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Bucks 113, Pistons 97: Drew Gooden Makes Love To Mid-Range

It was a game the Bucks had to win, and after six minutes they responded by grabbing no rebounds and allowing the Pistons to score 16 points. Another 30-point opponent first quarter? A final death knell to their playoff aspirations?

Don't worry, it got better.

Putting their Wednesday disappointment behind them, the Bucks put their defense-shredding, ball-moving, up-tempo style to good use against yet another sub-.500 opponent, running the Pistons ragged over the game's final 42 minutes and cruising to another double-digit road win. The Bucks' defense wasn't exactly suffocating (or...good), but the normally slow-paced Pistons couldn't quite keep up and were caught ball-watching, and Drew Gooden jump-shot-watching, too often to keep up.

Gooden sank 9/13 jumpers from mid-range en route to 26 points (12/18 fg) and eight assists--basically, every time Gooden touched the ball he either sunk a jumper shot (often in P&R with Brandon Jennings) or found a cutting Bucks teammate, with six of his eight assists leading to layups. Just fun stuff to watch. Gooden of course had plenty of support, with Jennings co-headlining behind another efficient shooting night (8/14 fg, 20 points) and excellent distribution (10 assists, one turnover). And for once it was the Bucks' starters who got the job done, combining for 94 of the Bucks' 113 points while helping put the game away early in the third quarter with a 22-7 run (10/14 fg, all of them assisted) that featured all five starters both scoring and assisting.

Combined with New Jersey's road win in Philadelphia, the Bucks moved to within two games of the Sixers, now even record-wise with the Knicks (31-28), who clobbered the Wizards on the road. Philly visits the BC in the week's final season and have five of their last seven on the road, so the Bucks' primary target would clearly seem to be Doug Collins' fading bunch. But first the Bucks have to keep taking care of their own business, which continues tonight with a critical home game against the Pacers.