With 6:55 left in the contest, tonight’s Milwaukee Bucks-Toronto Raptors game was very much in doubt.
Tied at 83, Scott Skiles inserted Drew Gooden and Brandon Jennings back into the lineup. A lineup of shooters brought on extinction for the Raps.
By going small, Skiles got his best possible shooting lineup on the floor — Jennings, Carlos Delfino, Mike Dunleavy, Stephen Jackson, and Drew Gooden — and the Bucks went on a 11-2 run that propelled them to victory. Fittingly, they hit a pair of three-pointers during that stretch. The Bucks won this game from the three-point line by hitting 12 of 25 attempts on the night.
MVP: Carlos Delfino
It was Carlos Delfino’s night. His astounding stat line — 25 points, 7-12 FG, 6-8 3-pt FG, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 assists — reflects on one of the most impressive Bucks performances of the season.
In the only quarter when Carlos got an extended breather, Mike Dunleavy took over for him and dominated. Dunleavy carpet-bombed the Raptors for 16 points in the second period alone, including three 3-pointers.
Delfino, Dunleavy and Jackson played with active hands all night long. For his part, Delfino poked away four steals.
On one sequence, Ed Davis got the ball right under the basket. As the gathered himself to rise and score, Dunleavy slapped the ball away. Davis grabbed it and prepared to rise again, but Dunleavy, unwilling to be denied, came through a second time with an even fiercer swipe. It was just enough of a measure of the “intensity” that Scott Skiles has craved this week.
Honorable mention goes to Larry Sanders and his four blocked shots.
It feels so foreign to have our rim protected. (Hmm, that sounds eerily pulchritudinous. Scratch that. How about…) What a great surprise to not see opposing interior players scoring at will!
LVP: Brandon Jennings (11 points, 3/12 FG, 4 assists, 3 TOs)
Epitome of the Bucks’ Season, Part 1:
Down by six points with less that 40 seconds remaining, the Raptors fouled Stephen Jackson intentionally to stop the clock, hoping for missed free throws and a regained possession.
Jackson obliged with the first part, thumping both free throws of the rim.
The rebound floated harmlessly between two Raptors big men. Then, darting in seemingly from out of nowhere, Jennings split between the two Toronto players and stole the ball. It was an artful, elegant basketball play.
His reward? After being fouled, Jennings went to the line to clang two free throws misses of his own. Egad.
On the night, Jennings still disappeared at times, but there were enough sporadic glimpses of energy to see that he played with more engagement than he did against the Suns.
This should please you: Second-quarter defense
The Bucks held the Raptors to 32% from the field in the second quarter. That may not sound like much, but consider the alternative. (I.e., enough of that positive stuff already.)
In the past two games, the Bucks have allowed a staggering 134 first-half points. This game started in much the same way.
Drew Gooden continued his score and be-scored-on ways. While tallying a very efficient 13 first-quarter points, Drew Gooden mixed in a heavy dose of atrocious pick-and-roll defense on the other end. Jose Calderon picked him apart on the pick-and-roll in a manner similar to Steve Nash just a night earlier.
What is most frustrating about Gooden’s pick-and-roll defense is that he gets stuck in no-man’s-land every single time. He doesn’t give a hedge to the ballhandler, and he doesn’t close off the roll man.
Do something. Try something. Don’t just stand there. The play is going to work some of the time. It just shouldn’t work all of the time.
This should leave you shaking your head: Epitome of the Bucks’ Season, Part 2
Awkward Drew Gooden move? Check.
Sloppy Stephen Jackson transition defense/effort at 3/4 speed? Check.
Final Verdict: It’s done and it’s a W.
The Bucks turned in a performance tonight that was only good enough to beat a team from the bottom one-third of NBA teams. Fortunately, the Raptors have a firm grip on one of those spots.