Jennings rings up 55 for Bucks rookie record

Joins elite NBA company, achieves winning objective

By Truman Reed
November 18, 2009

Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings and the Bucks had 55 reasons to smile Saturday night.
Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE

Freedom's ring continued to be music to the ears of Brandon Jennings on the night of Nov. 14.

During his introductory season to professional basketball last year, Jennings averaged 5.5 points through 27 games for Lottomatica Virtus Roma, playing 17 minutes per game.

When news of Jennings' latest exploits as a rookie point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks made its way overseas, the folks "over there" probably figured somebody punched the '5' key twice when they typed the boxscore.

But there was no typo.

Playing in just his seventh National Basketball Association game, Jennings scored 55 points against the Golden State Warriors at the Bradley Center, breaking the Bucks rookie record of 51 points set by Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) against the Seattle Super Sonics Feb. 21, 1970.

Jennings, who sank 13 of 14 field-goal attempts in scoring 29 points during the third quarter, fell just two points short of the Bucks single-game record of 57 points set by Michael Redd on Nov. 11, 2006, and became only the third player in franchise history to score 50 or more points in a game.

He also became the first NBA rookie to reach the half-century mark in a game since Earl "The Pearl" Monroe accomplished the feat for the Baltimore Bullets onFeb. 13, 1968with a 56-point effort.

The only otherfirst-year NBA players to net 50 or more points inone contest were Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain, who set the league's rookie record with 58 points for Philadelphia against Detroit in a January 1960 game in Bethlehem, Pa.

Jennings' binge helped rally Milwaukee from a 57-49 halftime deficit to a 92-83 advantage after three quarters. He rattled off 16 consecutive points during one stretch in the quarter, draining 3-pointers and a variety of shots close-range and mid-range.

"The Warriors kept going under the screens, and in the first half, I wasn't taking advantage of it," Jennings said. "In the second half, I was like, 'If they're going to keep going under screens, I'm going to shoot it until it goes into the basket."

"Luckily, I hit the first two, and it seemed like the rim kept getting bigger and bigger and I couldn't miss."

Bucks center Andrew Bogut enjoyed the view.

"I haven't seen much like it," Bogut said of Jennings' performance. "I mean, I thought I was in great offensive rebounding position every time. I was waiting for it to come off the rim, and it just kept going straight through. I could have padded the stats a little bit if he missed one or two of them.

"It's great for Brandon, great for his confidence."

Bucks head coach Scott Skiles was asked if he had ever seen anything quite like Jennings' display.

"Well, I was in a game when Michael (Jordan) had over 60 once for the Bulls," Skiles said. "That was certainly impressive. I don't know exactly what to say."

"On a night when we didn't play very well -- our defense wasn't ready to start the game. We weren't in our stances. Guys were driving by us."

"We needed to pick it up and we did. We just went to our pick-and-roll game and spread the floor and he got hot ... again. He had 55 in three quarters. He didn't score in the first
quarter. It was a very, very impressive performance for anyone, let alone a rookie in his seventh game."

Jennings scored 10 points in the second quarter, and upon reviewing the first half at halftime, Skiles encouraged him to continue to look for his shot.

"We felt like early in the game, they (the Warriors) were going under on pick-and-rolls and he could have just stepped back and shot the ball," Skiles said. "He either seemed a little confused early or he was just trying to spread the ball around to his teammates. We didn't have anybody stepping up and doing anything. So we just kind of simplified it. We gave the ball to Brandon and let him go to work. He just had to take it on his shoulders and do it."

Skiles wasn't about to put up a stop sign once Jennings got going.

"I wouldn't have taken Brandon out unless ww'd have gotten up by 12 to 14 points near the end of the quarter," Skiles said. "I wouldn't want to throw him out of rhythm at that point.
"I know what it feels like to be in that zone. I've been there many times. In any NBA game, when you get a guy going like that, you're foolish if you're not continuing to ride that. You just hope that at 20 years old he's got enough left if you need him at the very end of the game."

Skiles didn't believe Jennings forced any bad shots during his 29-point third-quarter spree, and he still had enough left afterward to finish the game, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter. "He doesn't force it normally, especially when you consider he's a rookie. It's hard to say this when he gets 29 points in a quarter, but he's not greedy. He was open and he was knocking down shots. He hit three or four in a row, but when they came off and helped, he pitched it to Charlie Bell in the corner. He wasn't out there searching for his own; he was out there trying to help us win the game."

That was exactly what was at the forefront of Jennings' mind.

"Records and things like that aren't something I focus on," Jennings said. "I'm just trying to help us win and get back into the playoffs.

"I wasn't trying to go off or anything like that, but the shots were there, they kept falling and I kept shooting. I just felt like I had to keep going, especially in that third quarter. I felt like I was back at Oak Hill (Academy) again. The rim seemed to get bigger and bigger."

Jennings once scored 63 points in a game for Oak Hill as a high school senior, hitting 13 3- pointers in that contest. He didn't approach that total in his latest outburst, but he did
sink seven of eight treys along with 21 of 34 field-goal attempts overall and six of eight free-throw tries. He also found the time to collect five assists and five rebounds.

And oh yes, the Bucks got that win they were after, too, outlasting the Warriors, 129-125, to run their season record to 5-2 and maintain their first-place standing in the Central Division.

And for you folks "over there," that's no typo, either.