3 votes – Carlos Delfino. There were no huge performances today. No one across the three games scored more than 30 or won the game in the dying seconds. There was however, a shock upset, and that was the Bucks leveling the series with Atlanta at 2-2. And if like me, you’re trying to figure out how the Bucks are keeping this series close, look no further than performances like the one from Delfino today. After having practically zero impact and shooting a woeful 7-25 over his first three games, the Argentinean Dolphin drained 6 threes on his way to 22 points today, to go with his 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Atlanta would have expected Jennings and Salmons to come out and get their 20 points, and those two haven’t exactly had a lot of help so far this series. But when your role players are stepping up like this, it’s almost enough to make you believe the Bucks can seriously take this series. I’m just disappointed in myself for giving them zero chance of wining a game. These Bucks have shown me, and their fans, that they are tough SOBs who will not go down without a fight. And you gotta love that.
EDIT: Can’t believe I forgot to add this. That’s on Josh Smith by the way (among other people).
2 votes – Channing Frye. Wow. Was the Doubting Thomas Award handed out too early? After nose-diving throughout the second half of the season, Channing Frye turned in his best game since… well, who knows when? You seriously have to go all the way back to early February or late January to find a game Channing Frye had this much impact on. Not only was he shooting well from long range (3-5), but he was the Suns equal leading rebounder with 8, chimed in with 2 steals, and ended up with a massive differential of +32 (for comparison Nash was +12). Chucko (the Frustrated Suns Fan) emailed me today complaining that I had given the Suns no love so far in the playoff diary – no Phoenix player has received a single vote up to this point whereas every other team had. He also went on a long rant hypothesizing why I have a deep-rooted hatred for the Suns, which concluded with a very frank “Get off the hate train”. Well Chucko, this is not a consolation prize. Your boy Frye earned votes today. And as to whether I hate the Suns? Well, that’s the topic for another blog I think…
1 vote – Brandon Jennings. Very nearly gave this one to Jared Dudley but that would be too much Suns love for one day. Plus, you can’t really appreciate what Brandon Jennings did today unless you watched the game – or at least the second half, which I did while stuffing down my dinner. I get the same feeling watching Jennings as I did watching Derrick Rose in his rookie year. The feeling that this guy is just way too composed and way too cool to be a rookie. Jennings truly leads this team. It’s even more blatantly obvious without Bogut who in many ways was their heart and soul (and certainly the main object of affection for Squad 6). The Milwaukee Bucks don’t really have a go-to guy, which only puts more pressure on Jennings to make the right decisions and the right plays down the stretch. He did that beautifully today. In what seemed like the game-winning minute for Milwaukee, Jennings made two short jumpers sandwiched around a Delfino three that he assisted on with about 3 minutes left in the fourth. It took their lead from 6 to 10 and they never looked threatened from there. What impresses me the most, and what is really the sign of this guy’s big-game mentality, is that in the post-season he’s not only lifted his production, but he’s doing it more efficiently. The knock on Brandon has been his FG% which ended at a pedestrian 37% for the season. So far in this series, with the extra pressure and without Bogut, he’s lifted that to 46%. Efficiency and composure – two things you don’t expect to see from a rookie point guard in his first playoffs. Seriously impressive.