Hello again, friends. It’s been far too long. I’ve missed interacting with you all, as in a perfect world, we’d be discussing the Bucks and the opponents the opponents they’d be matching up against in the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, we’re far from a perfect world and we don’t know when basketball will return.
As for me, I’m more than ready for hoops to come back. I’ve spent my quarantine watching the remaining episodes of season 5 of Better Call Saul, which, after it ended, gave me withdrawals. I then combatted those withdrawals by re-watching Breaking Bad for the eighth time (no, that is not an exaggeration).
But even though I could talk about the Breaking Bad universe forever — let’s get back to the Bucks and basketball. Welcome to a new series, where I’ll be taking a look at past Bucks games that were extremely fun — and that people may have forgotten. There aren’t really a lot of requirements for this. I’m pretty much using my own criteria for it. I’m essentially shooting for games that are pre-Fear the Deer era, as I think that’s an area of Bucks history that hasn’t been touched on too much (obviously because they were terrible). For example, they won’t be recent games like Jerryd Bayless’ winner vs. Chicago, any of Giannis’ monster games, or Brandon Jennings’ 55 point game. If you like this initial post, feel free to drop a suggestion in the comments of another game you think might be fun to do a deep dive on.
Let’s get things started. The date? March 28th, 2006. Some of the hottest songs on the Billboard Top 100? Temperature by Sean Paul and Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. In the pop culture world, American Idol was at the pinnacle of its run with Taylor Hicks, Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry, and Katharine McPhee all in the midst of battling it out to win the fifth season of the hit-show.
The opponent? The Phoenix Suns. The Suns had come into the Bradley Center as one of the top teams in the Association, boasting a 47-22 record. This team was one of my favorite non-Wisconsin sports teams to watch. Their fast and electric style of play was always intriguing to watch, consisting of Steve Nash being the floor general at the point guard position, Amar’e Stoudemire (who actually didn’t play in this game) down low, and Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, and Boris Diaw making significant contributions.
As for the Bucks, Milwaukee entered this one with a dead-even .500 record, sitting at 35-35. They were jockeying position in the No. 6 and 7 spots in the East with Indiana. Just looking at the lineup and you get a plethora of memories that come flooding back. Bobby Simmons. Andrew Bogut. Michael Redd. Mo Williams. Charlie Bell. Toni Kukoc. A lot of those players had major contributions, which when added up together, account for the reason why I’m writing this piece today. The two main reasons? The Bucks hitting a franchise-record 11 threes in a quarter and Charlie Bell notching the first triple-double of his career.
Bell was becoming more of a presence in the Bucks’ lineup during this stretch in late March, filling in for a third consecutive game for an injured TJ Ford, who was dealing with a strained left quad. He’d also be facing his former team in Phoenix, who he played his first five games of his career with back in 2001.
Going back to the game, it’d be pretty neck-and-neck after one. Milwaukee would cling to a two point advantage after the first, but Phoenix would flip-flop their way back into things with a strong second quarter and take a 62-58 lead into the locker room.
However, as I mentioned, Amar’e Stoudemire was sitting this one out with some knee pain, and Milwaukee really began to expose Phoenix down low. The Bucks would go to a bigger lineup in the second half, and it paid major dividends. It’d allow Milwaukee to kill two birds with one stone, attacking with bodies down low, as well as spacing the floor for their shooters. We all know how fun it was to watch Michael Redd heat up, and that’s exactly what he did in the third quarter, exploding for 16 of his 28 points in the period. The Bucks would also notch 50 points in the paint, which allowed them to pour it on from deep, finishing their rampage by hitting 11-of-13 shots from beyond the arc — a franchise record (at the time, an NBA record).
Things would continue to go Milwaukee’s way in the fourth, which is where they’d hammer in the final nail of the coffin. A Bobby Simmons 3-pointer followed by a 6-0 run by * * * checks notes * * * Dan Gadzuric would provide the Bucks with a 115-96 lead and put Phoenix to bed.
It was a very special night for Charlie Bell, whose 19/10/13 stat line gave him his first career triple-double. Postgame, Bell had some reflections on his time in Milwaukee. He discussed his journey and how he had gotten to where he was at:
“I talked to coach [Terry Stotts] at the beginning of the season, he was telling me when he seen my name that he didn’t know much about me and thought I was going to be a good practice player,” said Bell. “I’ve come a long way.”
This game and stat line hold a special place in my Bucks fandom. I had actually gone to this game with my family, and after the game, we worked our way down to the tunnel where the players walked off. I saw Charlie Bell signing autographs, and frantically asked my mom for something for him to sign. All she had in her purse was a piece of scratch paper, so somewhere in my childhood room is Charlie Bell’s autograph scribbled on a piece of yellow notebook paper.
Some other Bucks also had some impressive outings. I mentioned Dan Gadzuric, who concluded his performance with 17 points. Toni Kukoc had a funny postgame quote when asked about Gadzuric:
“I don’t see anybody but Dan. I just throw the ball and he gets it,” Kukoc joked.
As for Kukoc himself, he had a solid performance as well, also tallying 17 points, which was a season-high. Bobby Simmons and Mo Williams each put forth 15 points. The Bucks would finish 18-of-32 from the 3-point arc and etch new records for points, points in a half (74), points in a quarter, field goal percentage (60.5 percent), and assists (36).
Last, here are some highlights from the game. Enjoy!
Hopefully, you enjoyed this trip down memory lane! I have a few more ideas of possible games to do a deep dive on, but if you have any suggestions, feel welcome to drop them in the comments below!