Red-hot, new-look Bucks trash Trail Blazers 116-87
When the dust settled after the trade deadline passed, the always mediocre Milwaukee Bucks (21-24) looked more buffed up and better than their record indicates. With an explosive back court of point guard Brandon Jennings and newly acquired Monta Ellis, the Bucks are surprisingly the hottest team in the East, winners of six straight, all victories of 100 or more points. For the Portland Trail Blazers (21-25) the hangover of the long road trip were lingering, with only a day of rest the Blazers looked deflated against the Bucks who on the other side had three days of rest and were quite simply the better team tonight, their defense suffocating every Portland possession while shooting the lights out at the Rose Garden and earn the 116-87 win and blow out the home team by 29 points. Even a surprise return of Brandon Roy sitting court side wasn’t enough to spur the emotions of the Blazers. When can Roy come back?
Right from tip-off the Bucks looked clean, sharp and focused, their offense spreading the floor nicely and everyone knew where they needed to go. Other than that, Milwaukee found themselves open on tons of possessions as Portland was slow to close out. The score was tied for much of the first twelve minutes, much of the Blazers’ offense was from Wesley Matthews and (surprise!) Joel Przybilla from missed tip ins. LaMarcus Aldridge couldn’t find space in the paint whenever he touched the ball, it wasn’t that the Bucks were double-teaming him, they simply placed five bodies around him to force him into taking tough shots. After leading 25-23 from the first quarter, the serious cause of trouble came in the form of the benches. Believe it when Portland’s bench only managed to score one puny point by halftime, everyone from Jamal Crawford to Luke Babbitt and his new haircut and Nolan Smith faced the basket like it had a lid on top. Meanwhile it was Mike Dunleavy from the three-point line and Beno Udrih who simply ran circles and built the Bucks lead to as much as 16 and Portland cut it to a 54-43 halftime hole.
Coach Kaleb would’ve wished to put his starters in for the rest of the game but even they found themselves in trouble, Raymond Felton fell pray to his usual scheme of turnovers, Aldridge bricked and Nicolas Batum couldn’t find his range anywhere. Jennings, Ellis and Drew Gooden picked apart the Blazers one by one and the game was clearly over after the third. Meanwhile the bench at this point could only muster nine points as the starters watched from the sidelines in frustration. Many of the Rose Garden faithful had fled by the halfway point of the fourth and garbage time saw the appearance of both Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet, and like it was all night long, the Bucks managed to contain Portland and force them to fight the shot clock as they even couldn’t get a shot up at the final buzzer.
Big hand to Milwaukee who shot an astonishing 57% from the floor and had the image of a playoff contending team, its shocking that they’re fighting New York for the final spot in the East. The Bucks could do no wrong tonight, 11-21 from three-point land as six score in double figures, Drew Gooden for 19 Pts, 5 Ast on 8-12 shooting. Brandon Jennings for 15 Pts, 6 Ast as for Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih for 15 apiece.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 Pts on 7-11 shooting but you wouldn’t know it by the way he played tonight. He was stuffed defensively and didn’t have one open shot. Wesley Matthews was the talk for 21 Pts, 9 Reb and 5-7 from downtown and has been on the rise since the middle of the road trip. Raymond Felton struggled for 18 Pts, 9 Ast but had an alarming six turnovers. The bench shot a nauseating 2-29 from the floor as Jamal Crawford and Nolan Smith share three points between them. The Blazers shoot 35% for the night, 7-24 from three and out rebound 44-35 but lose in assists (35-14 ouch), steals (10-7), blocks (6-2) and turn it over 20-13.
Quite simply the Blazers appear to be heading for the lottery instead of playoffs, with 22 games left, it’s so important with this home stand to get the wins in the comforts of home, but the Bucks were the better team tonight. This marks the first time since 2006 that Milwaukee has won in Portland and there has to be a record for worst bench performance. Memphis is up next on Thursday.
photo courtesy of oregonlive.com/blazers