Kicking themselves: Bucks blew a badly needed chance to spark a rivalry with the Bulls

“… It just feels like failure,” said John Salmons this week as the Bucks prepared for the final game of a season that has, in no uncertain terms, been a failure.  For Salmons, in particular, the 2010-11 has been a long struggle to find a shooting groove and consistency within Scott Skiles’ perimeter oriented pick-and-roll offense.

Salmons, like many Bucks, played through injuries, and, though he played 73 games before it was said and done, the Fish was only healthy for half of those, and fewer still with a healthy Brandon Jennings in the backcourt.

But injuries are no excuse.  It’s almost unthinkable that this Bucks team is looking up in the standings at the 37-win Indiana Pacers, the only team in the 2011 playoffs to have fired a coach mid-season.  (One of these things is not like the others and the Pacers are it.)

A cold 4th quarter shooting here, a bad bench run there, dead-end finishes in Philly Jan. 14 and in Charlotte March 28, a defeat at the buzzer in Cleveland in November, a 6-and-10 record in their own weak division and the Bucks earned the shame of seeing the Pacers play the Bulls in the playoffs, Round One.

Weren’t the Bucks expected to be the Bulls rivals this season?

Indeed they were, and to a certain extent they still are:  Centers Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah, the heart and soul of whatever the current Bucks-Bulls have become, aren’t going anywhere.  Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose?   We’ll get back to you on that.   Scott Skiles, the coach who ran the Baby Bulls in Chicago (2003-2007) will be here for next season, according to Bucks GM John Hammond.

But for now, the failure to grab the low-hanging 8th seed in the East, thereby setting up the first Bucks-Bulls playoff series since 1990, is a painful blow to an NBA franchise in a city that seems to care less and less about its pro basketball team.  The Bucks this season needed to give its fans something, anything — and, no, a farewell to Michael Redd doesn’t qualify as “anything.”

Whatever the outcome, a Bucks-Bulls playoff would have been a nice consolation prize in the Bucks battle for NBA relevance.  No, it would not have made this season’s Bucks relevant — but a series against the Bucks’ natural rivals down I-94, boasting the certain league MVP, Rose, would have at least helped keep Milwaukee on the NBA map, a place where they’ve not often been since that Bucks-Bulls playoff series 21 years ago.


By the 1989-90 campaign, the Bucks had traded Terry Cummings for Alvin Robertson and Sidney Moncrief was an Atlanta Hawk. The Ricky Pierce-led Bucks were a mere shadow of the Central Division leading Don Nelson teams.  Michael Jordan’s Bulls, in Jordan’s fifth season, had become contenders, though the Bad Boy Pistons in Detroit ruled the East as Larry Bird’s career waned.  Patrick Ewing patrolled the paint in New York.

The Bulls won the first round series 3-1, cementing the Del Harris era Bucks teams as playoffs also rans — same as it’s ever been in Bucks-Bulls history.  When one franchise is up, the other is down, more often than not due, in part, to the success of the other.  This was the story this year as the Bulls not only swept the Bucks 4-0 in the season series but dropped a key late season game to the Pacers in Indiana that helped the Pacers take the inside track in the race for eighth. … Same as it ever was for the Bucks and Bulls.

If the rivalry was ever bitter, it was in the early-to-mid 1970s, when the Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Bucks, realigned to the Western Conference and found Nate Thurmond (guarding Kareem at left) Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, Chet Walker and Norm Van Lier waiting for them in the Midwest Division (Thurmond would come later, in 1974-75).

As rivalries go, however, it was awfully one-sided, the Bulls unwilling patsies and annual runner-ups to the Bucks’ division dominance.  They met once in the playoffs, a four game sweep by the Bucks in the 1974 Western Conference Finals. If there was bitterness, it was all Chicago’s.  (See notes on the 1974 series from Kevin below).

From then on, the rivalry continued on its see-saw way as the Bucks rebuilt after the Kareem trade and the Sidney and Marques dominated the Central Division of the early 1980s (the firing of Jerry Sloan as Bulls coach part of that history).

In the mid-1980’s, Sidney and Terry Cummings held back the Bulls in Jordan’s early years, the Bucks finally relenting to Moncrief’s bad knees and, of course, to Jordan.

Jordan’s teams dominated the Glenn Robinson-Ray Allen Bucks in the 1990’s, while the Big Three Bucks returned the favor after Jordan left in 1998.  The Redd era Bucks were Central Division doormats while Skiles built the Baby Bulls.  In 2008 both teams were terrible.  Since then, if the Bucks were struggling, the Bulls were on a roll; if Rose had a bad ankle, Andrew Bogut was leading the Bucks into the playoffs.

This season, more of the same.  MVP-in-waiting Derrick Rose and his Bulls rocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference while the Bucks were only as good as a one-armed Andrew Bogut and sophomore-slumping Brandon Jennings could make them.  Too often, that wasn’t very good.  The Bucks won 28, lost 37 in games Bogut played.  Yet they had their chances.

And same as it ever was, this rivalry with the Bulls that seems like such a natural for the Bucks, will have to wait another year.

Only this time, the looming NBA lockout may make the wait longer.

36 thoughts on “Kicking themselves: Bucks blew a badly needed chance to spark a rivalry with the Bulls

  1. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Yeah, it’s too bad. Hinrich and Crawford put on a display of good guard play against the Magic and were a pleasure to watch. Then, after Hinrich went down, Jameer Nelson ran a one-man layup drill through heart of the Hawks defense.

    Without him, the Hawks don’t have a prayer against Rose, and the Bulls frontline won’t have any problems with Smith-Horford-Zaza. Maybe the Hawks win one with some hot-shooting but I think we’re looking at a sweep.

  2. Kevin

    Now I know why the Hawks wanted all those centers; to bang around the likes of Howard and Noah in the playoffs. Jameer Nelson’s layup drill was absurd, keeping them in a game that should have been decided. Where is Tree Rollins?
    The Bulls looked beatable in the first three games against the Pacers But Drew has to use all of his bench, talented or not.

  3. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Wow, the Magic played like slop in the first half, and (Jameer) took too long to begin exploiting the Hawks porous interior on drives, and the hero was ..

    Marvin Williams, who hit two big jumpers early in the 4th. From six minutes on it was all Magic, tough break on that long rebound on the Crawford miss. I would have thought with Crawford not shooting the lights out, the game would have been the Magic’s to win.

    Bulls-Hawks? That COULD be interesting. We shall see.

  4. Kevin

    Joe had his bad outing, and Josh just went for 22 and 11. Horford is due for a big game. Hawks rally fell short in game two, or series would be over.

  5. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Jameer Nelson vs. Kirk Hinrich? The edge goes to Nelson.

    And the over-match at center is tremendous, not to mention the leadership that Dwight brings to the court, referees allowing.

    Hinrich and Crawford, very impressive in this series — but Josh is still Josh, and Joe is still Joe. Crawford’s shooting 52 percent from 3 in this series! Without him, this series would be over already.

  6. Kevin

    Sorry J. D., I’m not blaming the officials.
    The only postion the Hawks are outmatched is center, and they have 3 or 4 centers to throw at Howard. This party’s over.

  7. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The Magic have been missing wide open shots in this series, lots of them. The lid is off the hoop for them now. Game four, hawks shoulda lost by double digits, not squeak by as they did. Games one and three, it was Crawford making amazing shots and four point plays while the Magic couldn’t hit the side of a barn.

    Nahh, the better team is going to win this series, and we’ll see how the refs deal with Game six. If they call it fairly and the Magic hit their shots, the Hawks are in trouble. Magic win this series.

  8. Kevin

    The Hawks have been stopping everyone but Howard, a good strategy, until tonight. They should wrap it up at home. And with the Pacers almost winning four games against Chicago, the Bulls will have their hands full against Atlanta.

  9. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Orlando-Atlanta game four was horribly officiated. True, all the Magic had to do was hit a couple of those wide open threes they were missing all game, but the refs made at least two bad calls on Howard, and missed a lot of grabbing and even hugging – rebounders wrapping him up with both arms — as the Hawks tried to contain him.
    The Hawks don’t have a center who can play, and that’s their fault, not Dwight Howard’s. I really hope this gets evened out in the next couple of games. I’m sure it will in Game 5 – game six is the one to worry about, when the Magic have their backs to the wall in Atlanta. It should be the other way around – the hawks fighting to avoid elimination at home in game six.
    The refs need to redeem themselves by calling the rest of this series correctly.

  10. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Also, I’ve read that the Blazers plan to invest in Oden. They’ve already made some insurance bank off of him to date, not that it matters, but they don’t want to lose him or give up on him.

    Aaron Gray is having an impact in the Hornets-Lakers series. If I were him, I would not exercise his 0.9m option and get myself a raise either from the Hornets or another team.

    Dalembert will want to start, I’m pretty sure. But he’s still the best option.

    I keep getting back to Nazr as the most realistic, and most reliable option.

  11. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Larry Drew didn’t have Zaza in this one, but instead of Armstrong off the bench when Collins got into foul trouble, he went to PF Josh Powell.

    Collins is just bad. He’s fairly stable on the block, but not all that good. He’s very poor on rotations and dealing with penetration, and I haven’t even arrived at the play everyone has seen — Collins running away from Arenas on a drive from the top of the key.

    Ryan Hollins from the Cavs, no reason not to list him. But I don’t think either Hawks big men (Collins and Armstrong) are good options.

  12. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The second foul on Howard with the hook was a terrible call. Collins was helpless on that play, beat to the spot, slow to move his feet, and the hook was quite incidental. I can only think that the refs won’t be so kind to Collins in Game 5.

    In the long run, this wasn’t bad for the Magic because while Howard was on the bench with the two fouls, it forced the rest of the team to step up. But the Score was 12-8 Atlanta with 4 mins to play in the first quarter. Feels more like the Magic should be up 20-12. They missed a lot of easy shots.

    With Howard on the bench, i don’t think we see Armstrong at all in this one.

  13. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Collins is doing a good job keeping Howard off the offensive glass in the first quarter. I can only think, though, if Ilyasova was the Magic starting PF and not Brandon Bass, the Magic would have an easier time scoring.

  14. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Right, Luc is a RFA — the option I was referring to in terms of payroll is his $1.1 million qualifying offer. Chris Douglas Roberts also has a $1.1m qualifying offer. A lockout would be the only reason for the Bucks not to extend their matching rights to Luc and CD-R.
    I recorded the last Hawks-Magic game so I could get a decent look at Armstrong. My first instinct was to take both Armstrong and Collins off the list, and I’ll see if that’s right.

  15. Kevin

    There are definitely many of possibilities. I saw very little of Armstrong and Hollins, but they looked like athletic high energy guys, and we all know the Bucks can use that. As far as Hollins staying in Cleveland, who would?
    I thought Luc was a RFA, as opposed to having an option. I would pick up all of the options and then trade Ersan and Delfino. Unless they know someone who wants to come here as a free agent, CDR may deserve another chance. He’s still young, and he battled injuries among other issues with Skiles. I’m not really excited about the shooting guards available except Sonny Weems, who we traded for Delfino.

  16. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Ooops, didn’t see your comment on Armstrong and Hollins and I omitted them from the list. Sorry. I don’t know anything about either of them and can’t recall seeing them play this season.

    Hilton Armstrong, Atlanta Hawks – $0.9 million – Unrestricted
    Ryan Hollins, Cleveland Cavaliers – $2.3 million – Player Option ($2.5 million) – My guess is that Hollins would exercise his player option, yes?

  17. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Let’s whittle this list down a bit to get a better look at realistic options:

    Joel Przybilla, Charlotte Bobcats – $7.4 million – Unrestricted
    Samuel Dalembert, Sacramento Kings – $13.4 million – Unrestricted
    Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers – $6.8 million – Restricted ($8.8 million Qualifying Offer) — Is it worth the gamble? A sign and trade? Call me crazy but Oden’s the kind of player who, if the gamble pays off, could put the Bucks in title contention. The Gooden contract might come in handy here.
    Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers – $3.0 million – Restricted ($4.1 million Qualifying Offer)
    Nenad Krstic, Boston Celtics – $5.7 million – Unrestricted
    Tony Battie, Philadelphia 76ers – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz – $1.1 million – Unrestricted
    Nazr Mohammed, Oklahoma City Thunder – $6.9 million – Unrestricted
    DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers – $0.9 million – Unrestricted* (Clippers likely not to part with Jordan)
    Aaron Gray, New Orleans Hornets – $0.9 million – Player Option ($0.9 million)
    Kwame Brown, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.3 million – Unrestricted
    Jason Collins, Atlanta Hawks – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
    Eddy Curry – $11.3 million – Unrestricted – VERY interesting, only 28 yrs old.
    Hamed Haddadi, Memphis Grizzlies – $1.8 million – Unrestricted* – not familiar at all w/ Haddadi
    Alexis Ajinca, Toronto Raptors – $1.5 million – Unrestricted

  18. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Nazr at 34 better than KT at 38 – that’s exactly what I’m thinking. For backups sake, I wouldn’t mind Darko. He’s come a long way, and we can be fairly certain that Hammond, part of the brain trust in Detroit that drafted him ahead of Carmelo in 2003, has some Darko on the brain. Bringing guys he’s has a connecetion to – Delfino, Maggette, Dooling, Boykins, even Skinner – is his m.o. as GM.

    As of now, the Bucks payroll, if they exercise all options — guaranteeing Ilyasova and Delfino, and exercising team options on Luc and CD-R (keep him for trade filler) will be no more than $52.9 million. They are under the cap, and can go out and sign some quality help.

    While it was fair to criticize Hammond for failing to back Bogut up this season, perhaps this is the summer he was waiting for, given everyone that is available. The Bucks have the money available to bring Dalembert or Jordan here. Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler are really the only free agent centers beyond our reach. Hammond can outbid much of the market and also sell Milwaukee’s playoff potential. Also, the low-key quality of life here may be attractive to veteran players.

    Damn this looming lockout.

  19. Kevin

    Nazr is good, but he could be another big man who feels his age when he gets to Milwaukee. Andrew Lang, Armon Gilliam and Anthony Mason come to mind. But Nazr at 34 could be better than KT at 38.
    I wouldn’t mind a trade for Darko and Luke, but then Minnesota would need a center.

  20. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Note: The assumption is that Bogut will miss some games, worst case scenario is 1/3 of the season, I suppose. The assumption is based on Bogut’s history not a suggestion that his rehab will not be complete or that he will continue having problems.
    Best case scenario: He misses maybe four or five games with migraines or common aches and pains in back-to-back situations.

  21. J.D. Mo. Post author

    I don’t know if DeAndre is realistic. Won’t the Clippers give him a nice raise?

    I scan through that list and I keep returning to two guys: Ajinca and Nazr.

    The Thunder have Perkins, which means Nazr will be looking for work. He’s an experienced center we can feel comfortable starting 10-15 games if Bogut is sidelined, assuming that Bogues is going to miss 1/4 of the season.
    Nazr is 33, healthy, and this season in CHA and OKC was a 15-10 guy per 36 mins. I was impressed with his defense in the few Bobcats games I saw this season. Also saw him a couple of times with OKC – very effective in his minutes.

    Hammond can make Nazr a nice 2-year offer and know that the Bucks center position is in very good hands.

    Ajinca I’m not as sold on as Nazr, but you just get the feeling he’s going to break out one of these seasons. Ajinca turns 23 next month, and the 7-foot Frenchman had perhaps the best experience a young player can have – two years under Larry Brown. The Raptors would do well to invest in him, but Hammond mignt be able to bring him here.

  22. Kevin

    Pryzbilla is hurt again and contemplating retirement. My preference on that list is Jordan. Yes, another Clipper. Most of the rest are too old, too expensive or already been here. I also lean toward Armstrong or Hollins.

  23. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Free Agent Centers 2011 – Lots of cheap experience out there, but is it good experience? We may end up with Przybilla.

    Nene, Denver Nuggets – $11.4 million – Early Termination Option ($11.6 million)
    Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies – $3.6 million – Unrestricted*
    Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks – $12.6 million – Unrestricted
    Yao Ming, Houston Rockets – $17.7 million – Unrestricted
    Joel Przybilla, Charlotte Bobcats – $7.4 million – Unrestricted
    Samuel Dalembert, Sacramento Kings – $13.4 million – Unrestricted
    Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers – $6.8 million – Restricted ($8.8 million Qualifying Offer)
    Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers – $3.0 million – Restricted ($4.1 million Qualifying Offer)
    Nenad Krstic, Boston Celtics – $5.7 million – Unrestricted
    Tony Battie, Philadelphia 76ers – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz – $1.1 million – Unrestricted
    Erick Dampier, Miami HEAT – $1.1 million – Unrestricted
    Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Miami HEAT – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Jeff Foster, Indiana Pacers – $6.7 million – Unrestricted
    Nazr Mohammed, Oklahoma City Thunder – $6.9 million – Unrestricted
    DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers – $0.9 million – Unrestricted*
    Kurt Thomas, Chicago Bulls – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Francisco Elson, Utah Jazz – $1.1 million – Unrestricted
    Hilton Armstrong, Atlanta Hawks – $0.9 million – Unrestricted
    Aaron Gray, New Orleans Hornets – $0.9 million – Player Option ($0.9 million)
    Jamaal Magloire, Miami HEAT – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Dan Gadzuric, New Jersey Nets – $7.2 million – Unrestricted
    Ryan Hollins, Cleveland Cavaliers – $2.3 million – Player Option ($2.5 million)
    Kwame Brown, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.3 million – Unrestricted
    Theo Ratliff, L.A. Lakers – $1.4 million – Unrestricted
    Etan Thomas, Atlanta Hawks – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
    Jason Collins, Atlanta Hawks – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
    Eddy Curry – $11.3 million – Unrestricted
    Hamed Haddadi, Memphis Grizzlies – $1.8 million – Unrestricted*
    Alexis Ajinca, Toronto Raptors – $1.5 million – Unrestricted

    Read more NBA news and insight:

  24. Kevin

    Priority #2, backup center, free agent or trade. I could tolerate a second rounder like Gadz was, but that’s wishful thinking.

  25. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Probably is best to stay away from the bigs — we’re set with Bogut, Sanders, Gooden. Time for Hammond and Skiles to spend some time thinking about how bad the backcourt play was this season, with the mindset that Jennings and Salmons won’t be able to play 35 mins every night for 82 games.

    Guards on the bench – priority #1.

  26. Kevin

    Redd could make a Grant Hill type comeback. Anyway, there are plenty of issues with this team, and if he can do the job off the bench, I think the fans will forget the past. But it’s not really high on my list, either.

  27. Kevin

    Gooden was also playing out of position at center on those last games.
    There may be other underpaid talent lurking out there for Ersan. If you are going to package him, do it with Dooling or Delfino.
    I repeat, NO BIGS in this draft.

  28. J.D. Mo. Post author

    About Motiejunas and the draft — the knock on Motiejunas is that he’s too soft to play post, and really doesn’t seem interested in rebounding, which takes him out of consideration as a backup center. The Lithuanian for the center spot is wingspan monster Jonas Valanciunas, who will long gone by the time the Bucks pick. Motiejunas, it seems, wants to be the next Dirk.

    It’s looking more and more like Alec Burks, the 6-6 shooting guard out of Colorado who — while he’s no long range gunner — can jump out of the building and seems like a great, athletic fit for the Skiles defense. Burks would look good off the bench with Dooling/Ridnour/Sessions/(Phil In-the-blank).

  29. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The non-financial areas are where the Bucks can’t afford to have Redd around anymore. The entire saga has a depressive affect on the fan base and it can’t be beneficial to his teammates (not that Mike ever cared about that).

    I wouldn’t trust Gooden’s revival — that was typical stat padding against bad teams. He gets a triple double against Cleveland but was effectively benched for the entire game-winning run against OK City after being abused by Ibaka and grabbing just two boards in 22 minutes. When it counted against the Bobcats and Pacers, Gooden was 4 for 17.
    I still don’t understand why Skiles and the Bucks trainers didn’t look at the schedule, take note of the behemoths on the Kings and have Gooden ready to play against the Kings March 23. But then, the injuries were mismanaged all season long.

    Ersan has limited trade value in that the Bucks aren’t paying him enough to get back fair value for him. They would have to pair him with Maggette, Gooden or Salmons to create enough value to bring back players who could really make a difference. Ersan and Luc, I’m afraid, are the two guys who would entice other teams to deal with Hammond.

    Gooden will have to learn how to be the backup center in order to get his minutes. Or maybe a team or two around the league sees his value after those couple of good games he had. The Thunder won’t be one of them.

  30. Kevin

    I forgot to mention Drew Gooden, who showed he still can be an asset. Along with the expected improvement of Larry Sanders, there are too many power forwards on this roster and as much as I like Ersan, he could bring value in a trade. Donatas backing up Bogut would be interesting, but I would not use the pick for him. Kemba is a point guard, so we would have to get help at the wings in a trade or free agency.
    Now this may be a stretch, but why not sign Redd for one year? Salmons’ resurgence coincided with his return, and Redd was also big in the last win. The media is praising his efforts to return, but I doubt that he’ll be highly sought after.

  31. J.D. Mo. Post author

    I think so too. Many of the Bucks troubles can be linked to Jennings and Salmons not being healthy this season together, and, as a result, out-of-sync. They had so little help behind them this season.
    Based on Skiles’ various comments about Salmons, I think the coach would prefer to give him an injury pass.
    Ridnour or Sessions would be welcomed with open arms around here.
    Draftwise, Alec Burks from Colorado looks to be the best shooting guard available when the Bucks pick. Depending on where the international players go, Kemba may be available, too.
    20-year-old Donatas Motiejunuas, a 7-foot Lithuanian who played in Italy last season, is another possible pick. He should be available, and he’s a pure scorer. Not so big on rebounding and defense (think Andrea Bargnani) but the Bucks have plenty of rebounding and defense on the roster.

  32. Kevin

    A couple of encouraging signs at the end of the season was the improved play of Jennings and Salmons. Everybody is calling for Salmons’ head, but I think he’ll be back in form next season. I just don’t know why is took so long and he should try to stay in shape over the summer. I still want a shooting guard or small forward in the draft, as most big men after the 4th pick are projects, which we have painfully learned, I hope.
    I would try to get Ridnour or Sessions back in a trade and sign Earl Barron unless he stays with Portland. Not signing him during a playoff race was bad enough, now he’s with another team.

  33. Kevin

    The Bulls may have won game 2 with Sloan as the Bucks had a big lead but then won by 2 at Chicago. The Bucks were missing Lucius Allen, but most of the media attributed the Bucks sweep to the Bulls being without Sloan. He was an inspirational player, but Johnny Kerr admitted after game 3 that Lucius was just as important to us.
    The last game of the regular season series at Chicago, Sloan played and Allen was out and the Bucks won by 25. That was the infamous Dennis Awtrey game, the Bull that gave Kareem some trouble. After his cheap shot punch, Kareem scored like the next 15 points. Sloan was involved in a couple of scuffles as well, with Ron Williams and Oscar.
    In the playoffs, the Bucks were a little deeper at guard with Ron Williams and Jon McGlocklin as the Bulls had Bob Weiss and Rick Adelman, who actually had a good series.

  34. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Do you really think Jerry Sloan would have made much of a difference against the Bucks in 1974? I don’t know but it doesn’t seem as though Kareem was ever bothered too much by anybody in a Bulls uniform. I’ll fix the Thurmond note, though — thought he was just hurt that season or something.
    This season, we can point to a lot of things, but taking 3 of 4 from the Pacers turned out to be the biggest “must do.” That makes the game they lost to the Pacers Feb. 12 another killer. The Bucks were leading 78-77 under nine minutes to play at the Bradley Center. Nine minutes to beat the team they needed to beat in front of the home crowd on a Saturday night, just the way the Bucks front office envisions it when they send their schedule requests to the league. Packers season over, playoff implications all around, a good home crowd. …

    The fans were treated to the biggest and, ultimately, the most costly meltdown of the season as the Bucks in the 4th quarter could not score a basket for 8 minutes. In those 8 minutes, they missed 10 jump shots, four of them 3-pointers, and turned it over 3 times, two on shot clock violations. Bogut shot twice in the 4th quarter, a missed hook in the opening minute of the period and a missed tip try on a rimmed out Ilyasova jumper.

    A week prior to that, again on a Saturday night in front of the home fans at the BC, Detroit coach Kuester shocked Rip Hamilton by playing him and the Bucks look absolutely lost trying to defend the Pistons … It was Jennings’ first game back from his foot fracture injury, true, and Salmons was trying to work his way back from another leg injury, but here’s what Bogut had to say about it:

    “We’re just not playing pro basketball at the moment,” a frustrated Bogut said. “We have injuries. Big deal. Every team has injuries. It’s getting to the point where there’s no excuse for the way we played tonight. No excuse whatsoever.”

    Two weeks later, the Bucks were badly outrebounded in front of the home fans in a loss to the Bulls, again on a Saturday night Central Division showcase. The Bucks had two days off before the game, the first one Ersan would miss after taking that practice hit from Brockman …

    It was always too much to expect that this Bucks team could earn a playoff spot on the road in late March and April, though it’s frustrating as hell that they were one shot at the buzzer in Indiana from pulling it off. The Bucks saved a couple of their worst performances of the season for their home fans in their marquee division games.

    Those bad home performances in February crippled the Bucks playoff chances, left them 6-and-10 in the Central and had the affect of abusing an already shaky Milwaukee fan base.

  35. Kevin

    The way things ended, that loss at Indiana cost us the playoffs. Both teams would have 36 wins with the Bucks taking the season series. #@$%
    The last game had the balance scoring I expected, given a healthy squad. Or did Skiles play it that way only because it was the last game?
    Actually, Sid went to the Hawks in 90-91 after sitting out a year. Also, Jerry Sloan missed that 1974 series, as did Lucius Allen. Thurmond was traded to the Bulls the following year.

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