6th Mahon Experience: Bucks vs. Raptors, 4/11/11

by Sean Mahon, 6th Fan Blogger
April 11, 2011

Rim Rockers
Bango and the Rim Rockers rock the rim one final time for the 2010-11 season during the Fan Appreciation Night festivities.

I still remember Fan Appreciation Night of last season. The scene was a bit different since I knew it was not goodbye just yet as the Bucks were set to take on Atlanta in the playoffs, but nonetheless it was an exciting environment because of the great play of the Bucks, the fan spirit, and the endless giveaways. Bango and the Bucks cheerleaders throw out tons of shirts out each season, but despite attending over 20 games, I had no such luck in acquiring one of my own.  I was sitting in the upper deck section where I was certain I’d finally get a shirt shot up to me in the stands. It was just a vibe. Come the fourth quarter t-shirt toss, Bango was looking right at me.  I’m fairly certain he even pointed at me and called my name. He took the t-shirt cannon and fired a Bucks shirt in my direction. In fact, it was right at me. Finally, I was getting a shirt, a moment I had been waiting (and hyping up) for all season long. I took a jump like I was Bogut going up for a crucial rebound to claim my prize…

Unfortunately, a real Bogut replica was behind me. I was robbed by a legitimate 7’0 fellow behind me, mere moments before the shirt hit my hands. Sir, if you happen to be reading this, you know who you are, you owe me a Bucks t-shirt. My quest for a Bucks prize continued tonight on Fan Appreciation Night 2011.

Now on to what matters…          

Well, this wasn’t quite the play the Bucks drew up last summer when they were preparing for April basketball, but it’ll give them plenty to think about and prepare for come next season.  The Bucks take on the Raptors in their final Milwaukee home showing of the season. At 33-47 entering the night, the Bucks were considered to be a major playoff contender coming into the season, but punching playoff tickets in consecutive seasons isn’t quite as easy as some make it seem.  The Raptors come out tonight after savoring a victory against the new look New Jersey Nets while the Bucks come off a home victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Keep in mind that this may be Michael Redd’s final home game in a Bucks jersey.  He is set to be a free agent in the offseason and it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be resigning in Milwaukee. If it is in fact his final home game as a Buck, Redd’s tenure with them will end after 11 seasons, an All-Star appearance, and years as the face of the franchise. 

Clicks to Pick: Drew Gooden is coming off a triple-double performance against the Cavs on Saturday night, his best game of the season. He looks healthy and primed for next season to start.  It’s a shame the injuries piled up so early in the season because it’s not until this point, the final weeks of season, that the projected lineup for the Bucks has really started to form. 

Keys to the Game: Get everybody some playing time. Considering so many of these guys have been hurt this season, the Bucks bench is ready to contribute which is a luxury they haven’t had for the majority of this year. Bogut is done with surgery scheduled for tomorrow, but other than that (and the Brockness Monster), the team looks good to go. Since this is the last game I’ll see live, I sure hope Mr. Sparkplug himself, Earl Boykins, gets some playing time.  At a gracious 5 foot 5 on the books, it’s unbelievable watching him blaze past the opposition like a bullet.

First Half: Drew Gooden picked up where he left off from Saturday.  He was going to the basket strong and had Raptors Forward Ed Davis working hard in the early going.  John Salmons (once again) looked great.  He’s averaged 17.4 ppg in his last five games and continues to be the big scorer for the Bucks.  Toronto Guard Jared Bayless was the go to guy in the first as he continued hitting silky smooth shots from all sides of the court.  The Bucks trailed going into the second quarter, 33-25. 

Breaking News: I do get a dose of Earl “The Bullet” Boykins basketball, as he’s starting the second quarter at PG. Excellent.

With neither Bogut nor Brockman available, the Bucks are certainly at a height disadvantage on defense. 6’6 Corey Maggette was alternating on 7’2 Center Alexis Ajinca and 6’10 Forward Ed Davis for awhile in the half. That definitely qualifies as a height disadvantage. Then again, Boykins manages. Toronto’s Ed Davis’ efficiency in the paint to go along with DeMar DeRozan’s 13 points fueled the first half for the Raptors. They combined for 22 of the Raptors 51 at the half as Toronto led 51-46 going into the break.

Second Half: The Bucks came out at a fast pace, Jennings especially, as he scored 6 quick points in the first few minutes half.  The offense seemed incredibly repetitive in the third quarter. Pick a play: A. Jennings drives B. Salmons drives C. Delfino shoots from 3-point land or D. Drew Gooden gets the ball in the paint to shoot.  I would’ve liked to see a bit more ball movement in the quarter, but when you have got five guys on the court that can all legitimately score, it’s definitely an advantage the Bucks have opposed to other squads. Larry Sanders hit one of two free throws to lower the deficit to just two heading into the final quarter.  Unfortunately, Michael Redd hasn’t been all that sharp today as he starts the fourth quarter just 1-6 from the field.  The Bucks finally caught up to tie it at 71-71 on a Larry Sanders shot in the paint with 10 minutes to play. We were really starting to dial it in and take control.  Milwaukee fired up the engine halfway through the fourth as Brandon Jennings served as the protagonist: he started getting red hot. The fourth quarter always seems to bring out Jennings’ finest.  The Deer led 86-80 at the two minute mark. That was really all there was to it. The crowd lifted the team as they roared mightily bidding the Deer farewell in the final two minutes. The Raptors tried to play catch up in the last few minutes, but the Bucks used foul shooting and the clock to their advantage as they held on 93-86.

Player of the game: John Salmons did lead the charge with 24 points, but Brandon Jennings really proved to be the clutch guy come the fourth quarter.  Jennings has got that ability to close out games when he wants because he seems to be the guy that wants the ball in the final minutes. That’s a quality all star players should have, and he proved that tonight. We have all come to realize: when Jennings goes, the Bucks go. 

Honorable Mention: Squad Six played an instrumental role in today’s win…how many times did they fool the Raptors with the oldest trick in the book? Plenty. The Raptors seemed to fall for the old fake shot clock countdown on numerous occasions. Typically you see teams catch on to that sooner than later, but I think it definitely worked on Toronto. Way to go, Squad Six, we’ll see you next season.

Looking Forward: Teams like the Bucks seem to come out and surprise when the expectations are low. Next year, the expectations will surely be tamed so perhaps this group will come out big and surprise as they did a season ago. Health was a major factor in this season’s record and the Bucks medical staff has been extremely busy this season. I’m hoping they won’t have quite as much work come next year. Several key players have looked really strong as the season comes to a close: I’m specifically admiring Salmons’ and Gooden’s strong play to conclude this season. At times, especially when guys are pressing, players try to do a bit too much. Too many moves, too many jump shots, too much of everything to the point that they play outside of their game that got them here. When the injuries started stockpiling, some of our players may have taken the “Work hard, play hard” motto, too hard...to the point they were doing things they’re not typically prone to doing. When everything is set in motion next year, the team will have a nice balance and solid depth, too. Brandon Jennings won’t have to come out every night trying to repeat his 55 point performance from his rookie season. John Salmons will have (healthy) players around him to score. Drew Gooden will be good to go. Andrew Bogut will be ready. The team will work better as a unit.

Useless Conclusive Knowledge

  1. In between the 1st and 2nd quarter, the annual baby races took place.  I witnessed history as Mackenzie “Lightning” Boldt made little-person history crossing the finish line via the crawl in record time. I’m not exactly sure what the time was, but I do know she blew the competition away. 
  2. For all two of you keeping score of that tip off to win ratio, the Bucks won the tip and scored first.
  3. Have you ever witnessed the Rim Rockers show in between quarters? These guys are artists in the air. I’ve just got to give them their well-deserved dues.  Great season for them. Even Blake Griffin would be impressed.
  4. It sure felt like all 15,000+ went home happy tonight with both a Bucks win and new Bucks shirt. Fan Appreciation Days have so many giveaways.
  5. The lasting thought of this game will be Brandon Jennings’ brief yet appropriate words before the game. He said though their Win-Loss record wasn’t what they would’ve liked, they are excited about the future and “can’t wait until next season.”
  6. Me neither.

Final game against the Oklahoma City Thunder comes this Wednesday. If they win, they’ll end the season with a nice little three game winning streak heading into the 2011-2012 campaign. And finally, if this was Michael Redd’s final home game as a Buck, he’ll surely be missed.  He’s been the man around here for over a decade.  Cheers to Michael Redd. I’m sure hoping #22 is back next season.

~SM

Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.

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