Ah...sweet, sweet victory. It's nice even if we did seemed rather embarrassed to take it.
Bucks 95, Blazers 99
--Despite some early turnovers and a little trouble settling into the game (why does it always take us 3-4 minutes to warm up?!?) we played some really nice ball in the first half. Of biggest note: we were intentionally pushing the ball and got some easy breaks. In fact we had about three of them in a short space and they looked so nice and natural that I completely forgot we were cursed on those things. Fortunately we had already scored them before I remembered. And please note these came before Sergio came in, which at least halfway answers the question whether our starting guards can run the break.
--The defense in the first half was also very nice, although to be fair we should point out again that it wasn't exactly differential calculus tonight. In fact the proper defensive scheme was so obvious that our preview had it called exactly to the letter. Everybody in the building knew that we would be doubling Ruben and playing man up on everybody else but there's a difference between knowing what to do and executing properly. We did a fair amount of executing properly in the first half.
--Mostly due to foul trouble (but leaving open the possibility of some random vortex opening over the Blazer bench tonight) we played the weirdest lineup I've yet seen in the second quarter. It was Sergio, Juan, Martell, Raef, and Jamaal all out there at the same time. It was like the Island of Misfit Toys discovered a ferry to the mainland or something. To their credit that lineup maintained and even stretched the lead, but God knows how.
--The end result of the snappy execution was a 58-45 halftime lead with a similar dominance in field goal percentage.
--Naturally we decided to squander the lead in the second half, just to make the game interesting. (And to not ruin too many jersey predictions, I'm sure. The camera caught Nate distinctly mouthing the words "Jorga" and "XarXar" during one of the timeouts.) How did we do it? We played sloppier than a pre-school field trip to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Sloppy offense, consisting mostly of long jumpers and turnovers. Sloppy defense, including forgetting to double Ruben and running around like headless chickens after Boykins. Sloppy, sloppy rebounding leading to second chance opportunities. With three minutes to go in the game they flashed a graphic that the Bucks had outscored the Blazers 20-8 in the paint since halftime. No kiddies! Bad kiddies!
--Nevertheless, thanks to some cold-blooded shooting by Roy and some free throws by Jack we ended up pulling it out. I guess the scoreboard tells us that the good play in the first half was stronger than the bad play in the second half. So good job! Nevertheless it would do us some good to approach struggling teams with an athlete's instinct for vengeance rather than the reticence of a PETA member contemplating clubbing a baby harp seal.
--Zach's offense was a little random tonight, but other than that general observation plus noting that he rebounded very well and that he got toasted by Ruben a little late, I didn't really notice him that much tonight. Usually that means he's doing an adequate job defensively and running back in a timely fashion. A nice overall game.
--As I said, Brandon Roy was cold-blooded with his shot late. Not just ice cream truck cold, not just Bull Run skinny dipping cold, but full on Vanessa-Bryant-after-Colorado-but-before-the-diamond-ring cold. What Steve Nash did to us in the closing minutes Friday night Roy did to the Bucks tonight. His range is really improving and his crossover is becoming deadlier by the game. He's still going to have to work on scoring in the post against smaller players if he wants to make it a regular part of his arsenal though. Unless the opponent bites on his fake and he can make that up-and-under move he's lost when his back is to the basket. No quibbles though...28 points and 9 rebounds is plenty good enough even without post moves.
--Jarrett Jack scored 14 points, which is not that big of a deal until you consider that he did it on five shots. That's due to his 9 free throw attempts, which shows that he was being appropriately aggressive on offense. He also got 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, which is not all that bad. I love it when our backcourt starters fill up the stat board between them.
--Lamarcus Aldridge was the first guy off the bench again. He was directly responsible for those early fast breaks, as he simply beat his man down the court. The way he runs is scary. He didn't get too much burn tonight but again he needs to improve his defense and rebounding some in order to get multiple 25+ minute nights.
--Martell Webster really looked for his shot tonight. He ended up 5-8 with 15 points and that earned him 25 minutes of playing time. The guys really set him up well and he was ready to shoot well before he got it. My guess is the Blazers would be overjoyed to see just that kind of production out of him the rest of the year.
--What to do with Joel? Again he set the tone early with some great interior defense which never was the same after he went out. But again he was winded within four minutes and picking up silly fouls. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the wrap-around hug foul is some kind of secret code between him and Nate that means, "Please take me out, I don't want to play again this half."
--I've tried to hold out and defend it as something semi-exciting for fans in a time when those things are desperately needed, but finally I'm joining the highbrow masses in saying the Chalupa promotion needs to go. First of all, we're probably the last hold out in the league on that one. Nobody else does it that I can see. Second, we just can't handle it gracefully. I'm tired of fans rooting for extraneous baskets that would embarrass the other team. (Worse still when the Blazers are losing and fans are still chanting for a cholesterol-filled flatulence pocket.) And then there are times like tonight when Jarrett Jack was shooting two free throws to ice the game. We happened to be at 98 points at the time and most of the cheering (and a little of the subsequent booing when he missed the first one) seemed to be about refried beans instead of winning the game. They're what? 69 cents? 89 cents? Maybe a buck nineteen if you get the sour cream and tomatoes? If you want one that bad just buy one. Heck, buy a $10 ticket instead of a $20 one, move down six rows while the ushers aren't looking, and then knock yourself out after the game. Either way, can we skip this next year?