk, 6 pf, 2 to
We've said it all week, but today's game reaffirmed that Gallon is still a ways from being a guy you'd feel comfortable throwing into your regular rotation. I certainly wouldn't give up on him, either, as he's only 19 and has some real basketball skills and an uncommon combination of size and agility. I'm not going to claim he's fast, but he's nimble for his size. His best defensive sequence of the week may have been in the third quarter when he showed hard on a P&R, hustled back to recover and then rotated back to block a guard's drive.  I wouldn't call him a shot-blocker, but his three swats today were an encouraging sign for a guy who carries a lot of weight.

Granted, his conditioning wouldn't be a big problem if he's just an 8-10 minute type, but it's still concerning that he often looks to be laboring as he chugs up and down the court. He had months to prepare for the draft and apparently still showed up looking out of shape last week for the first week of workouts. It sounds like that didn't endear him to the coaching staff, but the Bucks also know he's a long-term project. He obviously needs to work more to be in game shape than someone like Sanders, but he shouldn't be lacking in motivation either. 

As far as thinking the game, it's also a work in progress. "Tiny!" seemed to be the most common thing yelled by the Bucks' bench all day, though it was encouraging to see him focusing more on his post game than constantly floating out to the perimeter all game. He did completely brick one open three, but otherwise he was trying to get things going closer to the hoop. When you're 300 pounds, that's how it should be.