Cool Hand Luc
Mbah a Moute key component to Milwaukee’s success.
by Seth Gruen
MILWAUKEE—Luc Mbah a Moute doesn’t look for accolades. He seamlessly goes about his business, often contributing to the Bucks in mundane ways that elude the average fan looking on at the Bradley Center.
The 6-8 forward from Cameroon doesn’t mind being incognito from the box score, though. He’s a simpleton and as cliché as any player in the League. He purely measures his success as a player based on how his team performs. If they win, he thinks he’s doing his job.
But, after his second straight double-digit scoring performance which included a season high 18-point, 11-rebound game last Saturday night against the Pacers, Mbah a Moute couldn’t help but smile after his coach sought him out.
“He said good job tonight,” Mbah a Moute said after the Bucks’ 93-81 win over Indiana. “He said I did a good job on [Danny] Granger. It’s always good when you have a head coach doing that, saying good things about you or your performance. So, I was happy he said that, more importantly the way the guys played tonight and the way the guys gutted out this win.”
It’s more than his defense that’s gotten him kudos from his coach of late. Known for his terrific hustle and physicality in the paint, Mbah a Moute was always an important component to Milwaukee’s defense.
But, his inability to contribute on offense often earned him more minutes on the bench. Leading up to his double-digit scoring performances in back-to-back games—the first a 16-point game in New York Friday—Mbah a Moute only scored 8 points in his previous four games.
Mbah a Moute has seemed to blossom offensively, though, as his cohesiveness improves. He isn’t forcing as much, has furthered his understanding of his role and drastically improved his mid-range jump shot.
“Back-to-back nights he’s looked much more like himself,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “Sometimes we feel like he’s trying to do a little too much offensively and it’s hurting him. He hustles so much that the game comes to him and that’s what happened tonight. It just came to him, he was on the offensive glass, he found some things around the basket and knocked down a couple of jumpers.”
And it was on a night when the Bucks were desperate for offense. Milwaukee’s guard combination of Brandon Jennings, Charlie Bell, Jerry Stackhouse and Luke Ridnour combined to go 11-35 from the field on Saturday night.
It caused an influx in Mbah a Moute’s minutes. He played over 43 minutes, close to 10 minutes more than any other player.
If there is one thing Mbah a Moute knows, it’s that minutes on a Scott Skiles-coached team are earned. During the four-game stretch preceding the weekend, he played less than 24 minutes in three games.
“I just want to come in there and try to give everything we can to try and get a win. If we win, I guess I’m doing my job. The minutes will come. Throughout the flow of the game, I just try to take my shots when they present themselves and just make plays. Don’t force anything and just be solid.”
But it seems when Mbah a Moute is able to stay on the floor—and play well—the Bucks are winning. The Bucks are undefeated when he scores more than 15 points.
Though he followed up Friday night’s game with 9- and 8-point games against the Pistons and Nets, his offensive resurgence has helped other aspects of his game. Over the past three games, Mbah a Moute has grabbed 34 rebounds.
“I think I just played with a little more aggressiveness, trying to make plays and my team has done a good job finding me. That has been good for us. We’re winning games. “
His presence in the post, though, has helped to compliment that of center Andrew Bogut. Both have the ability shoot the jump shot. One’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass allows the other to stretch the defense.
But the stellar play of the two postmen—Bogut is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game—is alleviating some of the pressure to knock down shots that the guards felt earlier in the season.
“He’s rebounding much better, but I think the other thing is he did a great job on Troy Murphy, who is a very dangerous player for them, and on Danny Granger,” Bogut said. “He’s very, very long and quick and a lot of guys, he’s contesting their shots right up there with them. So, he did a great job defensively for us.”
Mbah a Moute isn’t as concerned with his play on a game-by-game basis. Though the team looks at each game as an individual opportunity to get a win, Mbah a Moute seems as concerned with his body of work. He wants to achieve the ultimate level of consistency.
“When you have good games, you want to continue to have good games and get in your rhythm,” Mbah a Moute said. “It’s always a good thing when you get in your rhythm.”
Hopefully for the Bucks, he carries that past All-Star Weekend.