No Jax, no Bogues, no problem.
Sweltering defense and transition scoring led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 100-89 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bucks were as close to perfect as they’ve been this season, fearlessly attacking the basket, making the most of Lakers slip ups, and exploiting the holes in Los Angeles’ aging, melancholy defense.
Milwaukee held Kobe Bryant to a very quiet game-high 27 points on 10-21 shots, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds, while six Bucks posted double-figures in scoring. The Bucks exploited Los Angeles’ defensive indifference (40-80, 50% FG), unusually edging out the Lakers in free throws (15-16 to 11-17, respectively).
After a 39-29 Los Angeles third quarter advantage, Milwaukee clamped down hard in the fourth, limiting the Lakers to just 16 points in the game’s final 12 minutes and sending Kobe fans to the exits earlier than they have grown accustomed.
The Bucks came out running in the first half, taking an 11-0 fast break point advantage into the break and adding nine points off 11 Lakers turnovers. Milwaukee had expected defensive problems in the paint (42 points allowed), but the Bucks overcame their lack of size through fluid passing (21 assists), careful ball handling (9 turnovers), and constant movement inside (44 points in the paint).
Once again, Milwaukee’s depth played a huge role in building and sustaining a lead, outscoring the Lakers’ reserves 37-24 (they do exist, I think). Mike Dunleavy scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half (6-8 FG, 2-3 3FG), and Ersan Ilyasova chipped in a hyper-efficient 15 points (7-9 FG) and 4 rebounds.
Drew Gooden led the Bucks in unorthodox scoring (23 pts, 9-15 FG, 1-3 3FG, 8 rbs), while Brandon Jennings (12 pts, 6-14 FG, 0-3 3FG, 7 asts, 3 rbs) and Beno Udrih (15 mins, 4 pts, 2-5 FG, 7 asts) penetrated the lane with regularity and finding open teammates with ease.
MVP: Drew Gooden
Backboard self-assists, unexpected three pointers, power dribbles that are anything but, and passes across the court to the opposition: These are the traits that define the enigmatic Drew Gooden.
Gooden scored 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter, helping the Bucks overcome Kobe Bryant’s biggest scoring streak (13 of 27 points) and their usual drop off out of the break. He had obvious issues defending Andrew Bynum, but Gooden rose to the occasion when the Bucks needed him most.
Gooden has been at his best over the past two games, incidentally while playing far out of place as a center. Gooden’s athletic enough to take big defenders off the dribble and threatening enough as a shooter to open cutting lanes and space around the paint.
The Bucks will most likely bring in some outside help in the middle, but the early offensive returns on Gooden as a center have been surprisingly pleasant.
LVP: Carlos Delfino
Carlos Delfino had enough time to set a line, take bets from his teammates, and reset his feet before launching a corner three that ripped through the bottom of the net. Other than that, Delfino continued a season-long struggle from the outside (3-8 FG, 1-5 3FG).
The Bucks had no problem accommodating for Delfino’s streaky shooting against the Lakers. But if he continues to post career lows in field goal percentage (37.5%), three point shooting (34.2%), and free throw percentage (64.3%), the rapidly improving Mike Dunleavy could usurp Delfino as a starter.
This should delight you…: 44-42 points in the paint advantage
When Shaun Livingston is the best post-up option available, you’re going to have problems scoring inside. Back-to-the-basket offensive situations were a rarity against the massive Lakers frontcourt, but Milwaukee still found ways to penetrate and finish in the paint.
A surplus of big men that prefer face up and an outside-in style of basketball can be an advantage against slower moving teams. Bucks’ point guards had few problems blowing by the aged Lakers defense, often finding a teammate waiting under the hoop for an easy lay-in.
Ball movement and team chemistry are keys to a Milwaukee Bucks win, but they are magnified even more when the option for a quick dump-off inside is non-existent. The Bucks can succeed with this formula, but it probably won’t be enough to upset a heavily favored team in the first round.
…And this should concern you: 5-19 (26.3% 3FG)
The Bucks take the 9th most three pointers per game (20.5), but drop to 20th in eFG (47.4%) from long range. This is mostly due to Milwaukee’s hot/cold nature from the outside, and Saturday night was no exception.
When the Bucks hit shots behind the arc, they can be very tough to stop. When they don’t, they are forced to shoot until the ball drops in the cup or find other ways to score. Thankfully, Milwaukee ran around and through the Lakers defense, overcompensating for their lack of an outside stroke.
By nature, the Bucks are going to oscillate between 26% and 50% shooting around the perimeter. There will be times this season where three pointers are scarce when they’re needed most, and the Bucks will lose because of it.
Final verdict: Not Your Usual Lakers
The Bucks didn’t beat the Phil Jackson triangle offense, nor did they beat Kobe Bryant in his prime. The Lakers have been a victim of carelessness on the road this season (1-7 overall), and as of this point, would not make the Western Conference playoffs.
Still, beating the Los Angeles Lakers always elicits that David vs. Goliath confidence form a fan base, and beating a team without a true counter-punch to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should boost the Bucks’ confidence in their post-Andrew Bogut existence.