Bucks Show Up; Defeat Champs
The season of bewilderment continues.
A couple nights after dropping a home game to the absolutely awful Utah Jazz, the Bucks defeat the reigning world champions, the San Antonio Spurs.
Tim Legler of ESPN had it exactly backwards. Last night on NBA FastBreak he said the Bucks victory would give them confidence because it was a win over an elite team and not one of the bottomfeeders Milwaukee had been living off. He obviously doesn't really follow the Bucks because the team has been compiling impressive victories over play-off teams (Nets, 76ers, Pacers, Wizards, Mavericks, Heat, and now the Spurs) and getting tripped up by the bottomfeeders (Jazz, Lakers, Kings). In a sense, I suppose you can almost say that last night's thrilling victory was predictable. The Bucks live to play the big boys. Now they have to learn to take care of business against the also-rans (oh, oh... I see the Oklahoma City Hornets are next).
Bogut takes charge
FC Andrew Bogut has had two of his more impressive games against two of the best power forwards in basketball -- Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and now San Antonio's Tim Duncan. He scored the Bucks final two field goals in overtime, showing that he is not afraid of the pressure shot. He seemed pumped for the game, and turned in a superior effort.
Bogut set the pace early on by spinning right around Duncan and jamming on the all-star on the game's opening play. It was a startling move. Bogut looked quick and Duncan looked like he didn't think Bogut could do that. Bogut showed he was unafraid. Even the referees took notice. Bogut's aggressive, outstanding play had to have been a factor when he flopped under the basket and yet amazingly got the pushoff call against Duncan at a key point in the fourth quarter. I couldn't believe my eyes.
One tiny criticism, though. I wish he would stop shooting so many of his lane shots with his left hand. He doesn't make alot of them, and often the resort to the left hand appears unnecessary. He should try to make an effort to shoot as many as he can with his dominant right hand, he seems much more effective that way (witness his game winner).
Did you notice who the Spurs went after?
Even though F Tim Duncan was having a brilliant offensive night, and was being guarded by a rookie, on five straight crucial fourth quarter possessions, with the game in the balance, Spurs PG Tony Parker was the one to take the San Antonio shot. Why would the Spurs go to Parker rather than Duncan on so many critical offensive stanzas? Well guess who was guarding Parker? T.J. Ford. Question answered.
You know the strategy came straight from Popovich. There is no way Popovich would have tolerated Parker dominating the ball as he did if Parker was freelancing. Clearly Popovich felt the best way to get points was to attack the worst defender on the court -- Ford -- and that's what Parker did with the expected high degree of success.
Bucks clean the glass
As frustrating as the Bucks defensive effort can be at times, that's how inspiring their rebounding effort has been all season long. I can't remember a Bucks team that was this good on the boards.
Last night the Bucks outrebounded the mighty Spurs, and it was no fluke. The Spurs are an excellent rebounding team, but the Bucks looked consistently better. On several occasions the Bucks outfought and outhustled the Spurs for crucial rebounds. I can remember one particularly beautiful sequence where Bogut and Magliore each had an offensive rebound (Bogut missed a lefthanded follow; Magliore cleaned that up and scored the basket) and outclassed Duncan in the process. They made him look like he was wearing cement shoes, and that is a rare sight.
AP Photos by Morry Gash