Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bucks Win!!

T.J. Ford is back in a big way.

"Not this T.J. Ford, stupid!"

If you can come back from a spinal cord injury that makes you miss a year and a half of basketball and still be faster then Allen Iverson, and have the best game of your career in your first game back, you have to feel pretty good about yourself.

And I feel pretty good about the Bucks.

Michael Redd might be the franchise, but T.J. Ford is its heart and soul. It was all about T.J. last night as he and Allen Iverson enagaged in an amazing speed battle, and just as Iverson looked ready to deliver the knockout punch, T.J blew by him for a layup, then on the next posession got away from him in the halfcourt and found Michael Redd for the game-tying three.

For the first three-and-a-half quarters it was all Iverson and Chris Webber, as the Bucks played nearly no defense at all inside or out. In the first quarter, the Sixers were beating us to everything and making nearly all their shots, in a game that was frantically back-and-forth. The second quarter was ugly, though, as T.J. had to leave with three fouls and you got a glimpse of what the Bucks were like last year, with Mo Williams playing erratically, missing 10 of 12 shots including 2 layups and playing absolutely horrendous defense on Iverson, who repeatedly crossed Williams and got to the basket for easy baskets, and the game slowed down tremendously. That's the difference T.J. makes. In the third, T.J. was back in, and, along with Bobby Simmons, who had a great debut, the Bucks gained a five point lead. But the Sixers rallied at the end behind, of all people, John Salmons, who was killing Redd on penetration. Chris Webber also made some timely baskets. The fourth seemed like it was over for the Bucks as the Sixers were clicking once again, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition for easy baskets. They stretched the lead to nine early, but down seven with 67 seconds left, the Bucks rallied. Redd hit two free-throws, T.J. blew by Iverson once again for an easy layup, Jamaal Magloire came up with a stop on Webber, which led to the helter-skelter finish. T.J. Ford had wide open looks twice but passed them up, found Redd, and he hit. The big question was, why didn't the Sixers, up by three, foul Ford? We might never know.

In the overtime, Andrew Bogut hit his stride, making a key layup, grabbing key rebounds, playing solid defense, and adding a huge and-one when the outcome was still in doubt, and the Bucks totally dominated the extra period. After the game, Michael Redd was named player of the game. Although it is true that without Michael's shot, we wouldn't have won the game, if it were'nt for Ford it would have been a blowout, so he was my player of the game.

What impressed me most about the Bucks, besides their resiliency, was the bench. Toni Kukoc, Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell were huge for us. Toni provided great leadership whenever the Sixers would trap in the halfcourt, and he also scored on a variety of floaters and runners. Gadzuric was his usual great self, showing off an improved offensive game and hitting an amazing baseline fadeaway jumper. Bell was probably sixth man of the game. He hit all four of his shots including a three, and played the best defense of any Buck all game. People had high expectations of him going in, but he managed to outlive them in just 13 minutes.

On the other hand Jamaal Magloire was terrible, hacking wildly at anyone who came into the lane, turning the ball over six times, and generally looking lost in the paint. He fouled out in overtime. The only bright spot was the final stop on Webber, because for the rest of the game Webber dominated from the start, beating Magloire on a simple little up-and-under move on the game's first possesion. This begs the question, why wasn't Gadzuric starting?!? He's been with this team for three years and has been great all three. Magloire came in for only three days and he gets the starters job? Magloire played 38 minutes to Gadzuric's 15. If Gadzuric was in the game for 38 minutes he would've finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds, compared with Magloire's 4 and 9. I think I'm going to keep a season-long journal on the screwing of Gadzuric.

Redd was pretty much a non-factor for the entire game, shooting 5-16 until his game-tying three, and not playing much defense, but he lit up in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring sixteen. Simmons had the best debut of any of the new Bucks (not counting Ford) with 22 points and an amazing 12 rebounds, many of which were keyin the fourth quarter. I only remember seeing him score twice, so he was quietly efficient. Bogut also had a pretty good debut, scoring 13 and grabbing 9 rebounds, and was, like I said, great in overtime.

The Bucks win shouldn't blind us to the negatives of the game, though. We turned the ball over way too many times, and were far too succeptible to the trap. We also, like I said didn't play very good interior defense. Some of the discrepancy in points in the paint between Philly and Milwaukee can be attributed to turnovers, but a lot of it was not putting up resistance whenever Iverson or Webber got to the hole. Webber finished with 32 and Iverson 35.

All in all though, it was a pretty good showing for the first game of the season, and if we can show the same resiliency against a much better New Jersy team tonight, we might be able to win this one too.