Sat. Final: Bucks 109, Wizards 93
By Todd Welter
Next game: Tuesday, March 3rd vs. New Jersey
Charlie Villanueva wanted to keep his team hanging around in the thick of the playoff hunt. A game-high 25 points in a 109-93 rout of the Washington Wizards is nice way of going about it. Richard Jefferson added 22 points as the Bucks (29-33) snapped a two-game victory dry spell.
"Yesterday was very heart breaking," Villanueva said in reference to Friday's 95-94 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. "We bounced back from it today. We still wanted to hang around in that playoff hunt. Today we showed maturity as far as taking care of what we needed to do."
The Bucks mounted a furious 17-point fourth quarter rally before the Hornets' Tyson Chandler broke the Bucks' hearts with a late tip-in in that Friday loss. The Bucks made sure they did not need a rally like that in this rout. The Bucks came out shooting the ball hot early and never cooled off as they built up an 18-point first half lead and never looked back. Washington never got any closer than cutting the Bucks' lead down to nine in the third quarter.
"We were just trying to jump on them early," Villanueva explained. "As a team that does not have too many wins and if you step on them early, they are going to be out for the game."
Washington's early shooting woes coupled with the Bucks consistent hot shooting knocked the Wizards out of the game. The Bucks also used some great bench play in landing that knockout blow. Milwaukee shot 52.6% from the field and went 11-of-19 from three point range while the bench produced 35 points. The Bucks ended up with six players in double-figures. In addition to Villanueva and Jefferson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 13 points, Ramon Sessions and Dan Gadzuric each registered double-doubles as Session had 12 points and 10 assists while Gadzuric finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Charlie Bell also had 12 points.
"I thought that in the first half, it was as good of defense as we've played since the Detroit game at Detroit out of the [All-Star] break," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles felt. "Offensively, we played like we have been. We moved the ball, found the open man, and certainly scored enough points."
The stats back up Skiles claim about the first half defense as the Wizards' shot a paltry 37.8% from the field in the first half. Those shooting problems caused major harm that Washington never recovered from. Antawn Jamison scored a team-high 21 points for the Wizards (14-45).
"They had more than we had tonight," Wizards head coach Ed Tapscott. "Every time we made a run, every time we got it down to ten, they responded and pushed it back to fifteen."
The Bucks have a big game on Tuesday night when the New Jersey Nets come to town. New Jersey is a game back of the Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With 20 games left, the Bucks are in territory they have not been in the last two seasons - fighting for a playoff spot.
"It's the final stretch [and] we have 20 games to make our claim to be a playoff team," Jefferson thought. "We know it is not story writing time right now. Right now it is about doing what we need to do to continue to play."