We’re taking a break from the NBA Trading Deadline to bring you: a basketball game.
Amidst the flurry of reactions to the Milwaukee Bucks’ parting of ways with franchise cornerstone Andrew Bogut, the Bucks hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers with newcomers Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh suited up at the end of the bench.
Suffice to say, Milwaukee made quite a first impression, passing and crashing their way to a 115-105 victory over Cleveland. The Bucks finished with a franchise and NBA season-high 39 assists, and outworked the Cavs to a 49-34 advantage on the boards.
The Cavaliers hung with the Bucks for two and a half quarters, before remembering that, other than people named “Kyrie Irving,” they aren’t very good at rebounding or scoring. Milwaukee went on a 50-38 run over the game’s final 18 minutes, sealing their fourth straight (and likely last) win without the services of Ellis and Udoh.
For the second time in a year and a few days, Drew Gooden (15 pts, 7-12 FG, 1-3 3FG, 13 asts, 10 rbs) notched a triple double against Cleveland. Gooden was one of six Bucks in double figures, and one of five Bucks that finished with 11+ shot attempts. He also sat out all of the fourth quarter.
Ersan Ilyasova led the team with 22 points on 7-12 shots, and added 8 boards (3 offensive), before fouling out to a standing ovation with 4:27 left to play. It was the 7th game this season where Ilyasova scored 20 or more points, giving him a new career high with 23 games remaining.
MVP: Drew Gooden
The last Buck to register a triple double was…Drew Gooden (on 4/9/11, also against the Cavaliers). Most of his assists came in the first half (nine), often from the elbow to a cutting Buck sneaking behind the close-out defender.
Gooden has a decent spot-up jumper and plays well out of pick and rolls, making him a prime candidate for a few kick outs from Monta Ellis.
LVP: Mike Dunleavy
This distinction has nothing to do with Dunleavy’s very respectable 21 points on 8-11 shooting and 5 assists. Rather, he was very forthcoming about the team’s nicknames for Milwaukee’s man of the hour, Drew Gooden.
“Some nights he’s tragic, some nights he’s magic,” Dunleavy said. “Tonight, he was magic, with a little tragic sprinkled in. Five turnovers? I mean, come on.”
Two things: It’s good to know Gooden has a solid understanding of his own game, and it’s encouraging to hear the team joking amongst themselves again. Apparently winning will do that.
Monta Ellis should like…the Bucks’ transitions, ball movement
Milwaukee’s passing was crispier than the crust at Zaffiro’s (if you’ve never been to Milwaukee, look it up). The Bucks set a new season high with an astounding 38 assists on 46 baskets, and have registered 30 or more assists in three straight games.
After the game, coach Scott Skiles emphasized the importance of patience and trusting a shot to open up as players continue to share the ball. Ellis got to see the Bucks’ unselfishness up close, so it’ll be interesting to see how/if he adapts his game for the betterment of the team.
Ekpe Udoh should like…tons of block opportunities
The Cavaliers rank second in the NBA in paint points (42,7), and the Bucks managed to give up 44 in the painted area, to go with 11 three pointers. Alonzo Gee and Samardo Samuels both had a couple hard throw downs that really highlighted Milwaukee’s tendency to drift away from the hoop as the ball moves around the perimeter, through passes or otherwise.
With Ellis and Jennings swiping at everything in sight and the inevitable defensive help from Luc Mbah a Moute and Carlos Delfino around the perimeter, Ekpe Udoh could have a field day with cutting guards and slashing forwards.
Final verdict: A new era
The Milwaukee Bucks were their goofy selves at times, but the team has been very resilient in the face of trade rumors and injuries over the past week. Beating the Nets, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Knicks doesn’t necessarily qualify as a “hot” streak, but those are games the Bucks should, and need to, win.
Milwaukee plays 13 of their final 23 games at home, and with the Knicks spontaneously combusting in an epic explosion of discontent and indifference, the Bucks look like a solid lock for the eighth seed. I can’t tell if the fluttering in my stomach is trepidation or excitement.