Redd, Milwaukee Bucks come out of overtime with a quality win

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By Jake McCormick

I still play quite a few sports video games, but when I had roughly 75% of the day to waste I would start about three or four franchises at a time. This led to a pretty consistent trend of never completing a single season, but I’ve wised up and go for that virtual hardware one team at a time now.One of my favorite hobbies with NBA Live 2000 for N64 (with Tim Duncan streaking across the cover) was creating an all-rookie/second year team with my favorite up and coming players. I’ll admit I wasn’t perfect, as Trajan Langdon and Darius Miles didn’t quite make it to the current versions of the game.

But if I was still at the age where armpit hair was a new, exciting thing and choirs only had alto and soprano despite the unisex participation, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a team I would use as-is in this category. After watching the Milwaukee Bucks finally pull out a home overtime victory against the Thunder, it’s pretty clear that they will be making noise for many years with the young talent on that roster. That’s part of the reason why the Bucks’ win is so savor-able at this point. The other reason is because it feels like they haven’t put up a W in almost a month (a 3-11 December record will do that sometimes).

Five things to take into Tuesday’s game in New Jersey:

1. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
LRMAM and the rest of the Bucks defense limited the 21-year-old to 10 second half points, including overtime, and generally did a good job guarding him in the first half. If only Durant didn’t have the wing span of a pterodactyl. The bottom line is LRMAM and the defense stopped Durant and Co. when absolutely necessary and avoided a repeat of the Laker and King games.

“I thought he was very good on (Durant); I didnt necessarily think he was bad on him in the first half,” Skiles said. “I think the 24 points in the last 17 minutes they scored, that was obviously a big part of game.”

LRMAM was the perfect example, against the Thunder, of a player whose value didn’t jump off the stat sheet. Six points, two rebounds, two blocks, a steal and three personal fouls are numbers you’d expect out of someone like Sasha Pavlovic, but there’s no concrete stat for LRMAM’s job on Durant. The fourth leading scorer in the league has now dropped 30 or more points in seven straight games (a franchise record) and he inevitably filled the stat sheet, but LRMAM came up huge and made Durant throw up a clear brick as the buzzer sounded at the end of the fourth quarter.

“It’s always tough when you have to guard someone like that,” Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. “Guys were helping me when I got beat. It was a team effort. We just made plays defensively to win the game.”

2. Michael Redd tallied another season high in points, but at what cost?
“He was good in general and mixed in baskets throughout the course of the game,” Skiles said. “When we were struggling to make baskets he stepped up and knocked them down. He certainly has the ability to do that.”

Redd’s 27 point, eight rebound performance against the Thunder played out similar to the movie Wanted. The character on the trigger end of the opening sniper scene, Cross, is thought to be the bad guy. But it’s revealed that Cross is Wesley’s father all along, which subsequently leads to one of the rare times where Morgan Freeman is considered a bad guy.

After spending much of regulation validating the theory that he isn’t good for Brandon Jennings’ game, Redd hit two straight threes in the fourth quarter and added six consecutive points in overtime to almost single-handedly carry the team to victory. He played some pretty tight defense too, which makes you almost forget that there’s more chemistry in homemade Jello than when him and Jennings share the floor.

“I’m still getting used to playing basketball again; it was a good step,” Redd said. “I love the end of the game and want to take big shot always. I thrive on it.”

There’s no question of either his or Jennings’ natural abilities, but it still doesn’t look like both players are comfortable playing together yet. We’ll know it when we see it.

3. Andrew Bogut and his merry band of double-doubles
Bogut had been up and down with his runner hook shots, but came up huge with 38.5 seconds left in overtime to put the Bucks up 98-95. He hit all but two of his free throws, and now has 12 double-doubles on the season.

“I just try to be aggressive,” Bogut said. “I’ve been working on my right hand hook shot, and the shot went down tonight.”

Bogut also hit a nice 15 footer, shot over 50% for the game, and grabbed key rebounds down the stretch to keep the Thunder to a low roar. If Bogut can maintain some kind of offensive consistency, that makes the Jennings/Redd paradox a little easier to stomach and buys some more time for each player to learn how to coexist. If Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees did it, I think they can too.

“Especially near the end of the game, we needed a defensive rebound,” Skiles said. “Bogut was all over glass, he went in and scored a big basket, and made his free throws tonight.”

4. I’ve got the second half runs…

Although Durant was limited to 10 points in the second half (including overtime), the Thunder were able to rattle off an 11-2 run to start the third quarter. But as the basketball gods taketh, they also giveth in the form of a 13-2 Bucks run after a quick timeout to regroup as boos rained from the rafters of the Bradley Center. It’s never a good thing to see a team come out flat like a middle school choir after halftime, but Skiles found a way to inject energy in a team that was headed for its fifth straight loss at home.

“Win or lose, I’m concerned about something every night as I drive home,” Skiles said. “We regrouped right away after the timeout, worked ourselves back into it, and didn’t let it get away from us.”

5. “Three Blind Mice” – Squad 6
“We have to go into the lane and either score or get fouled,” Skiles said. “Otherwise, we have poor backcourt coverage and people run out on you. You want guys in attack mode, but I know they’re a bit frustrated at the inability to get to the line.”

It seemed like every other foul drew a “Hell no!” look from both teams, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bucks continue to treat the free throw line like a seven year old playing hot lava with the sidewalk cracks. They shot 15-19 from the line and hit them when it mattered, but it can’t help Milwaukee’s case when they don’t reach the stripe consistently. Interestingly enough, Ersan Ilyasova and Bogut rank second and sixth, respectively, in drawing offensive fouls. If they can set their feet and fall correctly on one end, they should be able to eventually do the same on the other with the ball in their hands.

Overall, Skiles was pleased with the win over a quality Western Conference opponent, but put the win into context heading into next week.

“It was a great win and we’re glad to have it,” coach Scott Skiles said. “They’ve been on a streak, they play well on the road and have great, young athletes. It’s only good if we follow up and have another strong performance and that makes something we can build on.”

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