Forward motion: Jefferson’s 32 cap first half of season
MILWAUKEE The Milwaukee Bucks were in agreement about one thing after their high-powered, 122-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night at the Bradley Center.
The thought of taking four days off for the all-star break was pretty appealing to them.
“We need a break,” said forward Richard Jefferson, who led the Bucks with 32 points. “We’ve had one of the toughest schedules in the league, including the China trip and including the injuries. So we need a break.
”But I think going into it, we know that coming back we have to expect good things. We have to come back with the mentality that we know what we’re capable of doing and we have to come back and do it.“
The Bucks will take a 26-29 record into the break, having equaled their victory total from last season. They won their final two games going into the break and they hold down the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
They will have four days off, practice Monday and travel to Detroit to play the Pistons on Tuesday.
”We finished strong with momentum and we have to come back with momentum,“ said forward Charlie Villanueva, who scored 17 points. ‘’It’s a great time for a break. We need a break, with the tough schedule that we had to play early on and some of the guys are hurt.
We’re playing good basketball right now,” Villanueva added. “Regardless of the circumstances, we’re playing good basketball.“
The Bucks’ offensive machine produced 53.8 percent shooting, passed for 32 assists and made 29 of 41 free throws (70.7 percent). Playing a more up-tempo style, the Bucks outscored the Pacers in fast-break points, 22-9. The Bucks scored 18 points off 14 Indiana turnovers.
Jefferson scored 15 points in the third quarter to help the Bucks take a 90-84 lead into the fourth quarter. Charlie Bell scored 19 of his 20 in the first half, and Ramon Sessions scored 15 points and handed out 17 assists.
It was the third straight game in which the Bucks scored at least 120 points.
”With (Andrew Bogut) out, we’re going to have to play a faster pace,“ said Jefferson. ”That means more shots and more possessions. So if you’re getting 20 more possessions, there’s going to be higher scoring. Even with lower (shooting) percentages. Because there’s so much up and down and so many points from fast breaks, it’s going to make the scores a little bit higher.“
Said rookie forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, ”A lot of our scoring is just created by our defense. If we play good defense, we get out and run. So we have to keep our defense up and the energy we’re playing with now is pretty good.“
Pacers all-star forward Danny Granger, who was hounded defensively by Mbah a Moute for part of the game, made five of 18 shots but all 13 of his free throws to lead Indiana with 26 points. Troy Murphy sank 5 three-pointers and scored 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds, while T.J. Ford handed out 13 assists.
The Bucks led by six going into the fourth quarter and held a 97-90 advantage early in the fourth after a three-pointer by Keith Bogans.
The Pacers were within two, 101-99, with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left after five straight points by guard Jarrett Jack, but Bucks guard Eddie Gill drilled a three-pointer, Jefferson hit a jumper and Villaneuva tacked on a three-point play for a 109-99 lead with 4:03 left.
The Pacers drilled 3 three-pointers to cut the lead to 113-108 with 2:27 left, but the Bucks made enough free throws down the stretch to win.
”It’s always good to win going into the break,“ said coach Scott Skiles. ”We feel like we’re taking some momentum into the break.
“My experience is often that translates into bringing some momentum out of the break,” Skiles added. “I don’t think we played as well as we did against Houston but when we had to make the plays, we did and we’re happy to have it.“