Luc’s Heart and Hustle

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute kept up his efficient scoring on Monday night, but the Bucks were brought down to the wire again in a battle for their playoff lives.

Luc had another impressive night for Milwaukee against the Charlotte Bobcats, in a test of two teams on the outside looking in for the playoffs.

No. 12 spent the night all over the hardwood, gathering rebounds, diving for loose balls, playing impeccable defense and showing off his much-improved offensive repertoire. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. It was the Prince’s seventh straight double-digit scoring performance.

But it was also an all too familiar sight as, for the second straight game, Milwaukee couldn’t find the firepower in the closing minutes and watched another lead slip away.

After a tight struggle for most of the night, the Bucks pulled ahead late and, with 3:52 left, Carlos Delfino sank a pair of free throws to put Milwaukee ahead 86-80. Unfortunately those would be the last points the Bucks would score.

Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson stole the show, ending the game on a personal 7-0 run, including the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left, to drop the Bucks, 87-86.

« Tonight’s game was very similar to maybe 40 games we’ve had, » Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. « Where we’ve had an opportunity to kind of seize the game and make basic pro plays, and it’s been a struggle for us. The guys are frustrated by it. »

The loss meant another missed opportunity for Milwaukee, who fell to two games behind the Bobcats and three games behind the eighth-seeded Indiana Pacers in the East playoff race.

There were, however, some strong points to build off for the Bucks and the Prince was right in the middle of them. Along with his 11 points, Luc grabbed six rebounds in his 28 minutes. The entire Milwaukee team stepped up on the glass and dominated the boards, 46-37, as Frank Madden of Brew Hoop noted:

« Milwaukee used their size and hustle to pile up 13 more offensive rebounds than the Bobs, and generally dominated inside with a 48-32 edge in points in the paint. »

Luc got things going early for Milwaukee. With nine minutes remaining in the first quarter, he showed off his knack for picking up offensive boards, grabbing two in one possession. The second of those two, he tipped in for his first basket of the night, tying the game at six.

Moments later, the Prince showed off the hard work he has put in on his offensive game. Luc got a feed from Brandon Jennings and sank a sweet 17-foot jumper to pull the Bucks within one point of the lead.

At the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee trailed by one, 27-26. The game went back and forth in the second and they still trailed by just one, 46-45, going into halftime.

The third quarter belonged to Milwaukee as the Bucks finally broke through to the lead. Jennings scored 13 of his 26 points in the quarter, but No. 12 didn’t disappoint either, as Frank Madden of Brew Hoop writes:

« Jennings and Bogut got little help from their supporting cast, but I’ll single out Luc for his usual hustle on the offensive boards as well as key plays in the third quarter. »

No. 12 tallied seven of his 11 points in the third, including a pair of buckets in the paint. He also drew two fouls down low and went 3-of-4 from the line. Milwaukee built its lead to seven by the end of the quarter and pushed it to nine on the first play of the fourth.

But Luc and the Bucks weren’t able to build off a strong third quarter and surrendered the lead in the final minute of the game.

Though the outlook is much bleaker than it was when they went to Charlotte, the Bucks can still improve their chances at a playoff position when they play the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night.

« We’re not out of it yet, » coach Scott Skiles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. « We’ve got to win the game tomorrow. Obviously we’ve got to win the game on Friday (at Indiana). But that doesn’t do any good if we don’t win the game tomorrow.

« We’ve got to win this game (against the Raptors) and the weekend becomes huge for us then. »

In two games against the Raptors this year, both Bucks wins, Luc has posted an average of nine rebounds.

Wednesday’s game in Toronto tips at 6 p.m. CST and can be seen on FSN Wisconsin.