Milwaukee Bucks Game Review: Bucks Finish Home Opener with a Bang

Nov 3, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) drives for a layup during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

What if I told you that 17,000 fans at the BMO Harris Bradley Center were on their feet chanting his name after he fouled out? What if I told you that he sparked a fourth quarter run with a spinning lefty hook, driving dunk and an 18-foot jumper? What if I told you he finished the game with 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots in 30 minutes?

What if I told you “he” is Larry Sanders?

Alright, maybe this wasn’t quite ESPN 30 for 30 material, but when you consider Larry Sanders’ career up to this point – including an abysmal Summer League showing just a few months ago – this night was nothing short of remarkable.

Nothing short of remarkable, too, was Brandon Jennings’ game-winner. The Bucks had a seven-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game, but the Cavs took advantage of three straight Milwaukee air balls. Sophomore sensation Kyrie Irving converted an acrobatic layup with 0.7 seconds remaining, knotting the game at 102 apiece. Then…THIS.

MVP(s):

Brandon Jennings – It was a quiet night offensively for Jennings until he did THIS (go ahead, watch it again) – sinking a game-winning fadeaway three-pointer with time expiring.

Although Jennings shot just 5-13 from the field and turned the ball over four times, he dished out 13 assists for the second consecutive game.

Alonzo Gee, a 6’6 forward, guarded Jennings for much of the night, and Scott Skiles cited Gee’s size and lateral quickness as a big factor in his ability to contain Jennings.

Larry Sanders – It’s all about pace and presence of mind for Sanders on the basketball court. He talked about the importance of playing with consistent, controlled pace at Media Day. Before the game, Skiles also addressed this idea.

“Whenever your mind is calm, you tend to play better,” Skiles said.

Sanders looked calm and in control Saturday night. He was very active around the rim and displayed some impressive offensive moves, hitting eight of his nine shots. The only long jump shot Sanders took – and drained – was with the shot clock ready to expire.

It finally looks like Sanders is willing to turn into a “garbage man” center, which makes perfect sense given his natural length and athleticism. Although it’s still a small sample size, his rebounding has improved substantially from last season. Sanders credited his positioning – not floating around the perimeter as much – for his spike in rebounding numbers. (Hopefully he can pass on some tips to fellow big man Ekpe Udoh, who had zero rebounds in just over 23 minutes of action).

If last night is any indication, Sanders’ sudden development into this role could be of huge significance for the Bucks.

“Larry, since coming back in early September, has impacted virtually every practice, every pickup game and every game he’s been in, basically,” Skiles said in his postgame press conference.

Mike Dunleavy – Jennings and Sanders might get all the attention, but the Bucks wouldn’t have been in a position to win the game without Dunleavy’s unconscious shooting. With Tobias Harris struggling on defense and turning it over in the post, Skiles turned to his sixth-man early and often. Dunleavy responded by swinging the momentum in the Bucks’ favor every time he entered the game.  He scored 29 points – his Bucks career-high – on 10-12 shooting from the field and 6-7 from three-point land, while notching a double-double with 12 rebounds.

LVP:

Samuel Dalembert — Dalembert wasn’t impressive in his home debut with the Bucks. He played just 10 minutes, despite starting the game, as Skiles opted to roll with the more active Sanders. Dalembert looked particularly slow on consecutive defensive possessions to start the second half, when opposing center Anderson Varejao hit a couple pick-and-pop jumpers without Dalembert in sight. Skiles yanked the big man out of the game 58 seconds into the second half. Dalembert didn’t return and finished the night with zero points, two rebounds and a blocked shot. It looks like he’ll have a short leash with a plethora of frontcourt options behind him — a luxury Milwaukee lacked last season.

The Young Bucks:

Skiles never summoned veterans Marquis Daniels or Drew Gooden from the bench Saturday night, which meant extended time for the young Bucks. Sanders and Udoh played a combined 53 minutes, while rookie Doron Lamb got five minutes of burn off the bench. Skiles had high praise for Udoh, Sanders, Harris and Lamb before and after the game, so this isn’t necessarily an aberration.

The Official Return:

Joel Przybilla made his season debut and played six minutes in the first half. He managed to grab two rebounds and pickup Milwaukee’s first technical foul of the year.

Quote of the Night:                                            

Head coach Scott Skiles, on his reaction to Sanders trying to fire up the crowd after fouling out: “Act like you’ve been there before.”  

Tweets of the Night:

Injury Update:

In his pregame press conference, Skiles said doctors have cleared Luc Mbah a Moute’s knee. Mbah a Moute, who has been recovering from knee surgery in May, is currently working on his strength and conditioning, Skiles said. There still doesn’t appear to be a clear timetable for his return.

Skiles anticipates that rookie John Henson, who has been out for a couple weeks with a knee strain, will be available to play in Wednesday night’s game against the Grizzlies. 

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