Top Player Performances
By Alex Boeder
Confession: I missed the 55-point game.
Back in 2009, it was my first full season on press row at Bucks games for BrewHoop. The previous season, I had reported at a few games. The very first one was memorable for a lot of reasons but really one reason. LeBron James scored 55 points. Somehow that highlight package doesn’t really do him justice. Eventually, he was just dribbling down the court and hitting threes from four feet behind the three-point line. Since then, I have only missed a few Bucks home games. And as far as individual performances, that one still stands on top.
Because on Nov. 14, 2009, I was back at home for the weekend. Raking leaves. Truly a good deed to the parents. But it was also the night that Brandon Jennings scored 55 against the Warriors. I didn’t miss a game this season. It’s hard to miss another one after missing that one.
No 55-point games, and no obvious choice for top player performance of the season this time. This list was actually more difficult to compile than I had anticipated. And not because there was a shortage of fine performances. On the contrary, I even ended up cutting games like John Henson’s 17-points, 25-rebound effort in Orlando and the night Monta Ellis put up 27 points and 17 assists in Atlanta.
- Udoh earns most modest stat line status among those listed here, which is fitting. The 11 points were three off his season-high. The six rebounds are just plain a lot for him. And the five blocks were a season-best. But this goes deeper. This was the game that the Bucks came back from 27 down to win. The most memorable game of the season. And Udoh was a very important part of the bench squad that delivered the win.
- The only Henson mention on the list is not even his most stat-heavy. He posted some eye-opening lines against the Thunder and Magic in particular. But making 10 out of 11 shots against the Spurs is one of the official ways to make this list, for future reference. And Henson did just that to kick off the new year. The Spurs entered the game on a six-game winning streak, and they made it seven. But the Bucks played well (well, offensively), and Henson was not involved in the 33-22 Spurs first quarter that put the Bucks behind. He made hooks, dribble-drives, and he almost made everything.
- If only the Nets and Bucks both would have been just a little better this season. Say, a #3 seed and #6 seed, instead of #4 and #8. Then, maybe the Bucks would have had scored a playoffs series win. These teams split the season series, but the Bucks outscored them by 19 points overall in head-to-head matchups. Ellis and the Bucks cruised to a win thanks in large part to a cool, efficient game from Ellis. In addition to those 20 points, 7 assists, and 6 steals, Ellis also pulled in 6 rebounds. And all of this despite bringing a sore, red-eye to the post-game locker room after being poked in the eye by Reggie Evans.
- The Bucks were in midseason form in their season-opening win in Boston. Jennings registered six steals in this game, which happened to be more than the entire Celtics team (4). Perhaps most impressive of all is that Jennings stuffed the statsheet to such an extent in just 28 minutes. He turned the ball over just twice, outplayed Radjon Rondo, boasted a team-best +12 differential, and generally played one of his most complete games of the year.
- Speaking of memorable games. Ellis famously finished this one with a silly, sweet, silly buzzer-beating three-point basket. It was the most improbable hoop of the year, and it helped propel the team to six wins in seven games. But don’t forget about the other 24 points, 13 assists, and 6 steals that Ellis posted before that shot.
- Sanders blocked Nikola Pekovic three straight times in the first quarter. By the end of the night, he had a triple-double and had tied Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s franchise record with 10 blocks.
- The Bucks ended a 24-game losing streak in Phoenix this season, but give me this performance by Jennings at home anytime. After something of a slow start, the Bucks moved quickly to down the overmatched Suns. And in a season where Jennings showed that he could score 35 or dish 19 assists, this was one of his most pure, simple games. Picked his spots well, found others, turned the ball over just twice. Great stuff all around, right Jim Boylan? "Brandon was great today. He was under control. He was aggressive, yet he was looking for his teammates. He was just playing the game, which is great for him. Just go out there and play the game. It's kind of a simple statement, but shoot when you're open, pass when you're covered. I thought that's what he tried to do tonight."
- Here is what it takes to beat the Heat. Or at least what it takes to pull and away and beat the Heat by 19 points. Three great games, by three top players, all at once. And throw in a few very good games by a few others. Jennings was just very steady all around, on both ends of the court. Opposing starting point guard Mario Chalmers shot 1-5 with 5 points and 3 assists. Jennings did not.
- Along with stellar, stellar defense, The Prince was hitting jumpers and threes and doing just a bit of everything in the fourth quarter, helping the Bucks outscore the Heat 35-14 in the joyous final period. This was the best version of Mbah a Moute, which is a very good Mbah a Moute. The Bucks improved to 16-12 with this win.
- Excellent defense on Chris Bosh (who shot 5-14) and against the entire Heat offense. But this was also one of his finest offensive nights of the season. And the key was keeping it simple, as Sanders did not make a shot outside of two feet, only attempting two from outside that range.
- Pretty much everything from Ilyasova in this one. He scored and scored efficiently. He completely owned the glass, both offensive (7) and defensive (9). He shot well from the field, on threes (2-4), and at the line (5-6). He passed a little (2 assists), caused trouble on the defensive side (3 steals, 1 block), and despite being a part of it all, never turned the ball over. And yes, he led the team to a win.
- If you would have told me before the season that Sanders would give it to Dwight Howard and the Lakers on both ends of the court with 21 points and 13 rebounds en route to a convincing and satisfying home win, I would have been surprised. On March 28 around 10:05 p.m., I would have congratulated you on a surprisingly perfect and perfectly surprising prediction.
- On the road too, this one. In that impossible place to play, now. With Stephen Curry and the Warriors looking so good in the playoffs and particularly devastating at home, it is bittersweet to look back on Milwaukee’s rather convincing 2-0 season sweep of Golden State. Jennings played well in both games, but the road game was virtuoso stuff, as he delivered 4-5 two pointers, 6-11 three-pointers, 10 assists, and one nice belated birthday present to me. Thanks, Brandon.
- Ilyasova’s name (Ilaysova) is not even mentioned here in the NBA.com recap of the game. Which more than anything I guess just shows how well the Turkish forward can scatter and hide 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists in 26 minutes on the court. He made all of his threes (3-3), all of his free throws (4-4), and almost all of his shots, and turned the ball over just once.
- Putting up numbers that remind you of Kevin Garnett circa 2007 is nice. Doing so while playing against Kevin Garnett is even nicer. The Bucks played the Celtics a lot early on this season, and Sanders and the Bucks fared very well. To wit: Arguably this was only his second best game against Boston in December.
- The first half of this game was perhaps the oddest half of basketball in the NBA this season. Going into halftime, Dalembert had made 10-11 shots from the field and the Bucks led by 17 points. The night before, Dalembert had played six minutes and not scored, while the Nuggets had won for the sixth straight time and improved to 20-3 at home. Dalembert never even scored half as many as his 35 points in any other game this season. He made an absurd 17-21 (.809) from the field, and collected his 35 points and 12 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Probably the best game by a reserve in the NBA this season.
- Just based on those stats above (20 points, .571 FG%, 17 assists, 3 steals), only five other players have put together a game like this one this century: Baron Davis, Chris Paul, Steve Nash (twice), Andre Miller, and Jose Calderon. Really high-grade, pure point guard stuff here. Also earns bonus points because he thrived in the backcourt with Ellis (34 points) and that tandem outscored Utah’s starting backcourt 54-0.
- The Celtics started this game on 17-0 run. And then Sanders had his way, in every way. He recorded 18 points and 16 rebounds, both career-bests at the time. He blocked five shots, after blocking 10 the night before. He made 4-5 free throws. He posted a team-best +18 differential. He committed just two fouls and never turned the ball over in 32 minutes. And he did all of this off the bench. At the time, you might recall, he preferred to come off the bench. By the end of the week, he was in the starting lineup, and never came off the bench again.
- If you remember anything about the home opener, you remember the game-winning three by Brandon Jennings. But the star of the full night was Dunleavy, who may have had the best game of his NBA career here. We know Dunleavy is efficient, but 29 points on 12 shot attempts is a bit much, even for him. Throw in 12 rebounds and 6 assists along with that? This is the stuff that Funleavy is made of.
- Ellis got going, kept going, and it seemed like he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter. That’s right. He did. He liked Sundays this season.
My passions? Writing and the Bucks, to start. So it is good to be here. I have reported on media row for just about every Bucks home game since 2009-10 – almost all of that time writing for BrewHoop. I have also written for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, SB Nation, ESPN Milwaukee, Slam Online, etc. You can follow me on Twitter @alexboeder or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.