Can we send this Bucks team to a basketball shooting clinic? They need some help.
I became downright optimistic about the Bucks chances of winning this game when Vince Carter opened the 2nd half heaving up a long three-ball, and the Bucks answered with a Francisco Elson dunk. “The team that does the least chucking should win this game,” I thought. Carter was having a terrible shooting night (5-20) and his pal Richard Jefferson was slightly more horrendous (4-18) for the Bucks. Carter and Devin Harris were a combined 2-12 from 3-point land; Charlie Villanueva and RJ nearly matched their futility shooting 3-15 from downtown.
Chucking was the name of the game. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Carter was wise enough to eventually stop shooting and let Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes do the mad bombing in a 23-11 Nets run over the game’s final 4 minutes that won it, 99-95.
The Bucks found no such shooters all night (35-91 for 38.5%, 6-23 on threes) but after a layup-and-1 by RJ, the Bucks led 84-76 under the 5-minute mark in the 4th. Sessions then blocked a driving layup by Devin and the Bucks had the ball and the 8-point lead with 4-1/2 minutes left. Charlie V (3-9 downtown) decided it was time to launch a quick three. It was a brick, and the Nets took over.
First Carter, then Hayes, then Dooling hit threes to give the Nets a 87-86 lead. Dooling hit another to make it 90-86. Charlie V tied the game at 90 with 30 seconds left, but Hayes responded with the Nets 5th 3-pointer of the run to force the Bucks into fouling mode. The Nets refused to cooperate by missing free throws the rest of the way. Take that Jim Boylan (in a Bucks Shots email prior to the game, coach Boylan informed fans that the Nets “are not a great 3-point shooting team.”
During the Nets run, Scott Skiles left his defenders — Luc Mbah a Moute and Charlie Bell on the bench, finally putting them in will 30 ticks left . It would have helped to have the Prince on 6’8″ Hayes (or hounding Devin); and Bell/Ridnour or Bell/Sessions guarding Harris/Dooling instead of Sessions/Ridnour. Bell can shoot it too, as he showed in New Orleans Friday. Just guessing here, but I suppose Skiles was hoping that Frodo (Ridnour) could get control of the game for the Bucks and provide some crunchtime magic. And Sessions was playing well.
It was too bad, as the Bucks wasted an otherwise fine defensive performance, despite Bell and Keith Bogans only playing about 12 minutes apiece.
It feels like the Bucks grip on a playoff seed is beginning to slip. New Jersey (27-33) is now just a half game behind the Bucks (29-34). ….. But luckily, Chicago can’t seem to find a way to pull themselves up the playoff ladder with its new players. Tonight in Charlotte, the Bulls (27-34) played a stinker and were blown out, 96-80.
“I didn’t like our demeanor, I didn’t like our effort,” Bulls 1st-year head coach Vinnie Del Negro said. “No toughness, no urgency.”
Watch out for the ‘Cats.
The difference between a Larry Brown team and a Del Negro team? The Bobcats are playing like tough guys, like Brown’s Pistons and Sixers teams. Raja Bell, one of Brown’s old Sixers from the 2001 Finals team, shook off a wrenched shoulder to lead with 18 pts. Forward Gerald Wallace played despite bruised ribs. On the Bulls side, Luol Deng scratched with a sore shin.
Brown now has the ‘Cats (26-35) playing better than the Sixers, Bucks, Nets and Bulls. They’ve won four straight to move within 2 games of the Bucks, tied with the Pacers for 11th.
Integrating Brad Miller and John Salmons, acquired from Sacramento two weeks ago, isn’t going well in Chicago — the Bulls are 2-4 since the trades and Del Negro is looking for some professionalism from his players:
“When you bring new guys in, guys have to adjust. There are no excuses. We have to play hard and together.”
The Bucks play the Bulls in Chicago Friday.
The Bucks reward for a second agonizing defeat in three games? A trip to Cleveland to play the Lebron, Mo and the East-leading Cavs tonight. New out of Cleveland is the return of 14-year veteran Joe Smith, who agreed Tuesday to rejoin the Cavs for their playoff run. Smith was traded by the Cavs to Oklahoma City last August as part of the Mo Williams-for-Luke Ridnour trade with the Bucks. The Thunder bought out Smith’s contract last week and waived him, opening the door for Smith to get back to Cleveland for the playoffs.
Smith, a Bucks fan favorite 2003-06, isn’t likely to play against the Bucks, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting – so the Cavs will be a bit shorthanded. Big Ben Wallace broke a leg last week and is out 4-6 weeks (only 35-40 days for a broken leg?). But Delonte West, the Cavs best perimeter defender not named Lebron, is back in the starting lineup after missing 15 games with a broken hand. The Cavs starters – Lebron, Mo, West, Varejao and Big Z – are playing heavy minutes this week.
The Bucks are 0-3 against the Cavs this season. The last time they met, at the BC Feb. 20, the Bucks played them tough… but Lebron was too much, going off for 55 points, 16 in a 3-minute span to open the 2nd half. He was open because he was shooting from 5-feet beyond the arc of Reggie.