- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2010

WASHINGTON | Even when he isn’t putting the ball in the basket himself, Brandon Jennings knows full well he can help the Milwaukee Bucks.

And gain some attention in the process.

Jennings’ perfect alley-oop pass from two steps across half-court led to Andrew Bogut’s dunk that helped set the tone in the first quarter, and the surging Bucks went on to beat the Washington Wizards 102-74 for their eighth victory in nine games.

“Hopefully that makes ‘Top 10’ tonight on ‘SportsCenter.’ It was a pretty good catch,” Jennings said of his play with Bogut midway through a 13-0 run by the Bucks. “Tonight it was clicking. I was finding guys, and they were knocking down shots. So when things happen like that, I guess you have a good night.”

Jennings was near the left sideline when he tossed the ball across the court to Bogut, who went over Wizards center JaVale McGee for the slam and came down on the 7-footer’s shoulders.

Bogut led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds despite sitting out the fourth quarter, and the Bucks also got 19 points from Carlos Delfino, along with 17 from John Salmons.

Jennings’ recent shooting problems continued — he was 2 for 7 for four points — but he did have nine assists, only one fewer than the entire Wizards team.

“That’s what we need from him,” Bogut said. “He knows we don’t need him to score. People get on him because he’s not making shots, but he’s running this ballclub as well as anyone has. He’s moving the ball, and his defensive pressure has been great.”

Jennings has been shooting only slightly better than 25 percent during Milwaukee’s recent nine-game stretch, which has pushed the team squarely into the playoff picture. After he was 2 for 12 in Milwaukee’s home victory over Washington on Wednesday, the rookie guard spoke about perhaps not even wanting to shoot the ball any more.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles gave him a bit of a talking-to about that, saying before Friday’s game: “We’re not fond of that kind of statement. He’s too important to our team and our franchise to have any sort of defeatest-type mindset right now. And he doesn’t, really.”

Jennings acknowledged his coach’s point, and called his own comments a result of “a moment of frustration, not thinking and just letting my anger out.” He also said he’s “always going to keep shooting.”

“(Skiles) said it was a little bit immature and irresponsible,” Jennings said. “You need to just play basketball and do other things out there on the court, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

The Bucks held the Wizards to season lows in points and assists. But Washington coach Flip Saunders and some of his players placed much of the blame squarely on the Wizards themselves.

“We’re not good enough to play 1-on-1,” said guard Mike Miller, who scored six points.

The Wizards are a completely revamped team, one without any of the players who rank 1-4 in scoring average this season: Gilbert Arenas (season-ending suspension for bringing guns into the locker room); Antawn Jamison (traded to Cleveland); Caron Butler (traded to Dallas); Josh Howard (season-ending knee injury). Starting center Brendan Haywood also was dealt to Dallas.

“We just didn’t compete tonight. It carried over to defense. It carried over to offense. We had missed layups, missed shots,” Saunders said. “We were out of sync the whole time.”

NOTES: Milwaukee led 51-36 at halftime, thanks in large part to Bogut’s 14 points and eight rebounds. … The Wizards, somehow, finished the first half with a grand total of only three assists. … Skiles turned 46 on Friday, but was blase about the occasion. “I’m not a big birthday-celebrating guy,” he said. … Before the game, Saunders said of McGee, who has moved into the starting lineup: “He makes glaring mistakes when he makes mistakes — not getting back on defense and things like that.” … Saunders said the Wizards hadn’t decided whether to keep Mike Harris, who signed a 10-day contract last week.

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