When we last left our Bucks in this heated Eastern Conference playoff race, the Bucks had fallen to 10th and were badly in need of a win Saturday over the Trailblazers, the 9th-place Charlotte Bobcats were apparently channeling the 2001 Sixers and the 8th place Bulls were up against the Lakers in Chicago.
After looking like a playoff team in the 1st half against the Blazers, the Bucks tripped over some missed layups and mental lapses in a disappointing 3rd quarter. The Bobcats were blown out by Jarrett Jack and the Pacers but the Bulls had lost to the Lakers and were due to face the Pistons last night (Tuesday) in Chicago. Unfortunately, the Pistons are no longer the Pistons (with or without Iverson) and are floundering in 7th (34-36) after being blown out by the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. The Bulls, led by Scott Skiles‘ Baby-Bull-in-chief, Kirk Hinrich, are better than the Pistons right now. That’s bad for the Bucks.
Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Bucks coach Skiles pondered starting Luke Ridnour in place of Ramon Sessions in hopes that a rotation shuffle might prevent more 3rd quarter woes — (thinking of the loss to Portland Saturday and probably the loss to the Knicks two weeks ago when the Knicks took control of the game with a 22-6 run to start the 3rd quarter).
But with the season on the line, Not-so Lucky Luke (aka Frodo) won’t be going to Toronto (scroll down after hitting that link; the news is after the NCAA tourney stuff) with the team because of back spasms. … Which brings us up to date but for Shaq stealing the twitter story from Charlie V over the weekend, purposefully getting Charlie’s name wrong and prompting Charlie to get all UConn-ish in his response to the 4-time NBA champion.
The Diesel has 4 rings and is headed for the Hall of Fame and Charlie comes back with smack about Shaq’s LSU losing in the kids tournament? Charlie you’re in over your head. Now Kobe supposedly wants in on the twitter action, too. I predicted this.
Oh, and Bango had knee surgery. Cue the them from “Soap.”
Sessions is now on the hot seat, the point all to himself and the Bucks (31-40) desperately needing a win against the Raptors to stay within striking distance of the Bulls (34-38), now 2-1/2 games ahead. Interestingly enough, the Bucks have been better than half good in the 8 games Ramon hasn’t had to look over his shoulder and wonder whether Skiles is about to pull him in favor of Ridnour. Or perhaps it’s a function of Skiles not having much choice but to stick with Sessions. Whatever the case, having Sessions as the go-to point guard has been good for the Bucks.
The Bucks are 4-4 in the 8 games without Frodo, including a loss in Orlando (the game Bogut missed the 2nd half after mashing knees with Dwight Howard) and an overtime loss to Detroit in which Sessions scored 44 pts, 12 assists and 5 rebounds in 44 minutes. (Source: Basketball-reference.com)
19.9 pts, 9 assists, 1.6 steals w/ 3.25 turnovers in 39 mins.
Ramon also hit the boards surprisingly well, averaging 4.6 per game, including a 9-board game in a win in Detroit Feb. 17.
Ridnour missed two games early due to back problems — the home opener against the Raptors Dec. 1 and a blowout win against the Knicks in NY Dec. 2 (the game in which Redd sprained his ankle). The Bucks played well for most of the home opener but blew it in the final minutes due to some poor shot selection and some trouble guarding the Raptors shooters in the final minutes.
Ridnour missed Nov. 24 in Orlando with a knee abrasion. The Bucks played an excellent 1st half as Bogut forced Howard to the bench with foul trouble. Unfortunately, on the offensive foul that sent Howard to the bench, Bogut got the worse of a knee collision and couldn’t go in the 2nd half. Sessions shot just 3/14 and scored 7 pts, his lowest output of the games Ridnour missed.
Ridnour was out nursing a broken hand Feb. 4-18, a stretch that included just five games due to the All-Star break. Bucks fans will likely remember this stretch because it included the Bucks only 3-game winning streak of the season. The 1st game was the 44-pt game Ramon had at the BC vs. Detroit (a loss) and wins at home vs. Houston (26 pts for Sessions), Indiana (17 assists for Ramon) and the rematch in Detroit in which Sessions tallied 17 pts, 7 assists and 9 rebs.
The lone disappointment of the stretch was the final game, Feb. 18, the second night of a back-to-back after winning in Detroit — a costly loss to the Bulls at the BC the day the Bulls traded Andres Nocioni, Larry Hughes and others and didn’t suit up the new players, John Salmons, Brad Miller and Tim Thomas. Kirk HInrich burned the Bucks for 18 in the 4th quarter. At the time, the Bulls were 23-30 and the Bucks 27-29, looking to close in on the .500 mark. The Bucks have gone 4-11 since the tip-off of that game.
Missing Bogut: The Magic beat the Bucks in the 2nd half in Orlando while Bogut was in the locker room with a swollen knee, and they came back for the win. While Ramon didn’t play so well, this was also a game played without Redd, leaving the Bucks record at 3-3 so far in games without Ridnour, Bogut and Redd. The Bucks had the Dec. 2 Knicks game well in hand when Redd was injured in the 3rd quarter.
The Charlie Bell Factor: Did they lose the home opener because Ridnour was out or because Charlie Bell only played 12 minutes? In any case, the loss in the home opener is the only one of “The Bell Factor” games I wrote about last week. With Ridnour sitting out, Ramon playing the vast majority of the point minutes and Charlie getting his 20+mins.
The Ramon Sessions Factor?: Ramon has missed three games this season. The first two were CD games on the road to open the season in late October. The line then was that Skiles felt he wasn’t playing well enough to deserve minutes over Tyronn Lue, but given the fact that Ridnour missed the next two and Sessions started those has always left me wondering what that was all about.
The Bucks did not play well in the first two games — a miserable loss in the season opener in Chicago in which the Bucks looked like the Bucks of last season; and a win in OK City in which Michael Redd was benched early in the 1st quarter while the Bucks were hammering it inside to Bogut. Charlie V had a nice game against the Rawhides, err, Thunder, with 20 pts and 12 boards.
The third game Sessions missed was the blowout of Charlotte at the BC Jan. 2 and I can’t remember why Sessions didn’t play. The Bucks D was solid without him, as the Bobcats were held to 75 points. Sessions would play the following night in Charlotte, however, Bogut would not, missing his first game trying to get his lower back right. The Bucks were terrible in Charlotte without Bogut. Both Luke and Ramon did play and the Bucks had poor 2nd and 3rd quarters. Redd didn’t shoot well and Charlie V played poorly off the bench. A game where the Bucks mental toughness was in question.
Bucks have been 2-1 without Sessions, though for all three of those games they also had a healthy Redd and at least a partial Bogut. Overall, they are 6-5 playing without either Ridnour or Sessions, with two of the four losses being, 1) the sudden loss of Bogut in the 2nd half against Dwight Howard and, 2) one of the Bell factor losses where Charlie only played 12 minutes. They’ve been good with Ramon playing as the go-to point guard.
This is a different Toronto team the Bucks will play tonight, with Shawn Marion at forward and without shooter Jamario Moon and center Jermaine O’Neal (a break for the Bogut-less Bucks?). But still, you’ve gotta like the Bucks chances with Sessions playing about 40 mins at point and Charlie Bell getting his. The Bucks are 2-1 against the Raptors this season, with Charlie Bell playing 31 minutes in both of the wins (one with Redd/no Bogut; the other with Bogut/no Redd). Ridnour has started in both wins against the Raptors, and hit a big 3 late in the 4th to beat them in Milwaukee in January. But Sessions had 11 points and 8 assists in the 22+ mins he played in that victory.
The Raptors are 4-11 since making the Marion-O’Neal trade at the All-Star break and settling in for their lottery pick. The Bucks are 5-11 over the same time frame and not ready to do the same. The Raptors beat the Clippers at home Sunday but lost a back-to-back to the Bobcats in the two games prior.
A win here keeps the Bulls from pulling away and keeps the Bucks playoff hopes alive on this road trip. It also could have some important implications as to how Bucks GM John Hammond proceeds in the offseason as far as looking for salary cap space in a potential Ridnour trade. Ridnour will reportedly rejoin the Bucks when they hit Florida this weekend for an Orlando-Miami back-to-back.
From deep in the land of Reggie
The Bucks slipped this week in the Ball Don’t Lie power rankings behind the floundering Pistons, the Bulls, the Bobcats, the Pacers and the Nets. That ain’t right.
While the Bucks season is hanging by a shoelace, Journal Sentinel is giving me some poll about something Ted Thompson thinks. That ain’t right either. But there’s plenty of Bucks stuff to read on that page after you remember that anything Ted Thompson thinks has to be an oxymoron.
Patty Mills is dominating the NIT, like you might figure the only NBA-ready point guard in the NCAA should. Why Mills and the 28-6 St. Mary’s Gaels aren’t in the NCAA tournament while 4 of the 7 ACC teams were broomed out of the dance in the 1st round (undeserved seeds and all) is anybody’s guess.
Mills, who played with Bogut and Basketball Australia during last summer’s Olympics — drawing rave reviews from Jason Kidd and Chris Paul — tallied 23 points and 10 assists Tuesday night vs. Davidson and Stephon Curry in St. Mary’s’ convincing 80-68 win. Curry, of course, was the darling of last year’s NCAA tournament, responsible for the Badgers ouster in the Sweet 16.
Gridiron Girl is in Florida and from the sound of it, Florida during Spring Break is the armpit of hell. And I can’t help it but every time she mentions this Playboy channel chick named Kendra, I think of Kendra Smith from Opal.