At first glance, Wednesday night’s game might now have seemed like a big game to some fans. After all, the Bucks were facing the lowly Sacramento Kings, the doormat of the NBA for almost ten years now. Subtract big man DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the Kings’ best player, from the equation and it seemed like fans could expect an easy victory from the Bucks. For the most part, it was an easy win. Although, the Bucks didn’t really pull away until the end of the third and into the fourth quarter, a 98-85 victory triumphantly shined onto the court of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Four players scored 15 or more points: Ersan Ilyasova 16, Monta Ellis, who was two rebounds shy of a triple-double, had 17, Luc Mbah A Moute 17 and Brandon Jennings 19.
And yet, despite the vulnerable foe, the Bucks took a huge step forward in their season with Wednesday’s victory. While the Kings were without Cousins as well as shooting guard Marcus Thornton, the Bucks were still without super subs Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih as well as the story of the season in center Larry Sanders and his partner-in-crime Ekpe Udoh. Four players who are essential to the makeup of this team. We’ve talked about how, for better or for worse, the Bucks have a lot of front court depth. Tonight, it came in handy. Scrub Almighty Drew Gooden contributed with a few no-look passes out of bounds and a technical foul from the bench but actually grabbed 10 rebounds in the process.
The real victory was finally completing a string of wins. After the Bucks lost five of six and were sitting at 7-7, a huge win against the Celtics gave a fanbase ravenous for consistency hope. However, two straight losses crushed those hopes. Now, we are riding a three-game winning streak. It seems the Bucks are finally beginning to hit their stride and they should get Dunleavy, Sanders and Udoh back very soon. With a wave of good play behind them, the Bucks’ future looks bright.
With about one quarter of the season behind them — and the team ending tonight’s first quarter on a note just as positive as Ellis’ 44-foot bomb, the Bucks still have three things they need to answer before the first half of the season is complete.
1. The Backcourt
Sure. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have plenty of swag. However, they just don’t look good out there together. The Bucks are running both at point guard. One brings it up and the two camp on the wings opposite each other. Usually a high screen is set for one and they either try to break down the defense or hit a shot. Both are exceptionally quick and Ellis is an incredible finisher. The truth is that neither complement each other. The two guards are seeing decent statistics, except for Ellis who has been horrible from the field. I’d be very surprised if the Bucks kept Ellis past the deadline. It seems like he has no chance to re-sign and he is a poor complement to Jennings. However, remember that Ellis can play point guard. In fact, I think he’s really a point guard at heart. And he’s actually just as good of a passer as Jennings, if not better. It’s possible the Bucks could deal Jennings and gamble for Ellis to re-sign. But I think the writing is on the wall: these two don’t complement one another. One has to go.
2. The Bigs
Just when things were confusing enough with our bevy of big men, enter Drew Gooden. Gooden as much as I dislike him has been serviceable in the few minutes he’s gobbled up lately. Add him to the mix with Dalembert, Sanders, Udoh (who shouldn’t be out much longer than a couple weeks), Ilyasova who has played much better lately and Henson…not to mention that Pryzbilla guy sitting on the end and you’ve got yourself a good problem to have. There must be a trade later on. That’s the only way I can see this shaking out. There’s just too much talent and the Bucks could use depth at the two-guard position.
3. Small Forward
Early on in camp, it appeared that Tobias Harris had won the starting job. Now, he only sees game action if Marquis Daniels is in Defcon 1 foul trouble and in mop up duty during blow outs. Daniels is nice, but certainly hasn’t done much in my eyes to lace up the definite starter job. Watch for Mbah A Moute to get more minutes at the small forward position when Udoh comes back. Dunleavy is used here, too. However, with only Lamb behind Ellis…Dunleavy is often a better fit for shooting guard. Harris is a young, athletic wing who can score and rebound. The Bucks need to get him minutes to further his development. This will be something to watch in the days ahead.
With those things in mind, let’s buckle up for another quarter of the NBA season. If the Bucks are six games over .500, they will be a success. 11-9 isn’t a bad start. We can breathe easy… for now.