Thrillingly Lethargic: Milwaukee Bucks 113, Cleveland Cavaliers 112


A big comeback, coach’s ejection, execution problems on game-winning possessions, and 19 (mostly) perimeter points from Drew Gooden.

Yup, just another typical Milwaukee Bucks victory.

In their first overtime game of the 2011-12 NBA season, the Bucks squeaked out a 113-112 victory against the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers. A third quarter Scott Skiles ejection sparked a comeback and eventual victory for Milwaukee, inching the Bucks closer to the .500 mark (12-14).

Milwaukee had their requisite problems defending the paint (56 points given up inside), as well as the slashing power of Antawn Jamison (34 pts, 14-21 FG, 11 rbs), who scored 18 points in the third quarter but couldn’t hit two go-ahead free throws with 3.7 seconds remaining.

For the second game in two weeks, Milwaukee was unable to get the ball off on a game-winning opportunity. Despite getting decent penetration, Shaun Livingston (26 mins, 13 pts, 6-11 FG, 1 ast, 3 rbs) deferred to Luc Mbah a Moute (25 mins, 7 pts, 2-4 FG, 3-3 FT, 6 rbs) with a little more than a second remaining in regulation, and the Bucks were forced into extra minutes on the first night of a back-to-back.

Gooden (19 pts, 6-13 FG, 2-3 3FG, 5-6 FT, 6 rbs) took over from there, notching six of the team’s 11 overtime points and icing the game with two late free throws. Gooden had his mid (3-6 from 16-23 feet) and long (2-3 3FG) jumper working all night, mostly off catch-and-shoot plays (all his makes were assisted). As good as Gooden was around the perimeter, it’s troublesome when a starting center prefers to treat the paint like hot lava.

Even without their best player, the Cavs were able to pick apart the Bucks defense with superior passing, assisting on 33 of 43 buckets. Ex-Buck Ramon Sessions was a brilliant facilitator on drive and kick opportunities, dropping 16 dimes and scoring 12 points on 4-16 FG.

Six Bucks finished the game in double figures, split between three starters (Drew Gooden, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Jennings), and three bench players (Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova).

MVP: Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings was frigid down the stretch, missing six straight shots in the fourth quarter and overtime before connecting on a lefty lay-in to put the Bucks up 110-106. However, Jennings played with resurgent aggressiveness (4-6 at the rim, 1-4 between 3-9 feet), picking his spots and finishing a few lay-ups in explosive fashion.

Jennings wasn’t extremely efficient (24 points on 23 shots), but he dished out 8 assists, committed a loner turnover, and pulled down 5 rebounds. So much for those questions about Jennings’ state of mind after a tumultuous day of controversy and All-Star letdowns.

LVP: Carlos Delfino

Stop if you’ve heard this before: Carlos Delfino followed up a shooting clinic with an extremely forgettable one.

After posting a season-high 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 6-8 three pointers in Toronto, Delfino brick-layed 5 points on 2-12 shots (1-3 3FG). Delfino’s defense, particularly on the final shot of the game (a three pointer where he opted to stay on his feet, eliminated the chance of a four point play), was respectable as always. But Delfino continues to oscillate between frustrating and delighting as a shooting threat on a night-by-night basis.

This should please you: Never say die

The Bucks trailed by as much as 15 in the first quarter, 11 in the third, and 8 in the fourth. Combined, Milwaukee was outscored 85-77 in the first 36 minutes, but rallied with a 25-17 fourth quarter. Skiles said after the game he was essentially looking to get ejected in the hopes that it would fire up his team. It apparently worked.

Livingston led the fourth quarter charge with 9 points and 2 assists, surgically choosing his routes to the rim (2-2 in Q4, 4-4 in the game) and moving with the fluidity we’ve come to expect from one of the Bucks’ smartest players. Milwaukee has a habit of getting down early and charging back late, which is great when they win and problematic when they lose.

This should concern you: Oh, those early deficits

There’s a trend developing with the Bucks: Get down early, come out of a coma, and make a torrid comeback. It happened against the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and now, Cleveland Cavaliers.

This isn’t a sustainable way to win games in the NBA, especially when the Bucks go up against playoff-caliber teams that have the interior strength to acquire and sustain a lead through a full 48 minutes (see: Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic).

Final verdict: Moving on

A win in Cleveland isn’t what it used to be, especially when the best player on either team is forced to sit out. But any road win is a welcome one, although not something worth reading into beyond face value at this point.

The Bucks remain a model of consistent inconsistency, which makes it hard to project how the team will progress game-by-game. Enjoy the win, then focus on the next one.