The Milwaukee Bucks (4-9) entered Tuesday night's game against the Denver Nuggets (9-5) as one of only five NBA teams -- including the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers -- with a perfect record on their home floor. By the time the fast-paced Nuggets were finished with them, it was time to officially cross Milwaukee off that exclusive list. With the game tied 2-2 after four minutes of game time had passed in the first quarter, it looked like the Bucks had established a manageable pace for that night, but in a flash the Nuggets displayed why they lead the league points in the paint, fast break points and points off turnovers. They pushed the tempo and turned Bucks misses into transition opportunities as the game quickly turned into a breezy 105-95 win for the visitors.
Andrew Bogut opened the scoring on the night with a clever set play by Scott Skiles that involved Brandon Jennings setting an off-ball screen on Bogut's man on the low-block to free the big Aussie for a clean look off a nice perimeter entry pass from rookie second-round pick Jon Leuer. The quality design of that play shined as a momentary beacon of hope for an otherwise routinely stagnant offense, and the crisp execution promised something far better than what the Bucks actually offered from that point forward. Denver led by just five points at the close of the first quarter, but they jumped out to a 63-44 halftime lead on the strength of a 37-point second quarter.
Reserve swingman Corey Brewer absolutely owned the second period. He dropped in 12 points on 4-5 shooting and added two steals and two rebounds to lead all scorers in the quarter. He finished with a team-high 22 points for the night. When Milwaukee misses clanged off the rim, Brewer and his teammates remained ready to leak out for long outlet passes that imposed Denver's preferred pace on the reluctant home team. Brewer averages just 12.5 minutes and 7.3 points per game on the year, but he earned every bit of the 33 minutes and 22 points he posted on Tuesday night.
As the speed of the game picked up, the Bucks crumbled. They shot just 9-26 (34.6 percent) in the second quarter and turned the ball over five times while only producing four assists. In contrast, the Nuggets capitalized on the up-tempo trend by dishing out assists on 11 of their 12 made baskets and hitting 60 percent from the field to outscore the Bucks 37-23 and take a 19-point lead into the locker room.
The Bucks actually outscored the Nuggets in fast break points for the game, but that's just a quirky stat in the box score. The Nuggets had little incentive to push the ball after generating that huge halftime margin, and thrived by operating offense in transition all night long. No player aside from Brewer really stuck out, as the team elected to play offense-by-committee, but veteran power forward Al Harrington kept the lead comfortable as he contributed 16 points on just nine shots, including 4-6 from beyond the arc. After effectively defending Andrew Bogut in the closing minutes of the first meeting between the two teams earlier this year -- a 91-86 home win for the Nuggets -- Harrington helped to make sure the game stayed far enough out of reach that Bogut never even graced the floor during the fourth quarter the second time around.
Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee with 30 points on 13-22 shooting and six assists, but much of that line didn't come until it was too late. His nine first-half points and two assists failed to prevent a huge halftime deficit, so when Jennings entered the game in the fourth quarter with 7:41 remaining and the Bucks trailing 92-75, his final 12 points on 5-7 shooting did little more than make the final score look a bit more palatable. For the second game in a row, the only other two bright spots were rookies Jon Leuer and Tobias Harris. John Hammond's 2011 NBA Draft class combined for 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Even if the present isn't so great, the future may yet be bright for the struggling Bucks.
For a team that generally fails to excite on offense, the Bucks did produce one highlight reel play. It came in the first quarter when an Andre Miller turnover in transition quickly transformed into an explosive counterstrike. Beno Udrih tossed a long outlet pass to Tobias Harris, who lured Chris "Birdman" Andersen just close enough to allow Drew Gooden to sneak behind for a thunderous one-handed alley oop finish. Please enjoy one of the only Drew Gooden highlights you will see this year (starts at the 36-second mark):
The victory marked a nice start to Denver's five-game road trip that includes games against the Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings. Meanwhile, the phrase "road game" likely triggers nightmares for anyone associated with the Bucks. Despite their strong home record, the team is currently an abysmal 0-8 on the road and will attempt to break their losing streak when they play the New York Knicks on Friday night. Milwaukee is one of only three remaining NBA teams -- the other being the Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs -- yet to win a game on the road in the 2011-12 season.