Yesterday I wondered who the brunette (lower right) was joyously flippin’ off at a Bulls game earlier this season. Then I realized it had to be one of the refs from Friday night’s Bucks-Bulls game in Chicago ….
Bulls enjoy 45-22 free throw edge: The Bucks fell short in Chicago 117-102, in a game in which the Bulls didn’t have to figure out a way to sink shots. The Bulls starting backcourt (Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon) alone shot 17-18 from the line. But let’s not make this about the refs.
The good news: The Bucks are done with the Bulls this season, and the Bulls don’t play the rest of the league nearly as well as they play their old coach’s new team. The Bulls moved into 8th place as the Bucks fell to 9th, just 1/2 game ahead of Charlotte and New Jersey in 10th. The Bucks begin a six-game homestand tonight against some of Nellie’s Golden State Warriors.
My impression going into the game Friday was that the Bucks hadn’t taken the Bulls seriously in two previous losses this season. Upon further examination, the root of the problem runs a bit deeper than that: Gordon and Kirk Hinrich could run Scott Skiles‘ Bucks tomorrow better than any of the Bucks guards and they both bring the gusto when playing against their old coach.
Skiles coached the Baby Bulls 2003-2007, and they got much of their mojo from the Hinrich-Gordon backcourt. The rest of the Baby Bulls have since been traded (Nocioni and Duhon) or are nursing a sore shin (forward Luol Deng).
Richard Jefferson: “They know our offense very well and they know Coach Skiles and his schemes. They’re always a tough team for us to play.”
Not only do Hinrich and Gordon know what the Bucks are going to do, offensively and defensively, they instinctively know his uptempo pace. Skiles bred them as NBA players to play that pace, and they like it. It’s no coincidence that the main culprits in the two recent losses to the Bulls were Gordon (34 pts last night) and Hinrich (31 pts Feb. 18 in Milwaukee, 18 in the 4th quarter). It’s also no coincidence that the one Bulls game the Bucks won this season was the one Hinrich missed with a broken hand.
A combined 73 points for Gordon, Rose, Hinrich: Gordon got hot in the 2nd quarter and went on to abuse Charlie Bell the rest of the night. Rose scored 27 driving to the hoop at will. Hinrich drained a quick 11 in 20 mins off the bench.
A pace problem: Skiles after the game talked about the Bulls aggressiveness, while RJ called his teammates out for a lack of intensity. Getting back in transition was also a problem, especially for the Bucks bench in the 2nd quarter.
Skiles: “They were the most aggressive team and the team that played the hardest won the game.”
RJ: “We didn’t have the intensity we needed. That’s really unfortunate in this type of game. You have to come in with every guy from one through 12 ready to play in these types of games. Tonight we just didn’t have it.”
Skiles: “Then we have a lot of guys jogging back in transition in the first half.”
The Bucks slow-footed bench dug them into a hole in the 2nd quarter while RJ and Charlie Villanueva were out for a breather. Luke Ridnour had one of his worst games as a Buck.
Skiles: “…literally guys just jogging and the Bulls are running by us for wide-open threes.”
The Bulls he was referring to are Gordon and Hinrich, who shot 6-8 from 3-point land for the game. Nobody else on the Bulls made one. The Bucks shot a horrendous 1-14 from downtown. … RJ led the Bucks with 27. Charlie V had 19 and 12 boards, Ramon Sessions scored 20 and had 11 assists. Usually that’s a recipe for a win. Not against Skiles’ Bulls.
Career highs for the rookies: Luc Mbah a Moute scored 21 pts for the Bucks, his career high, to go with 11 rebounds. Rose’s 27 points were his career high. Rose should win the Rookie of the Year, unless the media voters are overly-impressed by shooting guard O.J. Mayo’s scoring stats in Memphis. Rose is playing the most difficult position on the court – point guard – and winning games with playoff implications for his team.
Bucks (29-35) vs. Golden State Warriors (21-41), 7:30pm @ Bradley Center
The Bucks will get a good look at the forward they considered drafting last summer before deciding on Joe Alexander. Anthony Randolph is playing heavy minutes for coach Don Nelson these days, part of Nellie’s plan to scratch a healthy player or two to give his rookies (Randolph and Anthony Morrow) some playing time. Randolph played 47 minutes in Detroit last night (Friday) and got 17 pts and 8 rebs in the Warriors 108-91 loss.
The Bucks liked Randolph but leaned toward Joe’s potential — though Randolph is only 19 and has a ton of potential himself. In the end, it may have come down to body type — Randolph, at 6’10”-200 lbs, was and is just too dam skinny, even for the NBA. He fell from 6th, where the Knicks considered taking him, to the Bucks at 8th, then dropped to the Warriors at #14.
Alexander may not have any court sense, but he’s much stronger than Randolph — and the Bucks are hoping he can figure out what to do with himself on the court before Randolph has a chance to make Skiles and GM John Hammond regret their choice.
The Warriors will be playing their 4th game in 5 nights in the Upper Midwest and seem ready to go home. Center Andris Biedrins has left the country to attend to family matters. Monta Ellis, the star, is in California with a bad ankle and a bad attitude. Forward Stephen Jackson has a bad hamstring. Guard Corey Maggette is nursing a sprained ankle. There’s no telling whom Nellie might play with Randolph and Morrow against the Bucks — but he always has a good time in Milwaukee …
And the Bucks desperately need win # 30 to breath some life back into their playoff hopes. (They got it.)
Some good news: The Nets lost in Orlando, 105-102, which kept the Bucks from dropping into 10th. The Nets (27-35) schedule the final 20 games may be too difficult for them to overtake the Bucks or Bulls, much less hold off the Bobcats. Sunday the Nets host the Knicks, a team that feasts on their weak D, and then head West for four games.
Not so good news: Coach Larry Brown has the Charlotte Bobcats (27-35) playing their best basketball in the history of the 5-year-old franchise. In Atlanta, the ‘Cats won their 5th straight, 98-91, to move up into a tie for 10th with New Jersey. The Hawks may be on self-destruct – they’ve lost 6 of 8 and forward Josh Smith was benched in the 2nd half after a screaming match with coach Mike Woodson at halftime. The Hawks will be in Milwaukee in April for the teams’fourth and final meeting this season.
Celtics bigs dominate the Cavs: With Leon Powe getting a rare 20 pts and 11 rebs off the bench, the Celtics overpowered the Cavs in Boston, 105-94. Powe’s counterpart, Joe Smith, playing in his first game as a Cav, took the brunt of it. Welcome back to the East, Joe. Lebron cooled off finally, shooting just 5-15 from the floor and was held to 21 points, as Paul Pierce (29 pts) outplayed him …
— But the difference in the game came when Lebron went to the bench leaving Mo Williams to run the show. Ray Allen and the Celtics guards took over and made Powe look like an All-Star. This may be a sign of things to come in the playoffs. Garnett’s still out, btw, another ominous sign for the Cavs.
Bucks get 30th win: When two teams playing their 4th games in five nights meet anything can happen. It almost did when the Bucks and Nellie’s Warriors met at the BC Saturday night, as once again the Bucks let an opposing 3-point shooter catch fire in the 4th quarter (shades of the loss to New Jersey and Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling Tuesday). But against the Warriors, when Jamal Crawford poured in 10 pts from downtown to push a 104-104 tie midway through the 4th, the Bucks found shooters of their own, forced some misses and held the Warriors off, 127-120.
“We can’t sit there and give our fans cardiac arrest,” said Charlie Bell, who played 38 mins off the bench and scored 16.
Well, you could Charlie, though it would be polite not to do it sitting down. Interesting choice of words, though, because — unlike in the loss to the Nets — Charlie was not sitting down Saturday. This time, Skiles put his better defenders on the court in the games final minutes, and Charlie played out the 4th.