What a schizophrenic week it was for the Bucks on the road in the East.
After perhaps their strongest performance of the season in Miami Monday, the Bucks showed that old habits die hard two nights later in Philly, losing 93-88. The starters in particular looked sluggish, uninspired and out-of rhythm — and in the 4th quarter looked as though they had no clue how to win the game. They also shot like middle schoolers, hitting only 2-18 shots in the 4th.
Then the Bucks arrived in New York, where they continued their mastery over Mike D'Antoni's ever retooling Knicks, and won 105-81. The Bucks have played NY three times this season (won all three) and faced a different Knicks team in each game. Last time, at the Bradley Center, the Knicks were down to seven players after (on gameday) dealing guard Jamal Crawford to the Warriors for big forward Al Harrington; and on the same day, PF Zach Randolph to the Clippers for guard Cuttino Mobley and ex-Buck Tim Thomas.
Mobley was forced to retire after the trade when doctors diagnosed that his heart condition had worsened to the point where playing would have put his life in danger. Mobley is just 33-years-old. The Knicks could have voided the trade, but were content with the salary cap relief they had gained in dealing Randolph and his $47 million contract.
This time, Harrington reportedly got stuck in traffic on the way to the Bucks game and didn't get there until mid-first quarter. Apparently coach D'Antoni wasn't too upset about it — he put Harrington into the game shortly after Al arrived on the bench.
Thomas played 6 minutes in the first half and scored 4 pts but then left the bench in the 2nd quarter with a stomach virus and did not return. Timmy of course came to the Bucks in a trade with Philly during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and was traded mid-season 2003-04 to the Knicks for Keith Van Horne — one of many of ill-fated moves by ex-GM Larry Harris, and possible source of Timmy's tummy ache.
This is 31-year-old Thomas' 2nd stint in NY and 2nd stint playing for D'Antoni, who brought him to Phoenix for the Suns 2006 playoff run. Thomas, 31, thrived for 40+ games in D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, then signed on with the Clippers as a free agent.
The Knicks key player, point guard Chris Duhon — who's not only been playing well but playing more than any player in the league, with 994 minutes in 25 games, a 39.8 per avg. — reserved his second worst game of the season for the team of his old coach Scott Skiles. The Knicks acquired Duhon in the offseason from Chicago, where Skiles was Duhon's coach for the young point guard's first three-plus NBA seasons. Duhon is 2nd in the NBA in assists this season. His worst of the game year? The first Bucks game in NY against his old coach.
I sense a trend here, of course. So I put the question to some Knicks fans. Is Skiles implementing a special anti-Duhon defense that only he knows about? Or is it …
A) The recurrance of repressed memories induced by the barking tone with which Skiles yells at his players;
B) Skiles' ridiculously fearsome forehead;
C) Skiles' menacing glare;
D) The ever-present, ominous Skiles scowl which usually precedes A above.
I'm still waiting for the Knicks fans at realgm.com to realize that I'm not necessarily joking. I think Skiles has some mojo going against Duhon; it's almost as if Duhon reflexively thinks that if he makes a mistake, Kirk Hinrich will appear in a Knicks uniform to take over the point and his job.
The Bucks got a taste of the Skiles treatment after the Philly game, as the coach laid on his harshest criticism of his team so far this season, saying:
â€œWe had a bunch of guys who looked like they didnâ€™t feel like playing from the opening tip. We were just heavy-legged, slow-footed. We couldnâ€™t get up and down the floor and had tremendous trouble guarding them. We got exactly what we deserved.â€
â€œIâ€™m bewildered by my team,â€ Skiles added. â€œIâ€™ve got a really bad taste in my mouth. It was a very poor all-around effort by us.â€
Old habits dying hard in red. The team that played Philly looked nothing like the Bucks of just 48 hours prior in Miami. In fact they didn't look like the Bucks at all in those new red road uniforms. And when I saw Michael Redd make a genuine effort to move the ball on offense (he had six assists), I wondered if I had missed THE BIG TRADE. When Redd also hit the glass more than usual, I called ready reference for a reality check on the state of things. The librarian assured me that it was still 2008 and that Milwaukee still had an NBA team called the Bucks. Yes, Richard Jefferson is a Buck, she said. "And Obama won the election, didn't he?" I asked.
"Sir, where are you?"
After a relatively invisible game in Philly, our forgotten man, Richard Jefferson hit from downtown against the Knicks — three 3's to get the Bucks going. Michael Redd led the Bucks scoring with 21 pts and again showed interest in moving the ball, finishing with six assists. (Yes, there's a trend shaping there Mike — sharing is caring and this does apply in the NBA.) Andrew Bogut also had six assists to go with 13 boards.
Bucks are 3-0 vs. the Knicks this season, after going 1-3 last year and needing overtime at the Bradley Center to get the one win. They also won the road trip, winning two out of three and are now 12-16 and in 10th place in the East. Win the Philly game and the Bucks would have been in the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference despite their grueling schedule (which can no longer be used as an excuse, per se, but can still be generally referred to, I hope).
As of today, the Bucks have played more games (28) than any NBA team except the Trailblazers (28) and have played more games on the road (18) than any team. Beginning with the Clippers game at the BC tonight, seven of the Bucks next ten are at home.
Clippers come to town Saturday night at the Bradley Center, gametime 7:30pm. As for what follows here, I made none of it up, and in no way altered the photo of Clippers center Chris Kaman.
At the game, the Bucks Game Operations Department will attempt to set nine separate Guinness World Records, according to a Bucks press release. There will be an official Guinness judge on hand, and below are the records Game Ops is after:Â·
Â· Most basketball half-court shots in one minute (current record: 4)
Â· Highest forward flip trampoline slam dunk (current record: 10 feet, 9 inches)
Â· * Most slam dunk bounce passes in 30 seconds (current record: 21)
Â· * Furthest forward flip trampoline slam dunk (current record: 19 feet, 2 inches)
Â· Most basketball forward flip slam dunks in 30 seconds (current record: 17)
The asterisks mean: both those records are held by the Milwaukee Bucks Rim Rockers, set on February 14, 2008, at the NBA All-Star Jam Session in New Orleans.
Here's more from the press release:
"In addition to the six records listed above, the Bucks will also attempt to set three records that have never before been recorded. A member of the dunk team will attempt to complete the first-ever double front flip dunk on record during halftime. The final two record attempts will not be disclosed until Saturday night, but there are currently no official records on file for either one …"
Sounds like a fun night to be at the Bradley Center. Remember, I made none of this up, not even that stuff about Skiles and Duhon.
Clippers center Chris Kaman will also be on hand, which ought to make Andrew Bogut's night interesting, if not necessarily graceful. SCRATCH THAT – Kaman's not playing tonight. I can't take Kaman seriously as an NBA center, despite the fact that he loaded up on rebounds in Western Conference paints last season in PF Elton Brand's absence. But Kaman has Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph to back him up these days, and Randolph has been lighting up scoreboards in the West (25.1 ppg) since he was traded by the Knicks.
The Clippers are 8-18 but have won four of their last five, with three of those wins coming on the road. The Clips are at the end of a 4 game road trip and beat Indiana in double OT Friday after losing in OT to the Bulls on Wednesday.