Tonight’s game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Wizards was promoted as “Turkish Heritage Night” in the Verizon Center. Ersan Ilyasova did not disappoint, treating the raving, flag-waving fans in Section 219 to a typical, workmanlike Ilyasova night.
Ersan was the dominant player on the boards, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds for the Bucks. He also chipped in with 16 points — one of six Bucks scoring in double-figures against the Wizards. The Bucks’ 112 points ended a nine-game streak of the Wizards holding opponents to less than 100 points.
MVP: Brandon Jennings
If any of those Turkish fans in attendance were casual basketball fans trying to warm to the NBA game, this game’s third quarter — and its smorgasbord of seven offensive fouls — scared them away for good. Pretty basketball it was not. Rising from that rubble, however, was Brandon Jennings’ lefty midrange sidearm floater hook shot thingy.
(I know, I know. I have a way with words. It’s a gift.)
Jennings hit five of those aesthetic-yet-undescribable shots while scoring 17 of his 19 points in a third-quarter outburst. He also did a decent job of defending on the night — letting John Wall play too fast for his own good and pressuring the handle of backup Shelvin Mack when Wall went out for a breather.
Honorable mention goes to Shaun Livingston (10 points, 5/6 FG) who punctured holes in a fourth-quarter scoring drought with his usual assortment of midrange pullups and postups.
LVP: Monta Ellis
The Bucks enjoyed the good fortune of having an extemely player or two in each quarter. Ellis and Jennings dominated the first and third quarters, respectively, while Ekpe Udoh teamed up with Mike Dunleavy (17 points) in the second and Livingston in the fourth.
So making Ellis (17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) an LVP is unfair to say the least. Monta, though, had trouble getting production out of the pick-and-roll as the game progressed. When the defense shaded toward him and the ball, he made passes that the Wizards picked off. And when picks freed him through the first line of defense, he missed forced shots (with a moderate degree of difficulty) over the Wizards’ help D. It almost cost the Bucks in the fourth quarter when those misfires helped Washington pull within seven points.
This should please you: More Udoh in the Post
For most of the season, the Bucks most successful back-to-the-basket player has been Shaun Livingston. Even the staunchest member of the Shaun Liv Fan Club knows that is not a recipe for wins.
Enter Ekpe Udoh.
Since he joined the Bucks, Udoh has shown glimmers of a low-post game. Tonight, those glimmers officially became more of a sparkle. Ekpe finished with a shiny 15 point/8 rebound/5 assist box score line, and the good news for the Bucks was his business address for the night.
On four interior touches in his first-half stint, Udoh produced. He started with a backdown move that morphed into a sweeping baby hook across the lane. He started a similar move after catching Cartier Martin in a mismatch, but when the help came, Ekpe tossed it out to Dunleavy for a three-pointer. Then he used a combination of footwork and savvy to draw shooting fouls on his next two touches on the block.
Those four plays that went through Udoh yielded 8 points (5 by Udoh) and Ekpe also mixed in a breakaway dunk when he caught Chris Singleton admiring his own clunky three-point attempt.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Udoh — he picked up both an offensive and defensive three-second violation. But when the Bucks offense sputtered to start the fourth, and the Wizards made a mini-run to close within seven points, Udoh made the plays to quash the comeback (6 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists in the quarter), including another inside-out assist to Dunleavy for a three.
Stay tuned, because Ekpe’s development is a huge storyline going forward.
This should make you smirk at its meaningless ugliness: Shaunie Liv and the Four Power Forwards
Beno Udrih (hand injury) and Carlos Delfino (groin injury) missed the game, but Carlos did take part in some pregame shooting. In any case, their absences left the guard rotation on the thin side, especially with the game decided and 2:47 left in the game.
Skiles emptied his bench of his heretofore unused players: Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman, and Larry Sanders. Livingston was left in the game as the point guard for this mess and the blunderful results did not disappoint. For what it’s worth, Harris appeared to be the 2-guard.
Tweets of the Night:
@Truth_About_It: Bucks up 104-85… I put myself in this chair to forcibly watch the Wizards a la scene from Clockwork Orange.
@StevevonHorn: *Calmly deletes Bucks vs. Wizards from his DVR with game in progress* *Prepares for National Championship Game*
@adammcginnis: These NBA refs want to watch the NCAA final too.
Final verdict: Another win over a bottom feeder
But with only thirteen games left in the sprint to the playoffs (and currently trailing New York by two games), the Bucks need to pick all the low-hanging fruit… and find a stepstool for some higher harvest, too.