In a game played inside a BMO Harris Bradley Center freshly covered with snow, the Bucks and Pacers pushed back and forth in an ugly, cold game that featured 97 missed shots, 51 fouls and 35 turnovers. With one inspired third quarter of fast-paced basketball (and just enough good plays sprinkled everywhere else), the Bucks pulled out a win, 98-93.
Brandon Jennings had 34 points, six assists, and five rebounds. On a night of blah, he had by far the most bling. Good on him. He had the midrange and long-range shots falling, and he earned more trips to the free throw line than any other player in the game (9).
The other players of worthy note for the Bucks were Luc Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders, and Mike Dunleavy. Mbah a Moute registered a double-double while appearing to get in the heads of both David West and Tyler Hansbrough. Sanders blocked five shots and influenced misses on a number of others.
Dunleavy gave the Bucks a huge boost in his first game back following a knee injury: 17 points, three three-pointers, six rebounds, and two blocks. His technique on the defensive glass is flawless and his floor-spacing helps the Bucks offense most when things are going poorly. Remember when he and Beno Udrih were the two best Bucks at the start of the season? That whole thing could still happen again.
Monta Ellis was the non-scorer from the starting backcourt. There’s usually at least one per night. At right is Ellis’ shot chart for the night (an image capture from ESPN.com).
Give credit where it’s due though: Ellis played a big part in setting the fast pace of the decisive third quarter. Plus, he had 6’10” Paul George guarding him for much of the night — which may be the oddest matchup possible in the NBA. If he ever got in a pinch, Ellis could probably bite George in the nipple without stooping. Not that Monta is a nipple-biter. In fact, quite the opposite. Ellis is a mild-mannered quiet soul. If you took all the players in this game and ranked them from top to bottom on how likely they’d be to bite a nipple, Monta would be in the high 20s. And Psycho-T would probably sit on top.
Doron Lamb struggled again. In his last four games, he is now 3-for-26 on field goals and 3-for-10 on free throws. (Here, for good measure, is the flu caveat again. He was ill for at least two of those games.) To make matters worse, he let Gerald Green beat him cleanly on a backdoor cut for an easy hoop. It’s nearly a lock that Scott Skiles would like to put Lamb on the shelf, at least temporarily, but the Bucks are so thin at guard that he just doesn’t have any other options. To wit: Jennings played over 44 minutes last night. Both he and Monta Ellis have routinely logged 40-minute games in Beno Udrih’s absence.
Ekpe Udoh made one solid post move for his only basket. But he got in foul trouble and didn’t have as much influence on the game as he should. In his first twelve games, Udoh averaged a foul every 11.4 minutes. In his most recent 10 games, he is committing a foul every 7.7 minutes. Fouling is a big issue for a player whose game is predicated on contesting shots and poking away dribbles.
In an ideal Bucks’ world (Is that notion conceivable? Are Bucks’ fans allowed to think that way?) an Udoh-Sanders pairing would rarely be split up. But Samuel Dalembert has been a terrible disappointment, and he regularly lines up with a DNP-CD in the boxscore.
In the end, this game hints at the Bucks peeking in the right direction. When they started the season by winning six out of their first eight games, it looked like the team had a blueprint of defense and speed. Tonight, they won the game with just enough of that combination. Now, they’ve won five of their last six games. The defense doesn’t look quite as promising, the tempo isn’t quite as fast, but they are still winning.
Winning ugly is still a fun thing, right?