Bucks Weekend: Bogut returns in Toronto, defense shows up, too… the Ray Allen All-Star snub

Toronto Raptors forward Jermaine O'Neal reacts while playing against the Milwaukee Bucks during first-half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009. O'Neal got the boot in the 2nd half after receiving his second technical foul of the game.Bucks 96 @ Toronto Raptors 85

Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks, 7:30pm Saturday @ Bradley Center, FSN 

Can the Michael Redd injury be part of the Jinx if the Bucks are fine without him?  The Bucks played their second straight encouraging game this week and their center is back, though in limited minutes.

Andrew Bogut just finished up his second blow in the first half Friday, and so far so good. Coach Scott Skiles just subbed Francisco Elson in for him at the four minute mark in the 2nd quarter as Bogut picked up his second foul against Chris Bosh, who is getting on a roll here. First thing Elson did after entering the game was foul Bosh as the Toronto All-Star tied the game at 43.

Skiles has vowed to limit Bogut to stints of five minutes or less, and that's what he's done so far. Bogut has 9 points and 3 boards in almost 8 mins, a good start. He's got the two fouls and three turnovers, one of them's an offensive foul that seemed to kill the Bucks momentum, but they're in at the half with a 49-47 lead. Some potential foul trouble brewing: Luc Mbah a Moute, Ramon Sessions, Elson and Charlie Villanueva have two fouls apiece.

I like this eight man rotation that has logged all the PT the first half: Sessions and Luke Ridnour with Charlie Bell at guard off the bench; Richard Jefferson and Charlie V at the forwards, with Mbah a Moute off the bench; Elson started for Bogut. It's the Bucks most defensive-minded 8-man rotation, and it's the group I think Skiles will win some games with if he sticks to it (assuming of course a healthy Bogut and healthy Bell playing well.)

Tonight, the Bucks have done the most damage with Sessions, Charlie V, Mbah a Moute and Bell in the game with Elson.

3rd quarter: Skiles breaks the Bogut 5-minute rule but only by half a minute. The Bucks have held the Raptors to ten points in the 3rd so far … when's the last time we've seen that kind of defense by the Bucks?

Nice win on the road, and much more convincing than the 107-97 win against the Raptors at the BC Jan. 5. In that one, Michael Redd scored 35 through three quarters but the Bucks were losing the game until the final 5 minutes when the defense showed up and the Bucks closed with a 13-0 run. Bogut didn't play but neither did Raptors starting point guard Jose Calderon and center Jermaine O'Neal.

Charlie V led all scorers with 26 as Skiles stayed with the 8-man rotation throughout – 0 minutes for Joe Alexander, Malik Allen, Dan Gadzuric, Tyronn Lue or Damon Jones.

Atlanta is next at the BC Saturday night — it'll be the first time Bogut has faced the Hawks this seaon, and the first Bucks-Hawks game at the BC. The Bucks are 0-2 vs. the Hawks in Atlanta, including a disaster last Friday that cast a lot of doubt on whether keeping Redd around made any real difference in helping the Bucks maintain competetiveness in the East. Twenty-four hours later, Redd was out for the season and Skiles had no choice but to go with the Sessions-Ridnour-Bell backcourt suggested here (thinking Redd trade).

After the win against the Raptors, Skiles was looking forward to the rematch with the Hawks.

“It’s a big win, but it’s only a big win if we come out and do something again (Saturday) night. Then you win another one and another one and you look back and say ‘Boy that win against so-and-so was a big.’ We’re glad to have it, of course, but it’s time to start stringing some wins together.”

The Bucks D got rave reviews from Toronto coach Jay Triano:

“I give them credit because they outworked us. We told our guys we can’t be outworked and we were. They’re a good defensive team, they locked our guys up. Jose Calderon couldn’t shake their defense and (Bosh) couldn’t shake their defense. We got behind and that was it.”

Jermaine O'Neal on what he said to Charlie V that got him tossed out of the game after Charlie confronted him for a dirty foul on RJ in the 4th quarter:

“You can be tough when the camera is on and the ref controls the game but at the end of the day he just doesn’t weigh enough to speak to me any kind of way.”

Oooh … "Trainer's Table" O'Neal wants to play tough guy. Who's he kidding? He can't stay healthy enough to fight anybody.

Rewind to the Pacers game Wednesday. Behind the Box Score included the Bucks-Pacers and Kelly Dwyer had some good insight as usual. Sharing the ball and defensive intensity did bring the Bucks back into the game but Frodo and Sam (Ridnour and Sessions) really had a tough night defensively against T.J. Ford. "Stinks on ice" Dwyer put it. They weren't good, in other words.

But the reason for bringing this up is to point you to the Bulls write-up, which again talks about the Skiles era Bulls and the 2008-09 Bulls team's inability to get back to "ball movement and badass D" night in and night out. This has been the Bucks problem too — the inability since playing without Redd in November — to keep the ball moving and keep the defensive intensity up. Bogut being out for eight games and Charlie Bell missing some time too hasn't helped, and both the perimeter and interior defense went into the toilet. The ball movement wasn't so hot at times either, the Redd and Charlie V at times were.

Perfect formThe Ray Allen All-Star snub  They're crying "shamockery!" in Cleveland that Mo Williams didn't make the East All-Star squad but if you watched last year's NBA Finals or any Celtics and Cavs basketball this year, you realize that leaving Ray Allen off the team is almost unconscionable. It's the biggest shamockery out there, Cavs fans.

The voting of Allen Iverson in as a starter by the fans probably ensured that a snub was coming for someone. But given that there was one less available guard spot in the East because of Iverson, shouldn't the snub have gone to Jameer Nelson?

Sending three Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard of course, then point guard Nelson and Rashard Lewis) doesn't make much sense when the Celtics, not the Magic, are the NBA champs and the Cavs have a better record (Cleveland coach Mike Brown will coach the East).  

And while it was great to see Devin Harris recognized, has anybody noticed that the Bucks recent woes and injuries haven't resulted in the Nets moving ahead of the Bucks in the East? In fact, they're 20-27 and tied for 11th place with the Bulls, behind the 76ers, Bucks, Knicks, four teams that didn't rate an All-Star selection this year.

Meanwhile, Celtics GM Danny Ainge points out that Ray is the most efficient scorer in the NBA this season. He's the 2nd-leading scorer (17.9 ppg) on the team with the league's best record (39-9) and is leading NBA guards in 3-pointers made (114). His effective field goal % is sick – 59.1 percent, unheard of for a guard. He's been among the league leaders in minutes played all year as well, and in a few other categories, such as win shares, offensive rating and other statistical freakishness is among the league leaders. This should have been a no brainer for the East coaches.

Plus, he lit up last year's game (5 threes) to the lead the East to the win.

It was heartbreaking news in Los Angeles, of course, where they had the gall to pimp Andrew Bynum as an All-Star (not yet guys, and that half-hearted performance against Tim Duncan on Sunday afternoon didn't help).

Ray's not too upset about it. He's been in eight of the last nine All-Star games. His coach, Doc Rivers, kinda thinks his colleagues are hypocrites.

“Why I was disappointed is that it’s the coaches that vote for that, and every time I see a coach they say, ‘Man, I love how you have your guys sacrificing for the team.’ That’s what we want all our players to do, and then when it’s time to vote they go by numbers. So that was disappointing.”

On Bleacher Report, Ray is the number 2 biggest snub behind, ulp, Knicks power forward David Lee, who is putting up big numbers playing center in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun show. The East coaches chose Chris Bosh to backup Dwight Howard and took an extra guard instead of another big, which is fine considering that the top two centers to back Howard up in the East have been hurt: Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas probably would've got the All-Star nod had he not missed most of January with an fractured ankle and Andrew Bogut's back is still a big question mark for the Bucks going into the break. But Lee? To select him would have been an indulgance for Knicks fans. He's not even a real center, and the West is bringing Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.

I'm thinking Bogut will have to lead the Bucks to the playoffs this year and keep up the pace next year for him to really test the league's biases next season.

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