Oh, it’s been over since the trading deadline, some had claimed. No, it was over last week in Toronto. Or was it over when Skiles pulled the starters in Detroit after X-mas? Not to remind those (such as our GM) who still think things were going along just swimmingly swell until Bogut and Michael Redd got hurt.
Sure, the playoffs are all but out of reach now, unless the Bulls (36-40) self destruct at home and the Bucks (32-44) somehow catch Charlotte (34-41). That could happen, and it wouldn’t come close qualifying as a miracle … but then the Bucks are currently looking up at Indiana too, after allowing the Lakers to escape the BC with a 104-98 win.
Still, there’s plenty to watch for in these final few games, beginning tonight in Philly (6pm start-time) where the Sixers are fighting for the rights to avoid the Celtics and Magic in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Defense and ball movement: The Bucks are at their best when they’re playing uptempo offense, moving the ball quickly and playing tough defense. These are the foundations of Scott Skiles basketball, the rules of the new culture in Milwaukee. True, making the playoffs and establishing a winning culture was a stated goal of the Bucks this season, but establishing the Skiles foundations came first. The work is still being done on this foundation in the last few games. The playoffs were never the point. Establishing Skiles’ principles, both offensively and defensively, is what the Bucks are about these final games of the 2008-09 season.
Ramon Sessions: Bucks fans, meet your starting point guard. When the Bucks embarked on their recent 4-game road trip, they started in Toronto without Luke Ridnour, who was banged up again. Sessions didn’t fare too well against the Raptors, who are finally playing well, far too little too late.
But Sessions turned it on in Florida last weekend and has averaged a near triple-double since: 13 pts, 7.7 rebs, 10.7 assists — culminating against the Lakers in his first career triple double .
Here’s a recent featured chat with Ramon at Bucks.com. Says his favorite class in school was English and he enjoyed writing papers. File under trivia you didn’t know you were desperate to know (or forget).
See Joe play: The rookie has logged 75 minutes of PT in the last three games, and he’s doing everything: scoring, moving the ball, making hustle plays, blocking shots, having his shot blocked, turning the ball over, rebounding, stealing the ball and causing havoc for other teams with some good D. Joe is bringing the energy off the bench, and looks like he may eventually justify his status as a lottery pick.
Joe’s average line in the last three games: 25 mins, 10.3 pts, 3 rebs, 2.7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2.7 turnovers, including a career high in points scored (16) and fouls (5)against the Nets Monday. Good work, Joe, six games left to build toward next season.
Remember the first Laker meeting: Perhaps the most devastated Skiles has been in postgame interviews, questioning the motivation of his team. In fact he even called around looking for help. The Bucks were embarassed. It was a bad trip, after which he came to the conclusion that his team hadn’t yet learned how to win in the NBA, a shot at the holdover Bucks from last season (Redd, Bogut, Charlie V). Charlie Bell wasn’t with the team on that trip, dealing with lingering ankle problems.
“We don’t yet get how hard you have to play and how focused you have to be for a period of time to win an NBA game. This is a good group of guys, and we just have to learn that toughness.”
Mental toughness would become a theme for the Bucks after that road trip west, and probably still is. But after last night’s Lakers game, nobody was questioning the Bucks motivation. Lakers coach Phil Jackson:
“They did a great job fronting us, and we threw the ball away a couple times trying to go inside there. They work real hard defensively, and it paid off for them tonight. They outhustled us in many situations and made the game much closer than it should have been, probably.”
What a difference a few months makes. Skiles even handed out some individual praise after the Lakers game.
“I always hesitate to talk about a single guy after a loss, but I thought Richard (29 pts for RJ) was good and Ramon was good. Our defense was not great tonight from beginning to end, but it was OK.”
Gadzooks: Count me as one who’s not too impressed with Dan Gadzuric’s recent good play. He’s done this before. Unfortunately, his stellar game against the Lakers last night is not a sign of things to come — though it does show how he got that 6-yr, $36 mill. contract out of our last GM. What a killer that contract’s been.
Maybe Gadz wants to be a Laker? Phil Jackson, looking for a backup center? Gadz is much better than Chris Mihm, coach.
Bombs from the land of Reggie
Kobe man love for Michael Redd: Oh no, and Kobe’s offering Redd personal training services as Redd recuperates from ACL surgery.
“He is like a brother to me,” Kobe said after Redd was presented with his Olympic ring in a pregame ceremony. He’s really cool and I’m just going to be there for him and make sure he gets back to 100 percent for next season.”
Last thing the Bucks need is Kobe furthering Redd’s well-documented belief that he is the 2nd coming of Kobe offensively. Now, if Kobe wants to school Redd on some defensive principles this summer, maybe ….
Here’s a guy Kobe doesn’t like: It’s Ray Allen, saving the day last night in Boston. Ray wasn’t having one of his better games against the Charlotte Bobcats last night, but once overtime began… First Ray forced the 2nd OT with a three. Then he hit two more, including the game winner (and threw up an airball for good measure) in the Double OT as the Celtics beat the ‘Cats 111-109.