Luc Richard Mbah a Moute knew playing the Miami Heat on Wednesday night would be a challenge and after one quarter, things looked bleak for his Milwaukee Bucks.
But after falling behind by 17 points in the first quarter, Milwaukee rallied. Luc stepped up his game on the defensive end, rotating between all three of Miami’s stars and the Bucks executed on offense. The result was a 105-97 season-defining win over the Heat.
« It’s definitely a character victory; it says a lot about our team, » Luc said. « It shows a lot about our commitment and our will. »
Luc showed a lot about his own commitment and will in particular, refusing to back down after watching the Heat shoot 83 percent and tally 40 points in the first quarter alone. For the rest of the game they shot just 36 percent and scored only 57 more points.
Luc and the Bucks fought for every ball on the way to a comeback win over the Miami Heat (Getty Images).
Of note to the Bucks early was the play of Miami’s LeBron James, who started the game on a tremendous roll. James tied his career high for points in a quarter with 24 in the first and it seemed as if no one was going to be able to slow him down.
But James scored just two points in the second, eight in the third and only six in the fourth. It was in that fourth that Luc took on the challenge of guarding the Heat star. Playing all but 38 seconds of the crunch time quarter, the Prince limited King James to just six points on 2-of-5 from the field.
« He’s not easy to stop, » Bucks guard Brandon Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. « He got it going early, but I think we did a great job (in the) second half, just countering him on everything. »
Miami looked for other options, but the Bucks’ defensive rotations shut down Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh too. The two combined for just six points on 2-of-11 in the fourth. Luc, who began the game on Bosh and also spent a lot of time on Wade before taking over on James in the fourth, took pride in rising to the challenge.
« It’s a tough job, going against those guys, » Mbah a Moute told the MJS. « But it’s a fun job, too. Those guys are the best and it’s always fun to play against the best. LeBron went off in the first half and we needed to stay on him a little bit, try to calm him down. »
Luc also mentioned that Miami’s stars often look to go 1-on-1 rather than running set plays. He said that strategy only benefits his smothering style of defense. Trying to attack Luc one on one in a half court setting on a consistent basis is a difficult task.
« I think it’s good for us when they try to go one-on-one. You can still get exposed that way. » he said. « But when you’re able to stop them, it gets the other guys around them frustrated and you’re able to slow down their momentum offensively. »
While Miami’s offensive momentum from the 40-point first ground to a halt thanks to the Milwaukee defense, the Bucks offense picked it up, outscoring the Heat 58-37 in the second half. Milwaukee shot 52.5 percent from the field in that second half.
« That’s what we talked about, » Bucks coach Scott Skiles said after his team trailed, 60-47, at halftime. « We can’t have an ordinary energy game. We have to have an extraordinary energy game against them. And the guys came out in the second half and really took it to them. »
As part of that effort, Luc buried all four of his shots, tallying nine second half points. He finished the night 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points and also grabbed eight rebounds, seven of which came in the second half. His +22 point differential was a team-high by a wide margin.
Jeremy Schmidt of the Bucks blog Bucksketball lauded Luc for his impressive performance on both sides of ball, giving No. 12 an A- in his post game recap:
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The Bucks’ big win over Detroit came just two days after Milwaukee took care of business at home with a big win over the Pistons on Monday.
Luc got the start and gave the Bucks four rebounds, two points, two assists and a steal along with the type of defense that helped limit Detroit to 38 percent shooting from the field. Ian Segovia from Bucksketball was appreciative of No. 12’s work on Pistons big man Greg Monroe in the absence of Andrew Bogut.
« Seriously, how versatile is Moute. Guards Kobe one game, the next he has to guard Greg Monroe. He used his long arms to deny Monroe the ball. And when Monroe was backing up, those same arms pestered Monroe’s dribble resulting in a few turnovers. »
With wins over Detroit and Miami this week, the Bucks are now 6-2 since Luc returned (Getty Images).
After the game, Coach Scott Skiles once again praised the defensive efforts of No. 12 throughout the season on any player Skiles puts him on.
« I think pound for pound Luc is right there as one of the best defenders in the league, » Skiles said. « I know people think he’s a good defender, but I still think he gets sold short a little bit. He gets after people’s dribbles; he’s very smart. He’s great laterally and can really keep the ball in front of him. »
That defense is clearly valuable to the Bucks. Since Luc returned from his bout with knee tendinitis, Milwaukee is 6-2, climbing to within a game of the .500 mark after a 4-9 start to the season.
After playing three straight at home the Bucks make a brief stop in Detroit on Friday night to take on the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills before heading back home for two more at the Bradley Center.
Tip-off for the second meeting of the week between Milwaukee and Detroit is scheduled for 6:30 pm. CST Friday night and the game can be seen on FSN Wisconsin.
- Bucks win 105-97, beat Heat again (The Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2012)
- LeBron James Shines Early, Brandon Jennings Sparkles Late, Bucks Win (SB Nation, Feb. 1, 2012)
- Bucks explode in 2nd half, beat Heat (ABS-CBN News, Feb. 2, 2012)
- Jennings helps fuel emotional Bucks comeback over Heat (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 2, 2012)
- Brandon Jennings Brings The Real Heat (Brew Hoop, Feb. 1, 2012)
- As usual, the Bucks beat the Heat … wait what? (Bucksketball, Feb. 1, 2012)
- Bucks Handle Monroe and Pistons without Bogut (Bucksketball, Jan. 30, 2012)
- Delfino has been devilish on defense (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 31, 2012)