Bucks (4-2) vs. Golden State Warriors (2-5). Saturday, 7:30 pm @ the Bradley Center
This must be ex-coaches old home week for the Bucks. First Skipper George Karl and the Nuggets of Carmelo's Island shipwrecked at the BC to end their Eastern conference road trip. Next up is Don Nelson and his infighting Warriors, currently in New York trying to get some practice in amid their bickering. Seems the greatest coach in the history of the Bucks and his all-star guard, Monta Ellis can't get along. Here's an excerpt from the San Jose Mercury News story:
"Nelson waved both hands at Ellis, as if to brush him off, and walked off shaking his head.
'See,' Ellis said. 'That's why I won't do it. I just won't do it.'"
Meanwhile, Warrior forward Stephen Jackson's agent is a bit#h, and ESPN loves it.
The Warriors play the Knicks Friday, so Nellie's team will be playing the 2nd night of a back-to-back when they face the Bucks on Saturday. The well-rested, well-practiced Bucks, enjoying their soft schedule (quite a difference from the brutality of last season) get no excuses if they blow this one.
KID DYNAMITE — Brandon Jennings rained 55 on Nellie and the Warriors Saturday in the Bucks 129-125 win. Suddenly the whole league is watching. The Bucks were the featured Yahoo and NBA.com stories the night of the game, and there's been more since. Now for the highlights.
Dangerous win: Jennings' 55 points were just two short of Redd's franchise and Bradley Center record of 57, and the Bucks needed every one of them against Nellie's Warriors. Never let it be said that Skiles doesn't like a shootout or won't roll the ball out and let his rookie sensation get after it. But this was exactly what Nellie wanted Skiles to do Saturday (see Pregame notes below). The Warriors were one Corey Maggette (25 pts) 3-ball in the 4th from taking this game from the Bucks, too close for comfort. After the game, Skiles said the Bucks didn't play well.
Luckily for the Bucks, the Warriors have more interest in ensuring their pace than than they do in defense, and that played right into Jennings' hands. The rookie had 14 in the 4th, Charlie Bell added 7, including the game-clinching free throws in the final seconds (Jennings and Bell are starting to click as the Bucks starting guards).
The box score will show that the Bucks core of Jennings (7-8 from downtown), Andrew Bogut (19 pts, 11 rebs), Luc Mbah a Moute (12 rebs) and Bell (14 pts, 6 assists) shot well, rebounded and dished, and played heavy minutes. In a game where Nellie put four-guard lineups on the court, Luke Ridnour put in 36 mins off the bench and had a good, smart game: 13 pts, 4 assists, just ONE turnover and he even blocked a Stephen Curry shot! Nellie-ball limited Ersan and Hakim's minutes, while Jodie Meeks logged 16 minutes off the bench.
Carlos Delfino was benched after a terrible game Wednesday against Denver, and despite the fact that my pal Johnny says he looks like X-Men bada#s Wolverine. Saturday, Carlos "Wolverine" Delfino rode the pines.
Say Hello to Jason Kidd: Great game, and get ready for Jason Kidd on Monday, Skiles told Jennings after the game. The Mavs, like the Nuggets and Warriors before them, will be on the 2nd night of back-to-back road games when they face the Bucks. The Mavs ended a 3-game Pistons win streak Sunday in Detroit, stealing the game thanks to a horrendous shooting night from Pistons gunner Ben Gordon. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 25 pts. Big center Erick Dampier will miss the game, pitting Bogut against Drew Gooden, still a skilled big man. The Bucks blew the Mavs out at the BC last season without Bogut, as Charlie V and Michael Redd were on fire. Redd's allegedly going to try to play this week, if not Monday then Wednesday.
PREGAME: But before counting win #5, let's look back to Dec. 10, 2008 and shudder. The Bucks were in Oakland to play the Warriors on the last night of a three-game trip West. It was one of those rare times when the Skiles-Richard Jefferson Bucks were relatively healthy. Andrew Bogut's back had not yet revolted against him (that would happen a week later in Philly). Michael Redd's ankle sprain had been healed for about two weeks. The only player missing from Skiles' 8-man rotation was Charlie Bell, who missed the road trip to get the limp out of his ankles.
Yet the Bucks at that point were not clicking at all, and didn't seem to be able do anything well except rebound. They had had embarassed themselves against the Suns and Lakers in the first two games of the western trip, and needed a win against Nellie's Warriors to salvage some scrap of something — pride? They didn't get it.
The 6-15 Warriors blew the Bucks out in the 4th quarter, 37-15 for their 7th win, 119-96. The Warriors, like the Suns, had suckered the Bucks into an uptempo shoot-out, and the Bucks went for it, led by Michael Redd (27 pts in the loss). The Bucks fell to 9-15 and were nowhere near the committed, aggressive defensive team they are now. Skiles seemed at a loss.
The Warriors game, like the Suns game, highlighted the Bucks lack of discipline in recent years and also a lingering and major Bucks weakness: shooting. The Warriors and Suns are teams filled with guys who can drain it. They do it quickly and they do it well, and they do it much better than the Bucks, currently dead-last in the NBA in shooting at 41.4%.
The Warriors shoot 49% from the field and lead the league in scoring at 112.4 points per game. They've got six guys averaging in double figures, led by Ellis and Stephen Jackson, plus rookie Stephen Curry, who's scoring nine a game.
Redd will miss this game, a good thing for the Bucks. The Bucks can't afford to get into a shootout with a Nellie team. It's a trap for the undisciplined, and a game management challenge for Skiles, certainly no foe of a quick tempo. But it's tricky. The Warriors are going to shoot at their own pace, not much the Bucks can do about it but get a hand in their faces or force turnovers, which they've been able to do well so far this season. The big danger for the Bucks and Brandon Jennings will be falling into Nellie's groove instead of a groove their own. And they'll need to identify a couple of hot shotters as they did in the win Wednesday against the Nuggets.
IN-GAME UPDATES AND NOTES: Under six minutes to play in the 3rd, the Bucks have called time and Jennings is about to go to the line for an and-one. He made it, tying the game (69 all) for the first time in the 2nd half. This is going as expected. The Bucks fell into Nellie's trap and gave up 57 points in the first half. The Bucks could only muster 48.
The Bucks will probably need to score 110 to win this one and that's fine with Jennings — he's got 30 points with 15 minutes of game left. The kid is a dynamo. Make that 32 points. No, 35 and we're still in the 4th. 37!!! FLASH. 39!!!
KID IS ON FIRE!!! JENNINGS just hit a half court shot with no time on the clock to push the Bucks lead to nine, 92-83, going into the 4th. He has 41.
Center Andris Biedrins is out with a groin injury and won't play in Milwaukee. Biedrins is a skilled, active center with range whose quickness presents problems for Bogut. This could mean a lot of layups for Bogut if the Bucks pound the ball inside, which is what they did against the Nuggets Wednesday. Big advantage in the paint against the Warriors.
BOGUT is racking up big numbers, as expected: 19 pts on 9-11 shooting, 10 rebs — still in the 3rd. He didn't score in the 4th.
SKILES has again, as he did against the Nuggets, played Jennings, Charlie Bell, Bogut and Luc Mbah a Moute heavy minutes. That looks to be the core — the rookie sensation and three tough-minded defenders. While he split the power forward minutes Wednesday using Hakim Warrick and Ersan Ilyasova, Skiles has gone small to counter Nellie with Luke Ridnour. Jennings has not come out in the 2nd half, heading toward the 6 minute mark of the 4th, Bucks holding a 99-95 lead.
Nellie's been resting his starters, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson in particular. Remember, the Warriors are playing the 2nd night of a back-to-back. I'm a little concerned, though Mbah a Moute and Bogut are also getting some rest as I write this.
Note to Bucks GM John Hammond: Anthony Randolph, that stringy 6'10" forward from LSU you passed on in favor of Joe Alexander in the 2008 draft is doing just fine. He's a regular part of Nellie's rotation these days, and is averaging 13.0 pts and 7.1 boards in — get this — just 22 minutes per game.
The Bucks remain #1 in NBA defensive rating (going into the Warriors game) giving up just 93.1 points per 100 possessions. They're also #1 in rebounds per game, with 47.3, and #1 in rebounding percentage. They're grabbing 54% of available rebounds. JS Online Bucks blog has the story.
And now, let's take a moment to ponder George Karl.
They came wearing Ray Allen Bucks jerseys, #34. They came in red hair and blue faces like a clan of barbarians. They came with bellies full of beer and filled them some more.
They came to see George Karl, the man who once publicly accused Ray Allen of not having any respect for the game.
They came to heckle the man who traded Ray Allen and sent the Bucks floundering into the Michael Redd era.
They were but one section of fans (tickets paid for by Andrew Bogut) in a crowd of just 7,000, but they were loud.
George's ship eventually crashed on Carmelo's island and there he's made his home. His Nuggets are one of the best of the West, a possible title contender. But after a rough weekend in Miami and Atlanta and a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back in Chicago and Milwaukee, the Nuggets have no business thinking about an NBA title. They were fortunate to escape with a 90-89 win against the Bulls — their lone victory in the East since beating New Jersey a week ago.
And George Karl is now 0-2 at the Bradley Center since the Bucks hired Scott Skiles. The Bucks jumped the Nuggets last February, 120-117, also at the end of a Nuggets Eastern trip.
Wednesday night, Chauncey Billups looked too old to be chasing around rookies with Brandon Jennings' seemingly endless supply of energy (32 pts, 9 assists for Jennings). There was indeed a reason Detroit decided Chauncey'd seen better days. Wednesday he looked very much like the tired, battle-worn guard who couldn't keep up with Rajon Rondo and Jameer Nelson in the 2008 playoffs.
And Andrew Bogut (23 pts, 10 rebs, 4 blocks) was good, very good, up to the challenge of Denver center Nene Hilario and everything else Denver threw at him, including a foul-tempered and frustrated Carmelo. The Nuggets get a little chippy when they're being beat. Check out the Bogut-Melo confontation and other highlights.