The Milwaukee Bucks started slowly on Friday night against the Washington Wizards, but a strong surge from their bench unit helped them pull out a 101-91 road win. The Wizards and the Bucks entered the action with the No. 1 and No. 2 bench units in the NBA (in terms of pts/gm), but Milwaukee's reserves severely outplayed the Wizards' subs, and that is what turned the tide in the game.
Prior to the game, something odd happened: the broadcast crew for the Wizards went out of their way to point that the Bucks looked devoid of energy during warmups. I don't consider intensity a part of any NBA warmup routine, but these guys see opponents go through those motions 82 times per year and they thought it was worth mentioning. Then Milwaukee stumbled out of the blocks and let Washington build a 12-0 lead -- including eight quick points in transition off Bucks misses and turnovers.
Brandon Jennings (12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, seven assists, six turnovers, one ejection(!)) and Monta Ellis (22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, five assists, six turnovers) combined for eight assists in the first-quarter as Milwaukee emerged from that slow start and finished with a two-point lead after 12 minutes of play. Ersan Ilyasova showed some signs of life as he drilled two early triples, but the vibe didn't last and he finished with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and two rebounds. Eventually those three guys will have to get things going on the same night and at the same time...for now we all wait with baited breath.
Beno Udrih and the bench unit took over in the second period and scored 18 of their first 26 points in the painted area on a crisp 9-of-11 shooting in that zone. The "NBA Cares Hoops for Troops" program is happening for weekend games this week, and Marquis Daniels chose to honor service members with a star-spangled headband that made him look like a war movie extra. He also apparently chose to show his appreciation for the troops by hounding Washington ballhandlers on the perimeter and tossing in six points as part of his best effort of the season.
Fits of sloppy execution plagued both teams throughout the night and led to multiple 8-0 type runs that made the game feel like a tug-of-war competition where both contestants were required to grease their hands prior to engagement. Neither the Bucks nor the Wizards ever had a strong grip on the game -- even though the Bucks led for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Nine lead changes and seven ties aren't uncommon in an NBA game, but the 41 combined turnovers (21 by the Bucks, 20 by the Wizards) are what made every lead feel tenuous. Both teams capitalized on those miscues in an impressive fashion. Milwaukee scored 24 points on 10-of-10 shooting on the fast break, and Washington added 24 point of their own on 9-of-12 shooting on the run. For those scoring at home, the Bucks and Wizards combined to convert 86.3 percent of shot attempts on fast breaks. Props go out to Bradley Beal (22 points on 14 shots) and Trevor Ariza (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists) for executing fairly well in those situations for the Wizards.
Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh once again terrorized the opposition with their combined paint presence on defense. Washington only converted 14-of-30 attempts in the paint for 28 points, while Milwaukee responded with 44 points in the paint on 22-of-34 shooting.
The Bucks' bench deserves special recognition. Dunleavy and Sanders both contributed 13 points and nine rebounds -- albeit in very different ways -- while Beno Udrih added eight points and three assists, Udoh scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and Daniels wore an interesting headband that didn't overshadow his effort. In sum, the bench players for Milwaukee scored 49 points, everyone shot at least 50 percent from the field and all members earned a +/- differential of at least +10. Gotta love the bench mob.
The Wizards couldn't get many good shots in the paint against the backups, and eventually their 4-for-18 shooting from beyond the arc doomed any chance for a comeback. Beal looked impressive and he earned eight free throw attempts -- as many as Jennings and Ellis combined -- while Kevin Seraphin (1-for-5 shooting, two turnovers) and A.J. Price (4-for-12 shooting, three turnovers) dragged down the offense at least a bit.
While the Bucks worked to run down the clock at the end of the game, Monta Ellis got fouled hard on a breakaway and a small scuffle broke out. Brandon Jennings worked his way into the situation and shoved Bradley Beal in the back. Jennings got puffy-chested after the shove, and when the officials reviewed the play he was ejected. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the league office got on the horn and had a talk with him in the next few days.
Beal picked up a flagrant type-2 foul for his aerial assault on Ellis, and he was also ejected from the action. You can thank Mike Dunleavy for keeping Larry Sanders far enough away from the action to stay out of trouble.
At that point it was easy to forget that the Bucks were in the final stages of icing a 101-91 road win. Nevertheless, Milwaukee did in fact secure the win and move to 3-1 on the season. Take road wins in the NBA any way you can get them; that's something I learned long ago.
Bullets Forever has provided a collection of quotes from Ellis, Jennings and Beal about the entire incident:
On the foul:
- Beal: "I went for the ball."
- Jennings: "With 30-some seconds left, I know a team never wants to give up an easy basket, but in that type of situation I feel like you should just wrap the guy up instead of just pushing him or fouling him once he's in the air."
- Ellis: "He just fouled me hard."
On Jennings's reaction:
- Beal: "I guess [Jennings] was defending his teammate, I guess, so he came up and pushed me. It's just all part of basketball. It gets physical. I mean, it is what it is. I just have to deal with it."
- Jennings: "I was just trying to protect my teammate. I didn't think I was going to get kicked out for it.... when you see a nasty fall, your first [instinct] is 'Watch out, everyone get out of the way.'"
- Ellis: "That's what a teammate is supposed to do. It was a great job. That's what we gotta do. We gotta make our mark. If somebody foul us like that, we gotta react."
Note: Drew Gooden is healthy, but he was listed as inactive for the game -- that's the first time he's been a healthy scratch in his 11-year NBA career.
Monta Ellis - 22 points, 8/15 FGs, 5 assists, 6 turnovers
Larry Sanders - 13 points, 4/7 FGs, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks
Mike Dunleavy - 13 points, 5/10 FGs, 9 rebounds, 3 assists
I covered the turnovers above, so the bad things that stuck out to me were the pronunciations of names for certain Bucks players coming from the Wizards' TV team. I heard different references for the same player throughout the night, but these ones popped up enough times for me to notice
The starters didn't do much to impress me tonight 52 points on 20-for-44 shooting, three offensive rebounds, 13 turnovers and 13 assists as a unit isn't going to get it done on many nights. Thank goodness John Wall and Nene couldn't suit up for the Wizards.
Tobias Harris disappeared again. He played 15 minutes, scored five points and committed four fouls.
Samuel Dalembert kept his streak of sleepy performances alive in 2012. Two points and six rebounds (one offensive) is all he managed to contribute, and frankly he didn't deserve more than the 14 minutes that Skiles put him on the court.