Thomas, Gadzuric key Bucks win

Left for dead by many (including this long-time, pessimistic fan) after the loss of Andrew Bogut, the Bucks beat the Hawks again last night to tie the series at 2-2.

Brandon Jennings played very well (23-4-6, 56% shooting), and John Salmons continued his steady play (22 points). I’m tempted to credit Carlos Defino’s 22 points (on 6-of-8 from 3PT) as the difference in the game, but it was the play of Milwaukee’s centers that put the Bucks over the top. Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric combined for 16 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and a steal, which looks like a typical line that Bogut was posting late in the season. The much-maligned Gadzuric played big late in the third and early in the fourth, and eventually gave way to Thomas, who drew a couple of crucial fouls in the final minutes of the game.

But back to Delfino for a moment. We’ve come to expect big games out of Jennings and Salmons, but Delfino had averaged just 6.0 points in the series, so his big night was something of a surprise. Here’s a look (and be sure to check out the dunk at the 0:13 mark):

Now the Bucks have to find a way to steal a game in Atlanta. I’m sure the Hawks crowd will see these two losses in Milwaukee as a wake up call and come out fired up on Wednesday night, but I’d love to see what the Bucks’ crowd would be like in a Game 6 on a Friday night with a chance to close out the series.

Looking ahead, no matter what happens over the rest of the series, the Bucks have established themselves as a team on the rise in the East, and the fact that they’ve been able to push this series to six games (at least) without their best player is telling.

I’m interested to see what John Hammond does with Salmons. He has a player option for $5.8 million next season and he’s likely to opt out because he has played so well over the last couple of months. While he’s obviously not on the level of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson, I’d put him in the top 10 amongst shooting guards in terms of what he has brought both offensively and defensively in the second half of the season. He turns 31 in December, so a three-year deal at around $8 million per seems fair. Hopefully, he realizes that his new-found success is a function of the freedom he has in Milwaukee and doesn’t just take the money and run.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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