Things have been awfully quiet on the Bucks front since the Charlotte Bobcats blew them out Saturday night less than 24 hours after the Bucks trashed the ‘Cats at the Bradley Center, 103-75. The final Saturday was 102-92, but don’t let that fool you: the Bobcats (12-22) were up 98-77 with 4 minutes left in the 4th when the benches were cleared for garbage time
The Bucks (16-19) were playing their fourth game in 5 nights, each game in a different city; and they played without Andrew Bogut, who sat out with back spasms. The Bucks are now 0-4 without Bogut in the lineup this season. Bogut’s back has been bothering him since Dec. 17th in Philadelphia, but he hadn’t missed a game until Saturday. According to the injury report, Bogut could play tonight at the BC against the Raptors, and is listed day-to-day. (He didn’t play).
With or without Bogut, the big concern coming into Saturday’s game was whether the Bucks would muster the mental toughness to beat a team on consecutive nights. The answer was an emphatic NO. The Bucks were lethargic, sloppy, and didn’t move the ball (only 15 assists despite shooting 50 percent) or run the floor well. Point guard Luke Ridnour never seemed to have control of the game. Turnovers were a key (led to 29 Charlotte points), and the Bucks increasingly consistent defense took the night off.
Bad taste in Skiles’ mouth: Needless to say, coach Scott Skiles was more than a little unhappy about the Bucks lack of tenacity, among other things, and for the second time this season said: “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth right now.” (The first time was after the Philly game Dec. 17). “… this kind of game is not how we wanted to represent ourselves. We clearly still have some things that we need to address.”
Michael Redd led the team with 5 assists (and 17 pts) but they lost this game with both Redd and Richard Jefferson (19 pts) on the floor. After scoring 27 Friday night, Charlie Villanueva scored just 5 on 2-6 shooting and gave up a five-point play.
How to give up a five-point play? Charlie did it the hard way. First he committed a flagrant foul on ‘Cats forward Gerald Wallace. Wallace hit two free throws, Charlotte ball. On the ensuing play, Villanueva was called for another foul on Wallace and was hit with a technical foul arguing to the call. Wallace made two more free throws and Matt Carroll swished the technical. Before getting too upset with Charlie, note that the Bucks were down 16 with 4:30 to play when this chain of events occurred. At that point, it was a fitting expression of the Bucks futility; it’s okay to laugh. The degree of difficulty in singlehandedly giving up a five-point possession is impressive. Skiles cleared the bench.
Bucks vs. Raptors, 7pm, Bradley Center: The Bucks now begin a stretch in which they play 16 games in the next four weeks, on a weekly Monday, Wednesday, Friday-Saturday schedule. They begin with three games at home this week, first up the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors beat the Bucks in the final minute of the Bucks home opener Nov. 1. Remember that one? Bucks had a chance to tie with 16 seconds left when Redd decided the shot to take was a fall-away going out of bounds with a defender in his face, plenty of ticks on the shotclock. Bucks point guard Luke Ridnour (bad back) didn’t play in that one. Since then, the Raptors have struggled and fired coach Sam Mitchell. Jay Triano, a Mitchell assistant, took the reins.
The Raptors (14-20) have won two straight against tough competition, beating cold-shooting Houston Friday and Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic Sunday in Toronto. Against the Magic, the Raptors shooters went off, led by long-range gunner Anthony Parker (26 pts) and All-Star forward Chris Bosh (23), to win (108-102) — without starting point guard Jose “I made T.J. Ford Expendable” Calderon and center Jermaine “Trainer’s Table” O’Neal. Neither Calderon or O’Neil will play tonight against the Bucks, and rookie point guard Roko Ucik will start in Calderon’s place.
The Raptors are poised, it seems, to turn their season around, regardless of whether the stars suit up (the trade of T.J. Ford for O’Neal hasn’t worked out as planned, obviously).
It shouldn’t matter. The Bucks, for all of their relapses to the bad habits and disjointed pace of the pre-Scott Skiles era, have been a good bounce-back team. After a tough trip west early last month, they turned it on in the 4th quarter for a much-needed win at home vs. the Pacers. After the last “bad taste” in Skiles mouth game (in Philly), the Bucks blew out the Knicks in NY (Ok, it was only the Knicks); and after the debacle at home against Detroit Dec. 27, the Bucks gritted out a tough win in San Antonio against a full strength Spurs team.
Yes, it’s time for another statement of commitment from the Bucks, less than a week after the last one. This is the week to make it stick for at least a few games, as their competition for the bottom rung playoff spots (the Raptors, Sixers and Nets) visit the Bradley Center. I’m not so sure, however, that it’s a good idea for the Bucks or Bucks fans to think about the playoffs just yet.
Meanwhile, …deep within the bowels of the Bucks central command center, Charlie Bell prepares to use the photocopier …
To vote Joe, go to SeeJoeDunk.com … I know it’s not why the Bucks drafted him (or is it?) but this campaign of his to get to the All-Star dunk competition is d*** good for morale.
Michael Redd scores his 11,000th point as a Buck: I never thought I’d see the day. Michael Redd on Friday moved past Marques Johnson into fifth place on the Bucks’ all-time scoring list with 31 pts in the Bucks win against Charlotte Friday. On Saturday, Redd scored 17 more to top the 11,000-point milestone and has now tallied 11,004 points in his Bucks career. At his current 19.4 ppg scoring pace, Redd will surpass Bob Dandridge (11,478) and Sidney Moncrief (11,594) into 3rd place on the points scored list. Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson (12,010) at # 2 will have to wait until next season, and Kareem Abdul Jabaar (14,211) atop the list? That could occur in the 2010-11 season, the final year of Redd’s contract. More on this topic later; it deserves a post of its own.
Catching up with Landry: When the Bucks were in Houston Wednesday, Journal Sentinel scribe Tom Enlund checked in with Milwaukee Vincent High alumnus Carl Landry, Rockets backup power forward. Landry, 25, in his second year with the Rockets, was recently the centerpiece of a rumored trade to the Bucks involving Charlie “5-point play” Villanueva and Tyronn Lue. The trade talk was not confirmed past the rumor stage, and Enlund doesn’t mention it in his story (Journal Sentinel Bucks writers didn’t publish the rumor). Instead Enlund reports on Landry’s progress since last season, when, as a rookie, he hit the offensive glass at a remarkable rate, muscling his way into the Rockets rotation. Rockets coach Rick Adelman is a Landry fan; it doesn’t sound as though Landry’s going to be wearing a Bucks uniform anytime soon.