Winning in Charlotte may no longer feel like something worth celebrating, but that didn't make it any less essential for the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
With the surging Knicks laying an egg in Toronto, the Bucks took care of business with a 112-92 thrashing of the tanking Bobcats, using their now standard balanced and unselfish attack to exact a measure of revenge for their disappointing opening night loss in Charlotte back in December. Six Bucks scored between 12 and 20 points, with reserves Mike Dunleavy (6/8 fg, 15 pts) and Luc Mbah a Moute (8/12 fg, 20 pts, 8 rebs) combining with Ersan Ilyasova (6/8 fg, 15 pts, 8 rebs) to shoot 71% from the floor as the Bucks made 53% overall as a team. Sharing, moving, passing, working--it's just a fun thing to watch.
Statistically, points in the paint told the story of the game: Milwaukee picked apart the Bobcats in the paint to the tune of a whopping 72-34 advantage and racked up another 31 assists on the evening, as the Bobcats offered little resistance down low. With his team playing the second in a stretch of three games in three nights, Scott Skiles was also able to rest Jennings, Ellis, Gooden and Ilyasova for the entire fourth quarter, which will hopefully pay dividends on Saturday when the Bucks host the Pacers.
Drew Gooden also bounced back from his clunker against Boston with 14 points, 12 boards and four assists--amazing how he's now always good for at east four dimes every night--while another highly effective night from Beno Udrih (9 pts on 6 shots, 8 ast, 22 min) helped offset mediocre outings from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Ellis struggled to handle the much bigger Gerald Henderson (29 points on 19 shots) defensively, though Jennings (and his help) fared better against D.J. Augustin. The former Texas guard has made a habit of lighting up Jennings (and vice versa) over the past year, but Augustin was invisible tonight (21 min, 0 pts, 0/2 shots) while Kemba Walker didn't make enough shots (4/12 fg) to really worry the Bucks.
Ersan Ilyasova. Twenty-four hours after a solid double-double against the Celtics, it was another efficient night for the Turk, who made all four of his shots in the paint, 1/2 from three and 1/2 on long twos for 15 points in just 22 minutes.
Luc Mbah a Moute. Make it three very good games out of five for Luc. Knee tendinitis has made it a stop-start season for the Prince, but he's looked more energized since returning over a week ago and has been a major beneficiary of the Bucks' playmaking by committee approach. Mbah a Moute missed one jump shot and otherwise stuck to his bread and butter, working into openings around the hoop and hitting 8/11 shots all inside the paint. He's not really creating shots--though he did have a nice spinning baseline hook out of a post look in the second--but with teammates like this he doesn't have to.
Mike Dunleavy. We probably need to expand this section to "Six Bucks" at this point, but let's show some for Dunleavy after yet another stabilizing night off the bench. Nothing flashy, just buckets and ball movement. Don't you feel better when Dunleavy is in the game?
31. After seeing their 30+ assist streak snapped last night, the Bucks started a new one with 31 dimes. Four players totaled at least four assists with Beno Udrih leading the way with eight in just 22 minutes. He's now averagng a career-best 8.1 assist per 40 minutes.
67%. The Bucks bench scored exactly half of the team's 112 points while shooting a blistering 67% from the field. Damn.
29. Another great night against the Bucks for Henderson, who had the whole package working against Ellis--jumpers, off the ball, a couple looks in the post.
Bucks basketball. I love that I can now call a 112-point night with 53% shooting and 31 assists a classic example of Bucks basketball. They're now 9th in offensive efficiency.
Reserves. The box score once again looked very European for the Bucks--some of their best performances were off the bench and no one played a ton of minutes, with Delfino the only player to crack 30 minutes.
Business Travel. It took the Bucks about a quarter to get their bearings, but it's tough to complain about the Bucks' road performances these days. The Bucks are an impressive 11-7 on the road since starting the season with eight consecutive losses, and they've now beaten three straight road opponents by 20+ points.
Quiet backcourt. Jennings and Ellis weren't bad, but they looked very ordinary on a night where their teammates made few mistakes. On a positive note: Jennings distributed better than his four assists would suggest and Ellis continues to have no problem getting into the lane--slashing from the right wing he's either going to get a good look at his floater or all the way to the rim. But the overall productivity wasn't really there tonight.