As cliché the phrase “a shot in the arm” is, when referring to momentum boosts for teams, it seemed that J.J. Redick was just that Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. His 16 points and seven assists were one of the bright spots for the Milwaukee Bucks (26-28) who lost to the Atlanta Hawks (31-23) 103-102.
Redick said his 35 minutes played were a surprise.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Redick said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play eight minutes or 20 minutes. The only thing is in the fourth quarter [head coach Jim Boylan] started calling plays I didn’t know.”
Redick’s confusion was apparent on a particular possession when Monta Ellis relayed a play call from the bench. Ersan Ilyasova moved toward Redick to set a pick, signaling that Redick should cut down the baseline. Redick, clearly confused, made a confused face and flipped his hands up in frustration. He cut to the baseline and was passed the ball. Despite the confusion, the play worked.
Playing crisp basketball for much of the second half, the Bucks led the Hawks 100-93 with 3:30 left in the game. The team proceeded to blow their lead, giving up an 8-0 run and losing after an open one-footed jumper by Monta Ellis hit the back rim. Redick said he enjoyed playing with his new teammates but was not pleased with the result.
“I certainly didn’t want to start off with a loss here,” Redick said. “I’m coming from Orlando. The last 30 games, I think we were 3-27. I expect this team to win.”
The mood in the locker room after the game was a mixture of devastation and surprise. Many players’ and coaches’ hair was ruffled from running their fingers through it in frustrated disbelief.
The Bucks did some interesting things with lineups during the game. Redick, Ellis and Jennings played with each other on multiple occasions and I think it’s a lineup that head coach Jim Boylan expects to use to create mismatches. The only problem with that is those three will be significantly undersized on defense. It seems that the Bucks think offense-first in rotations and that could hurt them down the road.
Redick filled many fans’ expectations. His passing was surprisingly excellent. I’m not certain that he’s not the best passer on this team. He had particularly good chemistry with Samuel Dalembert. Without a doubt, Redick is the best entry passer on the team, feeding the bigs down low multiple times for buckets. The two other things Redick brings to this team other than his shooting his tireless effort off of the ball and the passion he plays with on the court.
Nice pick up John Hammond.
Redick’s 35 minutes means a lot. If they didn’t limit his limits in his first game, what will his role be throughout the year? Jennings was in the dog house early for both foul trouble and perhaps also taking some ill-advised shots.
Going forward, expect to see Redick the most minutes of any guard. After watching him closely Saturday night, I think he’s the third-best player on this team behind Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. Although Jennings didn’t have his best game, if you take into account that Redick is so active without the ball and is a consistent shooter (two things neither Ellis nor Jennings are), I think the argument is valid.
One game note that seemed to escape many is the continued dominant play of Ersan Ilyasova. Since being inserted into the starting lineup after the departure of Scott Skiles, he is shooting 47 percent form 3-point range. Ilyasova is so good that he should be getting more shots than he is. He doesn’t miss. If Ilyasova had the ego of Jennings or Ellis and took more shots, how good would this team be?
The lack of poor shots from Jennings and Ellis and the addition of shots from shooters like Redick, Ilyasova and Dunleavy should be something this team works on. To Ellis’ credit, he seemed to flourish in the role of point guard, because that’s his actual position, when Jennings was out. Ellis focused on finishing at the rim and dishing to his teammates. When he plays that kind of basketball, he’s incredibly difficult to stop.
The Bucks play Tuesday at Dallas. The Mavericks are struggling but so are the Bucks. It’s a crucial game if the Bucks want to have a comfortable lead in the 8th seed or have any aspirations of ascending the playoff ladder.