Relying on another team’s mistakes to keep you in the playoff race is always welcomed, but never praised.
The Milwaukee Bucks slipped and slopped their way to a 106-95 win over the New Jersey Nets that was too close for comfort. After exchanging the lead 11 times in the first 19 minutes, Milwaukee took a 12-3 run into halftime and stayed ahead throughout the entire second half.
The Bucks took full advantage of the Nets’ 16 turnovers (17 points) in true run-and-gun fashion. Milwaukee exploded for 33 fastbreak points, shooting a perfect 12-12 and racking up quite a few free throws in the process (26-37 FT overall).
Still, the Bucks allowed New Jersey, without the services of Deron William and Brook Lopez, to whittle a 12 point second half deficit down to a single possession.
“They made a couple bad turnovers, so did we,” said Shaun Livingston, who played very well in a spontaneous 17 minutes (12 pts, 4-5 FG, 4-6 FT). “Really it was just a sloppy game tonight. We were just trying to make more plays than them down the stretch. Obviously Monta (Ellis) and Brandon (Jennings) hitting big shots kind of gave us a cushion.”
MVP: Brandon Jennings
Ersan Ilyasova was his usual get out of jail free card-self (17 pts, 7-13 FG, 1-3 3FG, 17 rbs, 6 Orbs, 3 asts), but Brandon Jennings (30 pts, 9-18 FG, 3-5 3FG 9-11 FT, 6 asts, 6 rbs, 4 TOs) was masterful with the pressure rising. He took full advantage of New Jersey’s collection of butter fingers and oven mitts and led the Bucks’ transition charges like a general in the Revolutionary War.
Jennings made a very welcomed six trips to the line (9-11 FTs), using his aggressiveness to pound away at the lackluster defense of Sundiata Gaines and Armon Johnson. He also sunk three consecutive triples in the final three minutes, putting New Jersey away for good, and scored most of his points in the second (12 points) and fourth (9 points) quarters.
LVP: Monta Ellis
Despite only recording five assists, Monta Ellis (12 pts, 5-14 FG, 5 asts) found quite a few open teammates on drive and kicks beyond the arc. Unfortunately most didn’t fall (1-8 3FG as a team, minus Brandon Jennings’ 3-5 3FG), and Ellis didn’t do himself any favors taking quite a few long, off balance jumpers before the shot clock hit 20 seconds.
This should please you: Run and gun
Milwaukee scored a season-high 33 transition points on a perfect 12-12 shooting. On nearly every Nets turnover or Bucks defensive rebound (37 overall) there was a Milwaukee player streaking down the court on a perfect angle towards the hoop.
Coach Scott Skiles always talks about pushing the pace (Milwaukee ranks third in pace – 96.4), but it was easily the Bucks’ best execution of the seven seconds or less philosophy this season.
This should concern you: Definitely not the 2001-02 Nets
Even if the improbably did happen and the Bucks are thrust into the playoffs, they had quite a tough time breaking down a Nets team starting Gaines in place of Deron Williams and the Jordan Williams/Johan Petro combo in place of Brook Lopez.
Final Verdict: The thread is about to break
Milwaukee sits three games back with just three to play. For those of you that made it through middle school math classes, that means the Bucks need to win out and need the Sixers to lose out. I’m not taking that one to Vegas.
Given that scenario, and the way Milwaukee is playing against doormat teams, the short-term benefits of a playoff berth are crushed by the long-term potential of a higher draft pick.
Many have said it before me, but no fan or writer actively roots against the team they cover out of spite, schadenfreude, or general contrarianism. We all want same thing: an NBA championship and sustainable competitive play.
As Kathy Bates once said, definitely with the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks’ failure to reach the playoffs in mind: “It’s for the best.”