One for the highlight reel
Bucks hope to build on dramatic victory
By Truman Reed
No matter how the Milwaukee Bucks' 2010-11 season unfolds, this one will make the highlight reel.
With .5 seconds to play in a 95-95 game against the Indiana Pacers at the Bradley Center on December 8 Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles called time out and mapped up an inbounds play.
Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was given the mission of throwing the inbounds pass from sidecourt, roughly 35 feet from the basket.
Guard Brandon Jennings, the Bucks smallest player on the court at the time, was given the duty of setting the decisive screen.
And finally, center Andrew Bogut ran his man - Pacers forward Jeff Foster - off Jennings' screen. He approached the rim from the baseline on the opposite side of the court from Mbah a Moute.
And then he rose above the rim, got a hand on Mbah a Moute's perfectly placed lob pass and guided it straight through the hoop as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Bucks to their most dramatic win of the season.
The result of the clockwork play set off a wild on-court celebration by Bucks players and coaches, left the Pacers stunned and sent the audience into a frenzy.
As the Bucks raced off the court and continued their celebration in the tunnel and locker room, the officials huddled near midcourt, reviewed the play to make sure the ball left Bogut's hand before time expired and fortunately did not have to summon Milwaukee players and coaches back onto the court.
It was good.
No, it was perfect.
And it created an instant classic.
"As soon as I saw it, I thought, `Shoot, I've got a chance to get this ball," Bogut said. "Luc threw it perfectly. I knew I just had to get a hand on it and hopefully get a lucky bounce, but it went straight in. I palmed it a little, but just tipped it. It was a heck of a pass by Luc.
"If it had been off just one or two centimeters to either side, or if it had been short or long, I wouldn't have had a tip at it. Then there was Brandon Jennings' screen, too. For a little guy, he did a good job screening off Jeff Foster, who's pretty physical. He knows how to push and position. Brandon did a great job to screen him out.
The play wasn't one Skiles just drew up on a whim.
"I was telling the guys on the radio, we actually run that play in practice about a hundred times," Bogut said. "We practice it for late-game situations where we're trying to run a play or get a tip or a quick basket. So we knew what the play was going to be before the coaches even drew it up.
"They drew it up, though, so we knew exactly what we were trying to do. We actually ran it for Larry (Sanders) during an exhibition game."
Bogut said the buzzer-beating, winning shot was the second of his NBA career. The first came during his rookie season against the San Antonio Spurs.
Mbah a Moute was asked if he had ever been involved with a game-winning play like this one, particularly as the triggerman.
"No, I'd never been involved with a play like that," he said. "This was my first time. I'm glad it worked well for us -- everything. The execution, the pass, the screen, the tip ... it all worked well.
"It was a great screen by Brandon that picked off Foster. It was a great tip by `Bogues.' Sometimes even if the ball's right there, the guy tips it and it doesn't go in, but he got it."
Mbah a Moute said the Bucks take turns handling the various roles when they practice the play.
"We do switch off," he said. "We don't know who's going to be in the game at the time. I think everybody has had a rep at it. I just happened to be in the game at the time."
The third-year forward welcomed the challenge.
"You always want to be in a position where you help your team win," he said. "Do I like it? Of course. You embrace those moments and times like these when you make a good pass and your teammate catches it and puts it in.
"But it has to work all the way around. I could have been the one setting the screen. I would enjoy that just as much. I'm sure Brandon enjoyed the play just as much as I did."
Mbah a Moute was told he should have consulted Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the National Football League's fourth-rated passer, who was seated courtside about 30 feet away, for advice before delivering the pass.
"I think he should watch me," Mbah a Moute said with a laugh. "But he was an inspiration, too."
The play was certainly not a high-percentage one, but the Bucks had few, if any, better alternatives under the circumstances.
"The play works maybe 20 percent of the time in practice," Mbah a Moute said. "That's about how often that play works. I was just glad it worked tonight."
Bogut was encouraged to see his team pull out a gritty, narrow victory over a Pacers team that has victories over Denver, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers to its credit after coming up short in other comparable games this season.
"We grinded this one out," he said. "This is probably more Milwaukee basketball, whether the fans like it or not. We grind games out like this and thankfully we did it.
"We don't want to play in the 120s and the 110s. We don't have a chance to win those kinds of games. For the most part, we stuck it out. I've always said that if we can score in the high 90s or just in the 90s, period, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win most games because our defense is so good, and our rebounding was good tonight as well."
Mbah a Moute agreed.
"It gives us great satisfaction," he said. "The Pacers have been playing really well. We knew we needed to win this game at home against a team that's in our division.
"To grind it out the way we did and come out with a win at the buzzer, man, there's no better way to get a win."
Mbah a Moute hopes his team can use the emotional victory as a momentum boost for the weeks ahead.
"We needed this win big, and to get it in this fashion is even bigger for us," he said. "This is a great win for us. We need to enjoy this and use it. Hopefully we can ride the emotion and get out of this funk we've been in and start getting some wins. We've got a tough next few weeks.
"Hopefully this means more for us than just being another win."