Like the participants in that faux case study (I still have yet to try the gum), Milwaukee has been in a semi-panic mode over the past week’s worth of offensive inconsistencies, and just needed a solid, all around win to bring them back to earth.
By Jake McCormick
The Bucks got much more than they bargained for against the Knicks, and this win very well could be labeled an early season turning point depending on how the team responds against Atlanta tonight and going forward into the weekend.
“We had good energy on both ends of the floor, didn’t hesitate offensively,” coach Scott Skiles said after the game. “We shot the ball when we were open, passed it when we were covered and as a result we had a lot of balls go in for us early and we were able to build a nice lead. It was a good all around effort on both ends.”
Pessimist: These aren’t Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are undoubtedly better than they have been over the past half decade, but Amare Stoudemire is really the only player that consistently forces teams to game plan around his skills. The Knicks still have a lot of work to do to become more than a bottom four seed in the playoffs. Although their offense is seventh in the NBA this season in pace and 10th in points per game, Mike D’Antoni‘s system doesn’t require a lot of defensive prowess.
“Drew (Gooden) got us going early, the ball was moving, guys were taking their shots when they’re open,” said center Andrew Bogut, who had 10 points and three rebounds. “We’re starting to realize when you’re open, shoot the ball and it’ll go in.”
There is something to be said for holding a team that averages 103.7 points per game to 80, but Milwaukee is more talented and deep than the Knicks, and thus should beat an inferior team like New York at home.
It’s no coincidence that the Bucks had their best offensive game of the season against the second worst defense they’ve faced. Milwaukee still has to prove they can score against defensive-minded teams like the Bostons Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat if there is any chance of them challenging for the Central Division title.
Optimist: Brandon Jennings walks the talk
After his semi-profane rant after the New Orleans loss and comments on Monday about putting the team’s shooting load on his back circa 2009-10, Brandon Jennings stepped up huge for the Bucks early on.
Jennings understood he was facing a high energy team that emphasizes offense above everything else, and he took advantage of New York’s underwhelming defense on his way to a game-high 19 points (8-13), six assists, five rebounds, one steal, and most importantly for his position, zero turnovers.
“I felt like I had to be a little more aggressive tonight,” Jennings said. “With a team like the Knicks, they get out on the offensive end but they kind of lack on the defensive end.”
Jennings was also able to knock down a couple early threes, and looked confident leading the offense and stepping back to let other players like Drew Gooden and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute get into a rhythm. His aggressiveness to get into the paint was a primary reason that the outside game opened up for the Bucks, and it’s a good sign that Jennings is becoming more and more comfortable in traffic.
Realist: A genuine step forward
Milwaukee still has a long path ahead towards sustained success this season, but a necessary win against an athletic, high scoring Knicks team was a step in the right direction. The Bucks topped 50% shooting for the first time all season, the bench contributed 42 points (although 15 occurred in fourth quarter garbage time), and Skiles dished out a lot of praise for the team’s game plan execution and all around solid performance.
“We’re getting there, it was a good win tonight,” point guard Keyon Dooling said. “The challenge will be to put a few good games together and establish a rotation so you know what to expect.”
The Bucks flashed as much offensive potential as they have all year, but the team and its coach understand that one game doesn’t prove anything in the NBA, and they’ll face a huge test in Atlanta tonight that will go a long way in determining how much this team has progressed from their win against the Knicks.
“It’s great that we played really hard … had great focus,” coach Scott Skiles said. “But it only matters now what we do (against Atlanta). If we come out and lay an egg then it’s just another game. If we come out and play well again, win or lose, but look like we’re coming together, then we can build off of it.”
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