In the Bucks’ season finale on Wednesday night, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was tasked with his biggest challenge of the season: defending the NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant.
As expected, Luc came through for Milwaukee.
Wednesday night’s game was a culmination of fortitude, perseverance and development for No. 12 and the Bucks. The group knew they would be missing out on the playoffs, but came out hungry to end the season on a high note.
With a 110-106 win over the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee did just that. The Bucks finished the season with wins in four of their last five games.
Though many other playoff teams were resting their starters, the Thunder were at full force for most of the game as the Prince and his teammate Carlos Delfino worked to keep Durant at bay.
Bucks head coach Scott Skiles noted Luc’s versatility as he was drawing up schemes to keep Durant from his season average. As No. 12 knows, stopping one of the best scorers in the NBA takes a team effort.
« Luc can surprise you with his lateral movement and his ability to contest shots, » Skiles told theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel. « Carlos will start on [Durant]. And Carlos has done a nice job on the Carmelo (Anthony)’s and those types of people. We don’t lose a whole lot with Carlos, but Luc is definitely unique.
« You get your best defender at the times you need him on him, » Skiles added, regarding Luc. « But not necessarily the whole game. »
The Prince’s uniqueness along with a strong team defense held Durant to just four points in the first quarter. Durant played deep into the third quarter, logging 23 minutes while Luc and Delfino forced the Thunder star into 14 tough shots. Durant finished 13 points under his season average, putting just 14 on the scoreboard.
In both the first and third frames, the Bucks started slow, scoring less than 20 points in each quarter. Luc’s defense along with a 16-foot jump shot with just four minutes remaining in the first period kept Milwaukee close as they sought to find their rhythm.
As the second quarter progressed, No. 12 and the Bucks found themselves trailing by 11 points at one point. But a Michael Redd assist, driving layup and sweet jump shot sparked a 9-0 run to end the half with Luc and the Bucks leading 46-43.
The Bucks found their groove in the last portion of the season and it was very much evident in a fourth quarter rally, which took the hotly contested game to overtime.
It was no surprise that No. 12 and the Bucks’ team defense led the comeback as they held the Thunder to just 22 points in the fourth quarter to force the extra period. For the game, Milwaukee forced Oklahoma City into 23 turnovers as the Bucks recorded a season-high in steals with 15.
In overtime, the Bucks outscored the Thunder 14-10 to grab the win. Luc finished with six points, a rebound and an assist.
The win brought Milwaukee’s season record to 35-47 and they found themselves just outside of the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. But the Bucks were far from satisfied with that result and know they have to get better to reach their goals next season, as Luc told the Journal Sentinel:
« It was a disappointing season as far as the team goes, » he said. « We should have been a better team than we were this year. It’s just unfortunate the way things went, but that’s the NBA, I guess. Sometimes you have good seasons. Sometimes you have bad seasons. I guess that’s how it is.
« You can make all the excuses and say, ‘Oh yeah, we had guys out’ and all that stuff. But we look at how we played and we never really got blown (out) or anything like that. We had very few games where we got blown (out). Most of the games we lost, we lost in the last minutes of the fourth quarter. »
Luc Richard’s progression as a reliable contributor on offense while playing the most minutes per game in his career (26.6) is a true testament to No. 12’s work ethic and the leaders the Bucks have surrounded him with.
As Milwaukee left Oklahoma City, the man who runs their point, Brandon Jennings spoke the words every Bucks player was thinking:
« This was a challenging season. You can’t take winning for granted so next year we just have to come back stronger. »
- Wednesday game report: Bucks at Thunder (Journal Sentinel, April 13, 2011)
- OKC scrubs can’t hold off Milwaukee comeback (Brew Hoop, April 13, 2011)
- Bucks Know they Have Something to Build On (Journal Sentinel, April 13, 2011)
- Bucks close out season in OK City (WSAU.com, April 13, 2011)
- Delfino, Mbah a Moute get Durant duty (MJS, April 12, 2011)
- Bucks’ major drop in victories ‘feels like a failure’ (MJS, April 12, 2011)