Season's Best Meetings
Do you remember where you were on February 1, 2012?
There were not as many games as usual this season. Instead of 82, just 66. And there were not as many wins as we would have liked either. Just 31, instead of, say, 37.
But this is an ode to quality, rather than quantity. So let’s keep this short and sweet.
After 14 games in 26 nights in April, you might be forgiven for losing track of some of the memories from earlier this season. Now that the team’s 2011-12 regular season campaign is over – exactly four months after it started – we can exhale and reflect.
While the Bucks went out with a loss, most teams do. Only six teams will go out with a win this season, and five of them are the Raptors, Pistons, Kings, Wizards, and Rockets. The other is to be determined in late-June.
This is not to say that you should only remember the good times – rather, just to not forget about them either.
With that in mind, a countdown of the ten most memorable wins of the season.
10. Bucks 115, Cavaliers 105 – March 14, 2012 – Bradley Center
- In their first game after trading Andrew Bogut to the Warriors, the shorthanded Bucks did not yet have newcomers Monta Ellis or Ekpe Udoh available to play.
- No worries, because it was time for Drew Gooden’s annual triple-double against the Cavaliers. After registering 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists in April 2011 against the Cavaliers, Gooden was back it again, racking up an almost identical 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists.
- Gooden entered the game averaging 1.1 assists per game in his career, but he reached nine assists by halftime. Not only that, but Gooden managed the triple-double in just three quarters, as he sat out the entire fourth quarter. Gooden’s great night also gave Milwaukee its fourth straight win.
9. Bucks 120, Warriors 98 – March 16, 2012 – Oracle Arena
- The debuts of Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh coincidentally came against their former team – just two days after they were traded from the Warriors.
- While the trade was much more complicated than simply swapping defense for offense, the Bucks nevertheless stacked up what was at the time a season-high 120 points, as six Bucks hit double-figures – led ironically by defensive ace Luc Mbah a Moute’s season-high 22 points.
- This win made it five in a row for the Bucks. They went on to blow out the Blazers 116-87 in the next game, extending their season-best winning streak to six games.
8. Bucks 92, Nets 85 – February 19, 2012 – Izod Center
- Entering this game, the Bucks had lost four games in a row. At 12-18, they had the same record through 30 games as they did the year before. Things looked bleak.
- However, it didn’t take long to see that this was a new day for the Bucks. And even more obviously, a special night for Ersan Ilyasova, as the power forward hauled in 11 rebounds – in the first quarter.
- Brook Lopez returned to the lineup for the Nets and was greeted by a staggering 29 points and 25 rebounds by Ersan Ilyasova. Amazingly, 13 of those rebounds came off the offensive glass. This was the best game of Ilyasova’s career – right in the middle of the best season of Ilyasova’s career.
7. Bucks 91, Heat 82 – January 22, 2012 – AmericanAirlines Arena
- In a season full of offensive surprises, this game stands out as the defensive high note. The Heat came into this game having just posted consecutive double-digit wins at home against the Spurs, Lakers, and 76ers – and had scored 113+ points in three of their last four games.
- The Bucks shot just 35.0 % from the field, and just 16.7 % on three-pointers. But they held the scorching-hot Heat to just nine assists and forced 21 turnovers.
- One of the subtly brilliant plays of the year came following some controlled ball movement when Shaun Livingston delivered a quick, darting pass to a cutting Ersan Ilyasova with one second on the shot clock to give the Bucks an 85-80 lead. In what proved to be a common theme, the Bucks saved their best for last during a 26-19 fourth quarter.
6. Bucks 106, Spurs 103 – January 10, 2012 – Bradley Center
- Andrew Bogut returned to the lineup after flying to Australia and missing four games– and two plays by Bogut stand out the strongest from this game. The first was an emphatic one-handed dunk off a pick-and-roll with Brandon Jennings. The second was a charge that he drew on Tim Duncan with the Bucks up by three points within the final minute of the game.
- Jennings – who handed out 11 assists – took matters into his own hands in the fourth quarter, breaking down three Spurs for a running bank to go up 98-94, crossing up Tony Parker for a jumper to go up 104-101, and springing forward for a two-handed dunk to effectively finish the game at 106-103.
- The Spurs surely liked what they saw from Stephen Jackson, whom they ended up trading for approximately three months later. Jackson played his finest game of the season – for either the Bucks or the Spurs – scoring 34 points on 12-17 field goals along with eight assists.
5. Bucks 107, Cavaliers 98 – April 4, 2012 – Bradley Center
- I remember media on press row double-checking, looking back, asking someone, anyone exactly how many points Monta Ellis had scored in a row. Okay, I was one of those people. Granted, it became difficult to keep track. Ellis scored 16 points straight in the final five minutes of the game, pushing the team to a win.
- It wasn’t just that Ellis scored 16 straight – it was how he scored 16 straight. Jumpers, almost all of them. In those scintillating five minutes, Ellis made just one shot at the rim, and zero free throws.
- Ellis left his mark shooting the basketball in this game, but he added eight assists as well – including an alley-oop to backcourt mate Brandon Jennings.
4. Bucks 119, Knicks 114 – March 9, 2012 – Bradley Center
- Some perspective: This game is how the Bucks followed up a heartbreaking, game-winning shot by Derrick Rose two nights earlier.
- With the Bucks up 114-113, the shot-clock winding down, and the game-clock inside 30 seconds, Brandon Jennings scooped a shot toward the rim, which Drew Gooden volleyed to Ersan Ilyasova for a layup. This might stand as the play of the year, for its improbability (Jennings’ flip toward the rim was way off), importance (late in the game against a fellow playoff hopeful), and appropriateness (Ilyasova’s offensive rebounds helped define the season).
- Also, this game gave rise to one of the classics quote of the year after the game by Brandon Jennings: “Ersan saved the day again.”
3. Bucks 119, Wizards 118 – February 28, 2012 – Bradley Center
- Ersanity hit fever pitch when Ersan Ilyasova followed up a missed runner by Brandon Jennings to tip in the game-winner with two seconds remaining in regulation. Few NBA players were better on the offensive glass than Ilyasova this season, and his fifth offensive rebound of the game was fittingly a patented tip-in.
- The hero of the night summed up his season perfectly with the tip and then summed up his game perfectly in the locker room: ''I tipped it in and we won the game. It was the right spot for me.”
- Bizarre play of the night was courtesy of JaVale McGee, who fouled Drew Gooden on a long three-pointer right before halftime. Gooden made two of the three free throws, McGee sat the entire second half, and the Wizards lost by one.
2. Bucks 100, Knicks 86 – January 20, 2012 – Madison Square Garden
- This win snapped an eight-game road losing streak for the Bucks – in the most dramatic setting, and in electrifying fashion.
- The previous time Brandon Jennings visited Madison Square Garden, he scored 37 points in a win. This time, he was just as sublime in the limelight, netting 36 points. But his game that cannot be told only in numbers. This was the kind of night when Jennings would dribble down the court and casually pull up for a three-pointer, steal the ball before the Knicks could get past half court – and then top it all off with a dunk.
- Carmelo Anthony (35 points) dueled with Jennings – that is, until he was ejected in the final minute. You know how when players say there is nothing better than going on the road and quieting a crowd? I did not play in the game, but I sure felt that feeling, just watching.
1. Bucks 105, Heat 97 – February 1 – Bradley Center
- LeBron James mesmerized to the point that I couldn’t even look down to take game notes. He scored 24 points in the first quarter while the Bucks – the entire team – scored 23 points in the first quarter. With James personally beating the Bucks all by himself, this was already primed to go down as one of the most memorable games of the season – but not for all of the right reasons. And then...
- The Bucks mounted a stunning comeback, winning each of the final three quarters, turning a 17-point deficit into an eight-point win.
- Brandon Jennings broke out the monocle in a 14-point fourth quarter that simultaneously rocked the Heat and the Bradley Center. Jennings was on top of the world, writing his name in the sky. Meanwhile, James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh combined to shoot 4-16 from the field in the fourth quarter. For everyone else, Milwaukee was unforgettably the place to be on the first night of February.
|Bucks.com welcomes Alex Boeder as a new feature writer. Alex was a contributer to Brew Hoop and SB Nation. You can follow Alex on Twitter @alexboeder or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|