Quite possibly the best thing about the condensed 2011-2012 NBA schedule is that it makes for a short memory.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and his Bucks teammates learned that this week as they bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to the Suns on Tuesday and defeated the Toronto Raptors the next night.
Luc’s versatility as a defender was tested as he went from defending Phoenix wing Channing Frye early and point guard Steve Nash late on Tuesday, to locking down Raptors scorer DeMar DeRozan on Wednesday.
« He’s guarded them all, » Bucks coach Scott Skiles said recently. « We were better with Luc on him. Look, we’re better with Luc on anybody, no slight on our other players. But Luc is exceptional. »
However it was Nash who broke the Bucks’ hearts on Tuesday night, banking in a runner with five seconds left to lift the Suns over Milwaukee.
Steve Nash got his shot off just out of Luc’s reach to dash Milwaukee’s hopes of a comeback win (Getty Images).
Luc started the game and played a strong first nine minutes, scoring four points, grabbing two rebounds and forcing Frye and Nash each into a turnover. But when he checked out with 2:55 remaining, the Bucks trailed by seven.
The Prince returned at the start of the third with Milwaukee trailing by 17 and made a big play, tipping in a Drew Gooden miss and drawing a foul. The three-point play trimmed the Bucks’ deficit back from 21 to 18 points and sparked a huge third quarter for the Bucks. By the end of it, Milwaukee trailed by just seven. The Bucks then opened the fourth on a 14-2 run to take the lead.
But Phoenix stayed in it and with less then a minute to go and the score knotted at 105, Bucks coach Scott Skiles went to Luc and asked his defensive stalwart to shut down Nash.
No. 12 did all he could in that regard as Milwaukee forced Grant Hill into a tough shot with 26.8 seconds to go. Hill missed, but Marcin Gortat grabbed the offensive rebound. That set the stage for Nash and after a timeout, the Suns point guard took a staggered double screen from Frye and Gortat that picked off Luc and cut to the basket. By the time Luc got back to him, Nash had gotten off a floater to give Phoenix the lead.
« A great player made a great shot, » Luc said. « We didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to win the game. »
The Bucks couldn’t get a shot off in their final five seconds and fell by two.
« He (Nash) kind of toyed with us tonight but he does that to a lot of people, » Skiles said. « You’ve just got to try to crowd him and stay with his body, make him play in a crowd. »
Luckily the memory of having their hopes dashed by Nash didn’t have to stick with the Bucks for long. They flew to Canada on Tuesday night and on Wednesday they took on another up-tempo, energetic team in the Toronto Raptors.
Luc helped the Bucks get off to a good start by scoring two points, grabbing two rebounds and forcing a turnover in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game. But Toronto bounced back and led by one after one.
No. 12 added four more points in the second, on consecutive trips to the free throw line, as he gave the Bucks a 47-45 lead. He then grabbed three rebounds in a 78-second span to push Milwaukee out by six, 54-49. By the end of the half, when Luc found Stephen Jackson for a layup, the Bucks had established a seven-point lead.
He picked up right where he left off in the second half, scoring four points in the first 1:33 to make it a nine-point game. Then Luc went to work with his defense, switching between DeRozan and Amir Johnson, whose shot he stuffed early in the third.
The Bucks held tightly to the lead in the third and after falling behind briefly in the fourth, jumped back ahead thanks to a 9-2 run. They held that lead for the duration on the way to the 105-99 victory. Luc finished with 10 points on 2-of-4 and made all six of his free throws. He also pulled down six rebounds in 26 minutes. The win moved the Bucks back into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks have another back to back ahead of them starting Friday when they take on their division rival Cavaliers in Cleveland. Then it’s back home on Saturday to host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
Friday’s game has a 6:30 CST start time and Saturday’s tips at 8 p.m. CST. Both can be seen on FSN Wisconsin.
- Bucks in sync with zone (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 8, 2012)
- Bucks rally, but Suns’ Nash sinks winner (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 8, 2012)
- Delfino leads Bucks past Raptors (Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2012)
- Pistons desperate for a victory (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 3, 2012)